College Prep Schools

Learn about what a college prep school is, the different types of college preparatory schools and what the various benefits a college preparatory school might hold for your child in this article.

What Is a College Prep School?

The term college prep school is short for college preparatory school. In the most general sense of the phrase, all high schools that graduate students who go on to college are college preparatory schools. But the term has a more specific meaning, as well. In its specific meaning a college prep school is usually a private school, often with a boarding option, that not only seeks to offer a curriculum, environment, and activities that help a teenager to be ready for the responsibilities and challenges of college, but also maintains a high ranking and respect in the community for its exemplary academic program and has a history of sending graduates to top US and international colleges and universities.

A college prep school is most often understood to be a secondary school, often including high school grades (9–12), but sometimes including 8th grade or 7th and 8th grade as well, but a few, like Trinity School in Manhattan, start with kindergarten.  A college prep school may be coeducational or enroll only girls or only boys. It may be secular or affiliated with a particular religious faith (which does not mean that it will not accept students of other faiths). The cost of tuition alone is often in the tens of thousands of dollars, with boarding costing even more, but this price generally enables small class sizes, elite sports teams, and a fine teaching staff, members of which possess advanced degrees in their fields. A college prep school is most often referred to as simply a prep school.

What Are the Potential Benefits of a College Prep School?

First of all, a student at a college prep school is apt to enjoy a very fine education during his or her enrollment there. In addition to small classes and excellent faculty, boarding students have afterschool access to their instructors, who provide individualized attention. Another benefit is that all students become accustomed to the competitive atmosphere that is likely to be encountered at the topflight colleges and universities that they hope to attend. Students with athletic talent are likely to find state-of-the art athletic facilities, as well as well-equipped and well-coached teams that allow them to compete at the highest level that they are capable of.

Beyond that, the top college prep schools send a very high percentage of their graduates to top US colleges and universities, including MIT, Stanford, and the so-called Ivy League schools of the Northeastern United States—Brown University in Rhode Island, Columbia University in New York City, Cornell University in upstate New York, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Princeton University in New Jersey, The University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University in Connecticut.  Some even believe that college prep school educated students become—through the prep school experience—more confident and better able to deal with authority, which is forecast to serve them well in their careers.