I attended high school at Dawson and enjoyed my experience immensely. The faculty is very supportive and there are brilliant teachers who are willing to go the extra mile to improve their students' experience. The small classes allow for interesting discussion and contrary to popular criticism I found that having a small grade allowed me to become closer with the majority of my peers, though there will always be a few unpleasant teenagers at any school. The upperclassmen are incredibly welcoming and I have not encountered any hazing. Requiring students to join two extra-curriculars in place of gym went far better than I imagined and there is enough variety in options to interest most students. Personally, I was a part of Speech and Debate and Kayaking, both of which have excellent coaches, and met some truly amazing people. That being said there are certainly some flaws to the school. I did not find the workload to be too intensive however during the college process it certainly added to the stress. The social aspect of Dawson can be competitive particularly being a college preparatory school and there has always been a lack of cohesiveness within the student body. Entitlement is somewhat prevalent and there is a disconnect between Dawson students and the outside world, though I doubt this concerns the school so much as the parents who are able to afford sending there children to a place like Dawson. The campus is beautiful, however funds appear to be more focused on the appearance of the school instead of the faculty and sports teams. The use of technology in the school is not beneficial to the overall learning experience and I struggled working with group projects that required more knowledge of various programs than the topic at hand. Freshman and Sophomore year were not particularly enjoyable for the sole reason that there is no flexibility in scheduling until junior year, however once I was able to chose classes I was interested in with teachers I liked the experience improved dramatically. Overall I would highly recommend the school for self-starters. There is plenty of opportunity to thrive, but no one is going to force you into taking advantage of it.
I attended Dawson for nine years as a student and am now back to substitute teach and work as a marketing intern. While attending Dawson, it felt small and cliquish at times - but my Dawson classmates are my closets friends today. Dawson is expensive, but not everyone boasts their wealth, and not everyone is extremely wealthy or "elitist". That being said, every person knows the sticker price upon enrolling their child at the school, so it sort of comes with the territory. Also, these kids are in high school (at least where I saw most of these issues begin) - they have growing up to do - just like the students at every other school. These issues are no more prevalent than at any other local school. In my opinion, it's good preparation for "the real world" to learn to deal with different personalities and perspectives. Furthermore, I have had extremely fulfilling experiences and success since graduating - most of which, I attribute to my beginnings at Dawson. It was there that I was encouraged to travel abroad for a semester in my junior year. Dawson does care about its students, and they continue to support them long after they graduate.
We have two children at Dawson, and the experience for each has been fantastic. Love all the personal attention, small class sizes - we feel like the teachers really know and understand each kid: It's not a cookie-cutter approach. The academic program is really strong, and all the arts, athletics, technology, etc. are great - plus they get lots of chance to develop as leaders. We feel like our kids have a 'leg up': They are really well prepared as they advance through the years.
Our 2 children attended Dawson for 6 years. We first thought Dawson was great, but we soon realized the elitist atmosphere was a facade to perpetuate its fund raising and image as an elite school. After Dawson drastically raised tuition every year and cut its bus program, we moved our kids to public school. Many of Dawson's credits and test scores do not transfer to local schools. Dawson's elitist atmosphere will leave a lasting sense of entitlement on your child. Many kids go on to obscure, high $ impractical liberal arts colleges. Some of my daughter's peers literally became Tibetan guides or joined the army because their post college life didn't meet the idealistic life learned at Dawson - extremely bright kids who learned no life skills at Dawson. Fortunately, we pulled our younger son from Dawson before he was permanently scarred by Dawson's elitist land. if you are well off and want your kid to depend on your trusts, send them to Dawson! But if you want your child to learn to cope, work, and compete with the masses and support themselves, avoid Dawson. Dawson was an immense waste of money and for daughter, did far more long term motivational harm than good.
Our experience with Dawson has been limited to the Lower School, so I can't comment on the Middle or Upper Schools. The teachers at Dawson are great. The projects are interesting and fun, and keep the kids engaged. The teachers set high expectations, and the kids meet them. The Lower School also has the kids participate in Library, Computer, Spanish, PE, Art, Music --each a few times or more a week ....and they have recess several times a day.
We are about to start our 7th year at Dawson. We absolutely love it here. Our kids are thriving in this amazing environment. The sports and arts programs are just as awesome! The teachers and the community of parents are just as great. We couldn't ask for a better place to raise and educate our kids.