I graduated from Portsmouth Abbey in the late 70's. What an amazing school! Yes, the academic environment is extremely challenging and competitive; as one would expect from a top flight boarding school. The teachers are brilliant, dedicated and demand the best from their students. An idyllic campus, superb facilities, great sports, a diverse student body and a nurturing Catholic environment all combined to provide me with a lifetime of happy memories and a strong foundation for adulthood. Thank you Portsmouth Abbey.
If you're very self disciplined and can handle immense amounts of pressure, this is the school for you. If you want no free time other than Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons stuck on campus, this is the school for you. If you are sensitive and aren't a fan of pressure or very strict rules, this is absolutely not the school for you. When I found out I was accepted into the Abbey, I was so excited. I was tired of feeling sick in a small town and wanted to branch out and meet new people. I made some great friends during my year at the Abbey, but they were all freshman like myself at the time. All of the older grades are harsh to those younger than them. My freshman houseparent took away all of my electronics because I had a C on my report card. She would even call me names and make me feel badly about myself on many occasions. After the first 2 weeks I started getting very depressed. I realized the mess I got myself into choosing this school. I began isolating myself and my grades went down. I was lost and had no one to turn to because the school had zero support. I broke down and had to leave the school. Funny because besides Sunday mass, this school is far from religious.
The Abbey provides a highly structured and morally steeped environment that is nurturing to some and ostracizing to others. Certain things are appropriate for discussion and debate, others are not. Knowing the difference between the two is a likely predictor as to how happy a student will feel. The community is not inherently warm and inviting. Students who do not conform to the majority demographic will likely have a more difficult time adapting. There are many teachers who have lived here for decades with little exposure to life outside. Consequently, out-of-the-ordinary ideas or alternative ways of living are not easily accepted or tolerated. The core education is strong but there is a notable lack of exposure to contemporary culture, specifically related to the visual arts, art history, music and (to a lesser degree) literature. The monastic community is the most academically rigorous and emotionally nurturing. Many of the lay faculty are overly concerned with catching students break rules, while the monks are more open minded and provide a comforting resource for questions relating to sex, drugs, personal identity and general well being. I will never send my kids here.
I graduated from Portsmouth Abbey this May, and I've been missing it ever since. The Abbey is an amazing, unique place. The academics are rigorous and challenging, but small class sizes and wonderful, caring teachers make them manageable. The drama program - which is sinfully neglected in most descriptions of the school - is outstanding. It gave me some of the most enriching experiences of my high school career. And words cannot describe the incredible bonds I've forged with friends and teachers over the course of four years. I don't want to invalidate the experiences of other reviewers, but I never found anything but a wonderfully caring and accepting community at the Abbey. Every high school has its drama, but what little I experienced was nothing compared to the toxicity I've heard about from friends at other schools. I'm currently in my first semester at my top choice college and I'm extraordinarily well prepared. The Abbey has its faults - for example, I found the religious program to be stifling at times - but I will always be glad that I chose to go to that eccentric boarding school by the bay.
While no school is perfect, I believe The Abbey has offered my child an opportunity that we will be forever grateful for. It is difficult sending your child away at 14 years old, and you must be sure of your decision. Are the kids there all perfect? No way. Is my child 10 steps ahead of 99% of America's high school students? You bet! Lots of academic pressure, and even more support. I highly recommend for students who are independent, academically driven, and have a strong sense of wanting to be the best.
The most miserable environment. I could tell all the horrible things Ive been through, and witnessed there but it truly is unbelievable. I choice this school because it seemed friendly and a place i would feel comfortable in and be able to strive academically. Not the case. I'm leaving at the end of this year. The students are horrible to one another. There is no sense of community. The school has a very hush hush way of dealing with situations. Few faculty really care for the well being of the student, rather see them as possible liabilities. There are great schools out there, but this is certainly not one of them.
I graduated from Portsmouth Abbey 2 years ago and absolutely hated it and many of my classmates were unhappy also. There is way too much pressure being put on the students. I don't suggest sending your child here unless they are used to being put under extreme pressure. In fact, don't even consider coming to the Abbey unless you are "perfect."
I have been associated with Abbey for many years, first as a student in the 70's then as a faculty member in the 80's, and I rejoined the faculty 10 months ago. In the meanwhile I have worked at 3 other independent schools. My experience as a student ignited me as a thinker. Currently, the Abbey is a wonderful place, with very kind and accepting kids. The warmth and friendliness of the community is noteworthy among the schools I have worked at, and the education challenges young people. The school is Catholic, and believes and practices what it stands for, but welcomes students of all faiths or none.
I have worked here for 8 years (and counting!) and I have always been impressed with the students and faculty, alike. I am not Catholic, yet I feel welcome and very much part of the community. Perhaps that is because PAS values rigorous academics, stewardship, kindness and hard work--all values I also find important. I'm also impressed with the schools dedication to athletics and the arts. I know from chatting with many former students when they come back to visit that PAS prepared them well not only for college, but for challenges beyond the classroom.