What is a US Prep School?
In the US, high school is the only designation for the education program offered for students ages 14-17. This refers to US grades 9-12. High schools provide schooling for all, from students who aspire to trades, to those who want to go to selective universities. Typically US high schools therefore offer truly an enormous range of course offerings. There are classes in the culinary arts and classes in advanced calculus. While there are minimum graduation requirements, such as four years of English and three years of world language, students who wish to attend university must include additional academic classes and at a more rigorous level. These students are preparing for college. Strictly speaking, then, these students are in the “prep school” course.
This is a different designation than in other Western countries. University-preparatory school, in North America, is a private secondary school designed to prepare a student for higher education.
Preparatory school in the United Kingdom is a private school for pupils under thirteen, designed to prepare a student for fee-paying public schools. In Australia “Prep School” is a common name for Kindergarten to Year 2 (NSW), or “Prep” means the first year of primary schooling in some other Australian states.
The legacy of top prep schools in the US
Best prep schools in America are those programs specializing in coursework for students focused on university admissions. Traditionally, top prep schools in the US are private schools, either day schools or boarding schools. They have names like Hotchkiss School, Phillips Exeter Academy, Choate Rosemary Hall, Horace Mann School and Brearly School. Admissions is extremely selective. The price is high. Tuition at top prep schools in America averages about $40,000 a year for fees. Some analysts estimate expenses at $1 million for families with more than one child at best prep schools in US.
Families may contemplate the value proposition. It is true that top prep schools in US produce a record number of graduates who matriculate to extremely selective universities. Universities observe that top prep school graduates thrive in their schools, are successful in university and easily transition to the college environment. Universities accept prep school students because they are a good bet. Above all, universities like the reassurance that the candidates they admit will likely be successful in their school.
There are other options. Many local public high schools have “supersized” their curriculum, offering higher level courses, like Calculus, Physics, and world languages. Public schools may offer “advanced placement” classes, taught at university level with possibility of earning university credit while in high school. Some public high schools offer the International Baccalaureate diploma program. This is an extremely prestigious credential, requiring intense study and can open the doors at selective universities.
When it comes to considering a top ranked public school or a top prep school in the America ask, “Which is the best school for my child?” Sending a child off to private prep school is a tremendous step. She needs to understand that enormous opportunity your decision entails. She will have a chance to develop learning habits and skills which will set the course for the rest of her adult life. She will become part of a community which truly cares about her and sets standards of excellence to which she can aspire. The best school for your child is the one at which she will be the happiest.