Hotchkiss Climbs 2021 Niche Rankings

Niche ranked Hotchkiss as the third-best boarding high school in the U.S.

“What are your favorite school events or traditions?” 20% of respondents answered Headmaster’s Holiday. 

Niche, an American company that ranks and reviews schools, has just ranked Hotchkiss the third-best boarding high school and the fifth-best high school in America, a significant improvement from fifth and 17th places last year in those categories, respectively. This placement also makes Hotchkiss the top-ranked private high school in Connecticut.

Arhan Chhabra ’22
Arhan Chhabra ’22

Niche compiles standardized test scores, academic performance metrics, college matriculation statistics, and reviews from users to produce its ranking scores. According to the company, the 2021 rankings include updated data from over 24,000 private schools nationwide.

Because many prospective students use Niche to learn about and compare schools, members of the Office of Admission and Financial Aid are excited about the new ratings. Mr. Erby Mitchell, dean of admission and financial aid, said, “We do know that families around the world value the testimonials shared on [Niche].” 

However, Mr. Mitchell warns against simplifying the school to a rating. “We do not lean on ratings to make the case about the value-added proposition of a Hotchkiss education. By every metric for which a family might define a ‘top school,’ Hotchkiss meets that standard,” he said. 

Niche claims that improved rankings are an indicator that a school’s quality has increased. According to Mr. Stephen McKibben, dean of community life, school officials are always working to improve students’ experiences. For example, the school has implemented large structural changes to improve residential life over the last few years. “[We’ve] changed the way we structured dorm heads. We have re-written the dorm head job description and increased the compensation for that position, and with that comes a series of expectations and enhancements in the way each dorm head contributes to the larger [school] society,” Mr. McKibben said. 

The school has worked to distinguish itself from its peers in recent years by removing Advanced Placement (AP) courses from its curriculum and transitioning to instructor-designed Honors courses. He commented, “Our new courses highlight the creativity of our students and really take advantage of our advanced faculty. [By eliminating AP classes] the courses we design are more rigorous and we can now offer higher-level courses in each department.”

Four-year Senior Chris Tolis ’21 is one of the many students currently taking Honors-level courses. Tolis, who takes Honors Fifth-Year Spanish and Honors Economics, says there is a noticeable difference in course quality. “We have a lot more freedom in what we learn, and the course is very challenging,” he said. 

Because a majority of the school’s students live on campus, extra-curricular activities are important parts of their experiences. In recent years, the school has created multiple new co-curricular and extracurricular activities that reflect student interest, including Winter Woods team, guitar-building, rock climbing, and mountain biking. Alec Stern ’21, a member of the varsity mountain biking team, said, “It’s all about pushing myself to the limit. I love this activity and it’s great that Hotchkiss offers mountain-biking even when it’s not one of the traditional sports.”  

The administration is constantly searching for areas in which it can improve. “Just recently, the entire school participated in an extensive survey that will give us [administrators] perspective in which areas we need to focus our finite resources on,” said Mr. McKibben.