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A university-preparatory school or college-preparatory school (usually abbreviated to preparatory school, college prep school, or prep school) is a secondary school, usually private, designed to prepare students for a college or university education. Some schools will also include a junior, or elementary, school. This designation is mainly current in North America. In many parts of Europe, such as Germanymarker, the countries of former Austria-Hungary, the Benelux and Scandinavia, secondary schools specializing in college-preparatory education are called gymnasia and/or in some countries athenaea.

North America

United States and Canada

College preparatory schools in the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker, commonly referred to as prep schools, are private independent secondary schools, funded by tuition fees and philanthropic donations and governed by independent boards of trustees. Prep schools may be day schools or boarding schools and may be co-educational or single-sex; however in both the United States and Canada, day schools are more common than boarding, and co-educational schools are more common than single-sex.

Top-tier prep schools are known for their selective admissions process, challenging academics, and reputations for sending students to highly selective colleges and universities. Tuition fees at some top-tier prep schools are comparable to the costs of attending an Ivy League university. (For example, the tuition at the Brearley Schoolmarker and The Dwight Schoolmarker, both day schools in New York Citymarker, is just over $30,000 (USD) while tuition for boarding students at the Groton School, the Brooks School and Tabor Academy, all in Massachusettsmarker, is over $44,000 (USD).) The financial resources of private preparatory schools allow for sizable investments in facilities and equipment, hiring highly-qualified, experienced teachers with advanced degrees, and retaining these teachers in tenured positions. Top-tier prep schools often have sizable endowment, which finance scholarships permitting demographic heterogeneity.

Among the principal benefits of prep schools is a very low student-to-teacher ratio, hence, smaller class sizes than in public schools, often only 8 to 12 students per class. Like public high schools, most prep schools offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and many offer a large number of other advanced courses, beyond those typically found at a public high school.

The schools generally address all aspects of the "well rounded" person. This honors the classical ideal that is expressed in the Latin phrase, "Mens sana in corpore sano" ("A sound mind in a sound body") by providing rigorous academics and a strong emphasis on athleticism (see The Ten Schools Admissions Organization, Independent School Leagues or Ivy Preparatory School League). Many prep schools require students to participate in one or more of the school's sports team and some require students to participate in a sport during all three athletic seasons. Prep schools also provide many other activities, such as elaborate plays and musicals, and many other clubs and leadership opportunities that prepare the students for college.

Fewer than 1% of students enrolled in school in the United States attend an independent private preparatory school, a small fraction compared with the 9% who attend parochial schools and 88% who attend public schools. Some independent preparatory schools are affiliated with a particular religion or denomination, although unlike parochial schools, independent preparatory schools are not governed or a religious organization, and students are usually not required to receive instruction in one particular religion. While independent prep schools in the United States are not subject to government oversight or regulation, they are accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies for educational institutions.

A few prep schools have highly competitive, very selective admission processes. Phillips Exeter Academymarker, Phillips Andovermarker, Deerfield Academy, The Hotchkiss School, The Lawrenceville Schoolmarker, Harvard-Westlake Schoolmarker, Georgetown Preparatory Schoolmarker Groton School, Middlesex School, Choate Rosemary Hall,St. Joseph's Prep School, St. Paul's Schoolmarker, Milton Academymarker, Menlo Schoolmarker, and Trinity School all have admission rates consistently under 30%. The application and attendance to these select top-tier schools is arduous, challenging and not open to all.

Recently, a group of 20 highly selective preparatory schools in the English speaking world was founded, namely The G20 Schools group. Participating schools in the United States include Phillips Exeter Academymarker, Phillips Academymarker, Harvard-Westlake Schoolmarker, Deerfield Academy, The Lawrenceville Schoolmarker, Buckingham Browne & Nichols.

The classic idea and image of the college preparatory school in the United States derives from New England prep schools, which are the oldest and most famous prep schools in the country.

Notable prep school graduates include U.S. Presidents George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Barack Obama and other prominent figures such as John McCain, Al Gore, John Kerry, James Baker, Howard Dean, Daniel Webster, William Carlos Williams, William Randolph Hearst, Benno C. Schmidt, Jr., Edward Harkness, Bill Gates, and Dan Brown.

