When most students step on Brown’s campus for the first time as first years, they might know at most a handful of people, if any at all. Some, however, step on campus as part of a much larger community.
Each year, the Mountain School, a selective semester-long program tucked away in the small, rural town of Vershire, Vt., sends 7 percent of its alums to Brown, which is the most-attended school for former Mountain School students, said Mountain School Director Alden Smith. To put this percentage in context with four-year private schools, Phillips Academy Andover, long considered one of the top secondary education institutions in the nation and one of the most well-represented high schools at Brown, sent 3.4 percent of its graduating class to Brown in 2016.
The Mountain School offers high school juniors, and in some special cases seniors, a semester away from their normal high school education for the cost of $28,825 — though it does offer some financial aid. Each semester, the Mountain School admits 45 students, mostly from the northeast and private schools, Smith said. The school sets itself apart from other institutions through its focus on agriculture and location-based learning.
Dean of Admission Logan Powell said the Mountain School and the University do not have any special relationship, despite the fact that Brown admits a high percentage of Mountain School alumni. But Powell did note the similarities between the schools’ students.
“People who are willing to step outside of their academic comfort zone a little bit and do a program like the Mountain School … (demonstrate) a willingness to take academic risks,” Powell said.
Mountain School alum Benjamin Hayslett-Ubell ’18.5 also emphasized the similarity in academic style and added that students from both schools tend to have similar mindsets.
“The people (who) apply to the Mountain School are, for the most part, very academically motivated and very impressive in environmental sustainability, agriculture and learning about a certain set of — to be frank — liberal politics,” similar to those who apply to Brown, Hayslett-Ubell said.
“The element of (the Mountain School) that really feels connected is the sense of independence and student-driven action that really governs everything at Brown,” said Mountain School alum Jane Jacoby ’17. “That sense of self-determination … is something that I loved about the Mountain School that I didn’t even expect going into it.”
These correlations help many students from the Mountain School narrow down the colleges and universities where they will apply, and in many cases, Brown is on that list.
“I don’t know if I would’ve applied if I hadn’t been around an environment where so many people were thinking about schools like Brown,” Hayslett-Ubell said. “The things at Mountain School that I really loved — the collaborative environment, the commitment to challenging thoughts — those are all things I was looking for in a school, and that’s part of why I felt like Brown was the best fit.”
The correlation and attraction to Brown, however, doesn’t completely explain why the University admits so many students from the Mountain School. Smith believes Mountain School alums stand out from other students on college applications — but not necessarily because they attended the Mountain School.
“Our students are high-achieving before they even get here,” Smith said. “It’s not sufficient to say that the Mountain School has turned normal people into the perfect college candidate. We have students who are already destined for some success in their life.”
Moreover, Mountain School students partake in a unique experience, which may attract colleges, Smith said.
Jacoby echoed Smith’s sentiments, but also added that affluence plays a factor in the students’ academic success — tuition for a semester at the Mountain School is not cheap.
“The Mountain School … has been a fairly affluent group of people,” Jacoby said. “The reality is that Mountain Schoolers are already coming from good schools, whether they’re private or public, and have already achieved some amount of academic success at their school to be accepted to the Mountain School.”
Mountain School alum Kerrick Edwards ’18 regards the Mountain School as a privileged community.
“It’s a very self-selecting community,” Edwards said. “It’s very much a community that’s coming from the New England elite private school world.”
“It certainly was a privilege to go to Mountain School — I’m sure it looked good on a college application,” Edwards said. “It’s a privilege to go to Brown — I’m sure that looks good on job applications.”
Hayslett-Ubell stressed that despite the connection between the Mountain School and Brown, the schools still maintain their differences.
“Not everyone that goes to Mountain School would like it at Brown, and not everyone at Brown would like Mountain School,” Hayslett-Ubell said.