Do US Boarding Schools give an advantage to Ivy-Caliber Universities Admissions?

Boarding School StudentThe Ivy League has always been targeted by many college-bound students, and sometimes their parents, for their worldwide prestige, esteemed academic quality, and unparalleled career opportunities.

However, as applicants from all over the world are eyeing for a spot in the Ivy League schools, competition to enter these selective universities are becoming fiercer every year. Hence, many parents have started to consider factors that would ‘boost’ their children’s chances of being admitted. Aside from test preparation, private tutoring, athletic coaching, and pre-college summer programs, parents also turn their eyes to private elite boarding schools that have been termed ‘feeder’ to the Ivy-Caliber universities. Nevertheless, do students at elite boarding schools always have a better chance to enter an Ivy-Caliber university?

“It is undeniable that the elite private boarding school do send more kids into these top schools.”

First and foremost, although many claim that elite private boarding schools would often send over 20% of their students into the Ivy-Caliber universities[1], it is only because these elite schools have already selected the most highly qualified students to enter their class. According to Boarding Schools Review[2], top elite boarding schools generally accept students with SSAT scores of no less than 85%. As a result, students who have successfully gained a place in these prestigious schools will have to compete with the brightest minds from all over the world, because only students in the top 20% of these schools stand a chance in getting into the Ivy League universities.

Alternatively, let’s compare the profiles of several schools below. We would like to examine

1) The Hotchkiss School[3], which is representative of the uppermost echelon of elite US boarding schools,

2) Hong Kong International School (HKIS)[4], which is representative of a top international school in Hong Kong, and

3) Blair Academy[5], which is representative of a top tier US boarding school.

Over the span of four years, Hotchkiss has placed 16 students into Harvard, which means on average 4 students per year gained acceptance into Harvard. Comparatively, HKIS yields 4 Harvard matriculants across 3 years, averaging less than 1 student per year. Blair, on the other hand, chose not to disclose their Harvard matriculation, as they have less than 5 Harvard acceptances in total across the past 5 years.

Does that make Blair the least competitive school? Arguably not, as it has managed to send 10 students into Stanford, an Ivy-Caliber school, within 5 years. This result is on par with Hotchkiss, which has 10 Stanford acceptances over 4 years. In comparison, HKIS did not yield a single matriculant to Stanford in the past 3 years.

What does this signal to students and parents targeting the Ivy-Caliber universities? While it is undeniable that the elite private boarding schools do send more kids into Ivy-Caliber universities, one cannot neglect that admissions to elite boarding schools are also extremely competitive, as their entry requirements have filtered and assembled the crème of the crop. Students need to bear the burden to excel in boarding schools, if they want to enjoy the wider opportunities offered. Similarly, other top boarding schools and even international schools in Hong Kong do not mean the end of the line for the most ambitious students. Top students in these schools also have bountiful options. Hence, in conclusion, although elite boarding schools could enhance a student’s university application to a certain extent, Ivy-Caliber universities ultimately look at the students’ performances before weighing in the students’ high school. A grim reality: if one also looks at Hotchkiss’s matriculation, it is notable that slightly less competitive colleges, such as Boston College, New York University, and Carnegie Mellon University, also appear on the list. Hence, it might be prudent to say that extraordinary schools look for extraordinary students, whereas good students would fit in good schools.

As Admissions Consultants, we believe that there is no “best” school, but only best “fit” for individual students. To learn more about how we help our students, please visit our website or call us at 2972 2555 to schedule a complimentary initial meeting.

[1] Statistics referenced from, a pay-to-subscribe service that rank elite boarding and day schools by Ivy League schools matriculations


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The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which student gained early acceptance to schools such as MIT, University of Chicago, Columbia, and more! Check out the rest of our 2019 ED/EA Admissions Results!

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