The Lawrenceville School: In-Depth School Profile

lawrencevilleFive miles south of Princeton, sprawling across a pristine, rural 700 acres in central New Jersey, is the Lawrenceville School. A prestigious boarding school founded in 1810, the Lawrenceville School was proud home to graduates Malcolm Forbes, economist George Akerlof, and musician Huey Lewis, and ranked number fourteen in the 2010 Forbes survey of America’s Best Prep Schools. With a relatively small student to faculty ratio, generous financial aid, and a unique House System and Harkness Teaching model, the Lawrenceville School is an attractive choice for high school students intent on developing “high standards of character and scholarship, a passion for learning, an appreciation for diversity, a global perspective, and strong commitments to personal, community, and environmental responsibility.”

The Lawrenceville School will be the first profile in my new series investigating the private and public high schools of Mercer County.

Students, Faculty, and Facilities

The current student body totals 816 at The Lawrenceville School, 565 of which are boarding students. Students represent 34 states and 40 countries. This private institution is for grades 9-12 only (2nd to 5th forms). The Lawrenceville School is deeply committed to its students’ sense of diversity in their experience at the school, with the goal that each graduate emerges “equipped to answer the following questions: Who am I? Who are they? Who are we?” As such, the school offers a wide range of support for students of diverse backgrounds, including The Alliance of Black Cultures, Jewish Students Organization, Asian Students Organization, and Gay-Straight Alliance, and the Lawrenceville School maintains an academic curriculum which “reflects a global perspective.”

The Lawrenceville School employs 101 full time faculty and consequently maintains a student to faculty ratio of 8:1. The average class size at Lawrenceville is 13 students.

The Edith Memorial Chapel, The Lawrenceville School

The Edith Memorial Chapel, The Lawrenceville School

The Lawrenceville School is home to many state-of-the-art facilities which accommodate a rich variety of academic and extracurricular interests. These include The Bunn Library (a collection of 63,000 volumes, CDs, 200 current periodicals, individual carrels, and study rooms); The Juliet Lyell Staunton Clark Music Center (2 recital halls, a piano lab, practice rooms, and 15 grand pianos); The F.M. Kirby Science Center (12 individual labs, a greenhouse, 8 combination lab/classrooms); athletic facilities (The Al Rashid Strength and Conditioning Center and the Lavino Field House); the Gruss Center of Visual Arts; and the Edith Memorial Chapel.

The institution also has eighteen dormitories known as “Houses,” organized under the school’s “House System.” Each House exists within a larger School community (Lower, Circle and Crescent Houses, and 5th form Houses), and are divided by levels and gender. Each House is served by housemasters and assistant housemasters. Individual houses foster a sense of community, tradition, and personality; they each have their own dining area in the Irwin Dining Center, and compete for athletic, academic, and community service honors throughout the year.

All students enjoy their meals at specified hours at Irwin Dining Center.

Academic Life

Students at the Lawrenceville School live and study in a rigorous academic climate. Academic advisors assist students in their selection of courses throughout their career at Lawrenceville. Students will additionally participate in community service, rich humanities courses, a personal development seminar, and other academic opportunities that foster their qualities of leadership, civic engagement, and intellectual awareness.

The Harkness Table is the foundation of discussion-based learning.

The Harkness Table is the foundation of discussion-based learning.

The Lawrenceville School is home to the Harkness Table, a concept developed in order to foster discussion-based learning in an intimate setting. Students sit in seminar form about an oval-shaped Harkness Table in order to debate and openly discuss course topics and issues with their instructor and fellow classmates.

Students also frequently meet one-on-one with instructors to discuss academic progress and group/individual issues.

Academic programs include English, History, Mathematics, Language, Interdisciplinary Studies, Performing Arts, Religion and Philosophy, Science, and Visual Arts. Classes are 55 minutes long and convene four times a week. For more specifics on what types of classes Lawrenceville School offers as well as graduation requirements, click here.

Campus Life

main_1368553393_378Students at the Lawrenceville School enjoy a vast array of opportunities to establish their own communities and pursue individual interests.

Students learn the art of time management at the Lawrenceville School, balancing academic courseloads with sports, outdoor programs, community service, and many other clubs and organizations. The school has its own literary journal (“The Lit”) and newspaper, the Periwig Club (a theatre group that draws 1/3 of the student body), a Model United Nations Club, and other extracurricular opportunities.

Social time is also built into the dormitory system at Lawrenceville. On weekends, Houses host socials and students have many opportunities to engage with each other across grade levels and interests.

Looking Ahead: College Preparation

In the same 2010 Forbes Survey, the Lawrenceville School maintained a 27% Ivy/MIT/Stanford “pipeline;” indeed, this boarding school produces a large amount of Ivy League-bound graduates. Specific numbers can be found on their website.

The School offers a variety of college resources. The College Counseling office provide a strong network of support and education with regard to navigating the thorny, exciting process of college admissions throughout a student’s time at Lawrenceville. This covers all bases: application essays, interviews, campus visits, and courseloads.

The Numbers

The Lawrenceville School also happens to be the most expensive prep school in the country, with an annual tuition of $55,350 for boarding students and $45,780 for day students. Nonetheless, the institution promises hefty financial aid to its future graduates; the average financial aid package for boarding students is $44,500; day students receive on average $29,450. 29% of the student body receives financial assistance.


The Lawrenceville School maintains that of the approximate 2,000-2,500 annual applications for admission, selection is “based on all-around qualifications without regard to race, creed, or national origin.” Of the 2,368 applications received in 2014, the Lawrenceville selection committee admitted 237 students to its freshman class.  38 percent of these applications came from students enrolled in public schools; 45 percent from those at private institutions.

The application process is lengthy and contains multiple components. Prospective applicants should first complete an Inquiry Form before scheduling a tour and a formal interview. Following the formal interview—conducted either on site or by alumni—the student should ensure he or she has taken the appropriate entrance exam. Candidates for grades 9 and 10 must take the SSAT; those for 11th  and 12th grades may alternately submit PSAT, SAT, or ACT scores taken within the current school year. Lastly, candidates must file an online application and may submit additional, non-required materials, such as extra personal recommendations, artwork, media, or copies of awards/certificates.

Those interested in applying to The Lawrenceville School should contact the Admissions Office (800-735 2030), or visit their website.

The application deadline for day and boarding students is January 15. All testing must be completed by February 1. Applicants will receive an admission decision on March 10.

For serious candidates, keep in mind that The Lawrenceville School’s “first interest is in your own abilities — your inquiring mind, your initiative, your willingness to pursue a subject deeply and to think independently. We are also interested in what you have accomplished with those abilities — how you have ventured beyond your known talents and whether you have shown excellence in some things.”

Stay tuned for a Lawrenceville graduate’s reflections on her high school career.


Additional Reading

Please check out the other posts in this series:

You may also be interested in our related series about student perspectives:


About the Author: Kathleen McGunagle is a 2014 graduate of Princeton University currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Boston University. During her undergraduate career, she provided tutoring services through Princeton Tutoring, participated in on-campus theatre, and enjoyed a year abroad studying English at Oxford University.


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