Columbia International College is the largest boarding prep school in North America.

In Ontario, Canada, Bronte College of Canada, puts emphasis on "well-rounded" education offering a variety of social clubs and sports as well as a rigorous academic program. Bronte College is also one of the largest AP schools in Mississauga, Ontario.

Europe

France

In Francemarker, certain private or public secondary schools offer special postgraduate classes called classes préparatoires, equivalent in level to the first years of university, for students who wish to prepare for the competitive exams for the entrance in the Grandes écoles. French classes préparatoires are exceptionally intensive and selective, taking only the very best students graduating from high schools but generally not charging fees.

Germany



A gymnasium is a particular type of school in Germanymarker and other countries in Europe, with the goal to prepare its pupils to enter a university. The γυμνάσιον of Ancient Greece was a place for physical and eventually also intellectual education of young men. The later meaning of intellectual education persisted in German and other languages, whereas in English, the older meaning of physical education was retained.

Italy

In Italy there are several kinds of high schools, both public and private, whose curriculum has as a primary aim the preparation for university. These are called "Liceo", plural "Licei". Other kind of high schools, usually referred to as "technical institutes", also offer the possibility to attain university after graduation, although they also form students to have some kind of professional prospective after graduation.There are four main types of Licei: Liceo Classico (focusing on classical subjects, such as Italian, Latin and Ancient Greek studies), Liceo Scientifico (lacking Greek to devote approximately equal time to the remaining classical subjects and scientific subjects), Liceo Artistico and Liceo Linguistico.

The Netherlands

In The Netherlandsmarker the official terminology is voorbereidend wetenschappelijk onderwijs (or simply VWO) meaning preparatory university education. The VWO is divided into the so-called atheneum and gymnasium. These are identical in level of education, the only difference being that a gymnasium education includes the subjects Latin and Ancient Greek; a student must include at least one of the classical languages in his final exams to obtain a gymnasium diploma. In The Netherlands education is usually public.

Spain

The International Baccalaureate's Diploma Programme in Spainmarker was created in 1968. It is a demanding pre-university course of study that leads to examinations. It is designed for highly motivated secondary school students aged 16 to 19. The programme has earned a reputation for rigorous assessment, giving IB diploma holders access to the world’s leading universities. The Diploma Programme is rigorous and is world renown. Each student’s performance is measured against well-defined levels of achievement. These are consistent from one examination session to the next and are applied equally to all schools. The International Baccalaureate has shown that students are well prepared for university work. They are accepted by universities in more than 110 countries.

One school is the Academy School in the Balearic Islandsmarker, which is a member of the National Association of British Schools in Spainmarker. It is inspected regularly both by British Inspectors and Inspectors from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. Among other prestigious schools are the Hastings School in Madridmarker, the Caxton College in Valenciamarker, and the Bellver International College in Mallorcamarker.

The International Preparatory Schools are ranked and recognised by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (MEC) and all teach a minimum level of Spanish language, science, literature, geography and history. The curriculum also varies from one international school to another.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the concept of a university preparatory school has never existed as such. In British usage a preparatory school, more commonly "prep school", is an independent private fee paying school that a student attends prior to the move to senior school, and thus has nothing directly to do with university entrance. The only institutions specialising in university entrance are crammers for (usually) privately educated pupils who have failed to gain entrance to their university of choice directly from school, and whose parents are willing to pay for a year of specialist tuition to give them a second chance, but no-one attends these as a first choice option.

Historically independent secondary schools ("public schools" in British usage), and (mainly state sector) grammar schools would prepare some or most of their pupils for university entrance, though this was not explicitly their mission. With the introduction of comprehensive schools in the 1960s and 1970s, all secondary schools had a responsibility, at least in theory, to prepare their more academically able pupils for university entrance (unless they were located in one of the relatively small number of places where state secondary schools only cater for under 16s, and sixth form colleges are responsible for the academic education of 16–18 year olds). In practice, in the late 20th century, some comprehensives in working class areas actually sent very few students to university. In the early 21st century, with the expansion of university education, most secondary schools are sending significant numbers of pupils to university: a school that does not do so risks being classified as a "failing school" and closed or placed in special measures.

Asia

Singapore

In Singaporemarker, prep schools for universities are known as "junior colleges".

See also



References

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