The Right Private School for Your Kid

A prep school education, as any parent who’s ever signed a tuition check well knows, is a serious investment. And considering the money you’re laying out, not to mention the stress of the application process, you want to ensure your child lands somewhere he or she will thrive. This year we went beyond the raw numbers (though of course those still count, and we’ve gathered them for you at boston magazine.com) and talked to alumni, teachers, and admissions counselors to identify the private schools that excel at fostering kids’ individual talents—whether their passions lie in athletics, the arts, or somewhere in between.


St. John’s Preparatory School (boys)
Plays well against others: “Excellence in athletics is part of the St. John’s experience,” says headmaster Skip Shannon. “You get the right kid in the right sport, and we’ll have them play for the championship.” He’s not kidding: Eight out of every 10 times the school’s 19 varsity teams take the field (or rink, or court, or…), they win. St. John’s has piled up so much hardware that it has not a trophy case but a whole trophy house, Griffin Hall, with 15 glass cabinets to display the spoils. Last year St. John’s added four more state titles—in fencing, volleyball, skiing, and swimming—as well as 12 conference championships.

Strength in numbers: Of the 1,200 students at the school, more than 800 participate in athletics; of those, 175 are three-sport studs. But your son doesn’t have to read the blitz like Tom Brady in order to suit up for the Eagles: St. John’s football, rugby, fencing, track, swimming, and wrestling teams have a no-cut policy. “And those kids are not only on the team,” says Shannon, “they play.”

That’s ‘scholar athlete’: As part of a $32 million upgrade, the school has opened a new library, made its Danvers campus into a 50-acre wireless hot spot, and outfitted its classrooms with Smart Board technology that turns computer monitors into interactive touchscreen teaching tools. St. John’s also plans to build a state-of-the-art field house within the next five years to complement its surprisingly dingy gymnasium. “Until then,” says Shannon, “I think our teams will manage to get by.” School stats: Boys only; grades 9–12; day tuition: $14,450; 72 Spring St., Danvers, 978-774-1050, www.stjohnsprep.org.

Noble and Greenough School (girls)
Ice queens and hoop divas: No girls’ varsity program dominates quite like the boys of St. John’s, but Noble and Greenough comes close. Its squads consistently place in the top three in their respective Independent School League sports. Two recent grads played for the U.S. women’s Olympic ice hockey team last winter. And bona fide local celeb Ayla Brown was not only a consensus preseason All-American on the hardwood, but also displayed real grit by enduring Paula Abdul’s inanities as a semifinalist on American Idol.

Facilitating victories: With its 187-acre wooded campus, dorms that resemble ski chalets, and a huge stone cafeteria known as the Castle, Nobles looks like a supersize summer camp. It’s a setting that encourages exercise, and plenty of it. Of course, the sprawling athletic center—with two gymnasiums, a suspended walking and jogging track, and six climate-controlled international-size squash courts—also helps. School stats: Coed; grades 7–12; day / boarding tuition: $28,900 / $33,300; 10 Campus Dr., Dedham, 781-326-3700, www.nobles.edu.

SECOND HONORS: Xaverian Brothers High School: Former stomping ground of the Hasselbeck clan, this Westwood gridiron power regularly helps stock the BC football roster. St. Sebastian’s School: The hockey rink is outfitted with classrooms, in case learning breaks out during intermissions.