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St. Paul's School

School rating 4 / 5 by

325 Pleasant Street Concord NH 03301 United States
9th to 12th


St. Paul's School review by .

The only reference point I have to the difficulty or practicality of the academics at St. Paul's School is the college education I have received since my graduation, and I can say that the academics at St. Paul's are far more rigorous and rewarding than that I've experienced at Amherst College. While daunting for incoming students at St. Paul's--you will see grades increase dramatically over a student's four year career--St. Paul's School prepares you for any intellectual challenges you will face in college. It is often joked, by St. Paul's students, that the most difficult aspect of college is getting in, as students at Ivy League schools, MIT, Stanford, Amherst and Williams find the academics in college a walk in the park compared to St. Paul's. As such, the faculty and academics at St. Paul's are incredibly demanding, and the place is very much a pressure cooker. There is not grade deflation as much as a culture that only the top students will earn top marks. I would guess the top 20% of students in each division--Humanities, Math, Science--will receive a grade of High Honors in that class. When I was there (recently), the school was very Humanities focused--as Humanities courses are worth 6 credits, while Math and Science are each worth 3--which means that there are more electives offered in Humanities and, in my opinion, a stronger faculty. In my two years as an upperclassmen, I took eight Humanities electives, and designed two Independent Studies--the school allows you to design your own curriculum and they fund it entirely--within Humanities topics, including a one-on-one tutorial course with a faculty member knowledgable in my topic. With the construction of the new, beautiful $50 million Lindsay Math and Science Center, however, and the newly established engineering program, the focus may begin to shift back towards math and science. In your first three years at St. Paul's, you are required to take the customary math, science, foreign language, humanities, and arts, while in your final year, the school allows you to focus more on the subject area you wish to pursue in college. Examinations at St. Paul's are very, very difficult, and cover material from the entire year in a span of three short days, but exam period is one of the nicest times of the year, and you have plenty of time to unwind and study however much you wish. In my opinion, the greatest academic facet of St. Paul's is the administration's decision to do away with +/-, meaning that you will earn a grade of HH, H, HP, P, U and not HH+, HH-, H+, H- ect. These grades roughly translate into A, B, C, D, F, although not entirely, as H (Honors) is seen as a good grade, and HP (High Pass) is seen as average. The school does not translate these grades into a 4.0 scale, as expectations are so unique at St. Paul's, as an H at SPS (St. Paul's School) better translates into a B+ at other schools. Regardless, the lack of +/- relieves some of the stress on students, as not every test becomes as vital, and there is far less pressure on exams as its more difficult to drop a full grade HH->H than it would be to drop a half letter grade H->H-. I cannot address Math or Science as well, as I was a Humanities oriented student at St. Paul's and choose Amherst for its open curriculum so that I could continue to focus on Humanities. In addressing the question of preparation, I took a 300 level English class in my first semester at Amherst with entirely Amherst Juniors and Seniors, and had absolutely no problem, and I credit St. Paul's entirely for that. Amherst is widely considered one of the most rigorous schools in the country, and while many of my friends at Amherst coming from different high-schools struggle with the workload, I find the 10 hours of work a week mild in comparison to the 4 or 5 hours of work a night at St. Paul's. From an academic and so many other standpoints, St. Paul's was the greatest experience of my life thus far. You will pull all-nighters at St. Paul's. There will be moments you feel like you are in way over your head and you can't handle it, but there is no greater feeling than completing an exam, or getting your grades--and regardless of the outcome--the pride that resonates within you. I have been head over heels thrilled earning an HP on a test. You truly learn that you can overcome anything, and when your Professor assigns you a paper due the next day in college, while your classmates are freaking out and complaining, you will just get it done--absolutely no problem. I think that many high school students hand in papers and don't really feel proud of their work until they get that paper back and see a good grade across the top, but this is not the case at St. Paul's. As a St. Paul's student, you feel proud as you hand in that paper on 'The Heart of Darkness' that you stayed up until 3am working on, as both you and your teacher know you put in your very best work. It's just an added bonus when you get the paper back, with what I assure you will be an essay of comments in return. As difficult as the academics are, you're in it together. Your friends and classmates support you. And the faculty, one-hundred percent of whom live on campus, as always available to help. It is acceptable to email a teacher at 10pm the night before an assignment is due, and receive a response, or even an invitation to their apartment for pie and discussion. Some teachers will become your best friends, and while they will still grade you difficulty, will show up at your athletic events to support you outside the classroom as well. St. Paul's is a very nurturing environment, and at the end of each year, the faculty form a line to congratulate every student--even if you've never met before--on their accomplishments from that year. Other things you can do through St. Paul's academics: study abroad at Eton, do a service learning trip in Nicaragua, School Year Abroad in China, intern at the NH State House, design an Advanced Study--the list goes on and on. I will end with this. Sure, there is a lot of wealth at St. Paul's, and yes, you will meet some people who are at the school because of that wealth. But they are a minority. As someone who worked in St. Paul's Admissions, I will tell you that the school receives far more legacy and wealthy applications than it can possibly accept with its 11% admission rate. It is simply false to say students buy their way into the school, which is far more apparent in college applications by the way. You will study, live, eat, and compete with some of the greatest minds of our generation, and when it's over, and you walk across the campus for the final time with diploma in hand (and tears in either eye), you will spend the rest of your life serving others in an attempt to justify to yourself that you were worthy such an incredible blessing.

College Counseling

The College Advising Office at St. Paul's is a mystery. If they did pick up....

Sample insights on college counseling

  • They have contacts at most of the major universities and feel perfectly comfortable picking up the phone and advocating for a student to get accepted somewhere they feel is a good fit for that student. However, these counselors are certainly not magic bullets. They cannot guarantee that a student will get into an Ivy League university...
  • For those wishing to move on to Oxford or Cambridge, the provision is second-to-none. In the months running up to application and interview, every subject faculty offers classes (often run by former Oxbridge tutors) exploring further areas of their subject as well as offering advice on personal statements, interview technique and more...

Admissions - Getting Accepted

I truly believe St. Paul's isn't about numbers. Not that I remember my test scores....

Sample insights on admissions

  • For the interview, dress conservatively. Try to be very clean and put together. Also, I was a tour guide for two years and at the end of every tour, we were asked to evaluate the candidate so if you think the tour is not apart of the process, you are very wrong. Ask questions and be interested. Also, tip for the parents: the kids speak on the tour. Do not ask their questions for them...
  • Most younger siblings have an easy time in the admissions process. I can only think of one case of a younger sibling not being admitted. About half of the students who entered with me had come from public schools. The remainder came from private K-6 schools, or had transferred from other New York private schools The Elizabeth Morrow School and St. Bernard were two of the larger feeder schools...

School Life

I can answer this question based on my experience, but ultimately you need to visit the school. Your tour and interview won't even really answer this question, but once admitted, your revisit day will truly introduce you to the wonders of the place. I couldn't have been happier with my experience--I accomplished everything I set out to do during my time there--and if I am fortunate enough to have children (many, many years from now) and they are interested in the place, they have my full support to attend. I'm not going to address the conservative vs. liberal question, because....

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