Midland School - Review #2

Read more details about Midland School on their 2024 profile page.
Midland School

About the Author:

Years Attended Boarding School:
Sports and Activities:
I played soccer, lacrosse, and ran cross country. I also did wilderness preparation and backpacking, as well as playing the piano. I was class president my freshman and sophomore year and School Prefect my senior year.
College Enrolled:
Smith College
Home Town, State:
Cambria, CA

Reflections and Advice:

1.) What do you think makes your school unique relative to other boarding schools?
Midland is an incredibly unique educational opportunity. What sets it apart are the values of self-reliance and the relationship with the land. The emphasis placed on experiential learning and leadership really grow out of the "needs not wants" philosophy. This was what prepared me for college more than anything else. The self confidence that I acquired having to learn how to rely on myself and my classmates to make the school operate and create the community we were all a part of was invaluable. This really set me apart from my classmates entering our first year in college. This also set me apart on college applications. I left high school with more adult life skills than many forty year old adults I meet now have.
2.) What was the best thing that happened to you in boarding school?
I consider my time at Midland to be the most important educational experience of my life. Even after attending a prestigious college and graduate school this remains true. I don't think many 18 year olds are really prepared to be adults when they leave high school, but I think Midland graduates are different. We still talk about this at our class reunions. The level of responsibility we had over managing our own lives was remarkable. I think that it's a great example of how giving teenagers more responsibility and more respect actually yields more responsible and respectful citizens. I changed dramatically in those four years from a kid to a young adult, and that feeling of being able to go out into the world and make decisions for myself is the greatest achievement of all.
3.) What might you have done differently during your boarding school experience?
I think it's very hard to appreciate what you have when you have it, no matter what phase of life you're in. I wish I could have understood at the time what a unique moment I was living and not have taken it for granted. My advice would be to reflect on this more, and not just wish each semester to pass quickly. This is a very challenging time of life, and Midland is a rigorous place, but it's also very enjoyable to live among peers, and grow and stretch mentally and physically.
4.) What did you like most about your school?
What I most liked were the values and the community. In adult life creating and maintaining community is hard to do, and many people feel isolated. It's something we think about and work on constantly. At Midland it just exists. Living among people who value simple living, critical thinking, and stewardship of the land is not that easy to find. Being in a community of like-minded people is very special.
5.) Do you have any final words of wisdom for visiting or incoming students to your school?
Climb Grass Mountain before dawn and watch the sun rise from there at least once before you graduate. Preferably once a year. It's worth it.


1.) Describe the academics at your school - what did you like most about it?
Small class size and experiential learning made Midland academics exceptional. Each class I was in had less than 10 students, and this allowed class discussion and critical thinking to be the order of the day. As education increasingly shifts away from an emphasis on information gathering and toward analysis and critical thinking about information, I can only imagine that the learning style of the Midland classroom has become even more important. The workload was rigorous and we did attend class six days a week, but this also facilitated the transition to a competitive college settings in a way that wouldn't have happened otherwise. The other notable thing is how available the teachers were. Because of the small student/teacher ratio, my teachers were always available. I don't think I realized how exceptional this was at the time. But those teachers never stopped working. Their dedication to their student's learning was remarkable. I often went to my teacher's houses after class to get extra help whenever I needed it, and was always encouraged to do so.


1.) Describe the athletics at your school - what did you like most about it?
I played three varsity sports at Midland but was not ever really the best on any of my teams. However, the team sports still felt central to the community. Even though I wasn't a star athlete I was very supported and encouraged. Being outside and physically active was a part of every day life at Midland, and how I know how vital that is to brain and nervous system development. I'd say athletics are bigger than just competitive team sports at Midland, they are a way of life.

Art, Music, and Theatre:

1.) Describe the arts program at your school - what did you like most about it?
I did not really participate much in these programs so I'm not the best person to offer my opinion. I did play the piano in my last year there and our piano teacher was excellent. I also took Music Appreciation and this included several trips into Santa Barbara to was opera and other classical shows. I really enjoyed this cultural experience.

Extracurricular Opportunities:

1.) Describe the extracurriculars offered at your school - what did you like most about it?
My memory was that camping, hiking, and learning about the natural world around us was a hugely important extracurricular. This included the organic garden and learning how to farm. I absolutely loved all these parts of Midland, and it is an incredibly unique opportunity. We are increasingly learning about how being deprived of time in nature is having a seriously negative impact on our nervous systems. The physicality of these activities was the perfect counter balance to the rigorous academics. It also builds a sense of competency that is exceptional. Knowing how to grow and cook your own food, or how to orient yourself in the wilderness prepare you to be a self-sufficient adult more than anything you can study in a book.

Dorm Life:

1.) Describe the dorm life in your school - what did you like most about it?
We lived in cabins. It was rustic but comfortable. You have to appreciate the "no-frills" mission of this educational environment to understand the dorms. They are totally unique and special in their own way. I graduated twenty years ago, and two of my closest friends are still the two girls I had as roommates at Midland. The bond you create in the Midland cabin life are unlike any others in life.


1.) Describe the dining arrangements at your school.
There is one central dining hall and everyone eats at the same time together. You rotate tables each month, so you're placed with a different cross-section of students for a period of time. What I liked about this is that you get to know kids who are not necessarily in your class or on your sports teams. It adds to the feeling of family, knowing that you'll all convene together for these structured meal times. There is a faculty present at each table which also creates the feeling of having a parental figure present.

Social and Town Life:

1.) Describe the school's town and surrounding area.
There is really no town life to speak of. When I was there we had "town runs" once in a while that you could sign up for. But there's not much to do in town. No one goes to Midland for the town. It's close enough to Santa Barbara so on special occasions you could go see music or a play, when there was something interesting going on. But in terms of just hanging out, most of the socializing really happens on campus or in the back country.
2.) Describe the social life at your school - what did you like most about it?
I really enjoyed the tight-knit community feeling at Midland. The student body was small, but people were really close as a result. Teachers are also very integrated into the community, and open their homes to students often. There were movie nights, game nights, and lots of other activities during leisure time. It isn't fancy, but it's very homey.
Read more details about Midland School on their 2024 profile page.

Alumni Reviews Review School

Midland School Alumni #1
Class of 1997
5.00 1/18/2017
Lehigh University
Few schools empower you the way Midland does. The school's experiential learning coupled with its student run maintenance program gives students the skill set to pursue and build their own projects. For instance. . .
Midland School Alumni #2
Class of 1997
5.00 1/18/2017
Smith College
Midland is an incredibly unique educational opportunity. What sets it apart are the values of self-reliance and the relationship with the land. The emphasis placed on experiential learning and leadership really grow out of the. . .
Midland School Alumni #3
Class of 1998
5.00 1/18/2017
Stanford University
Midland's philosophy is "needs not wants." And the community lives that philosophy every day. For four years, I lived in a wood cabin (heated only if I made a fire in our room's. . .
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Quick Stats (2024)

  • Enrollment: 82 students
  • Yearly Tuition (Boarding Students): $69,700
  • Acceptance rate: 40%
  • Average class size: 10 students
  • Application Deadline: Feb. 15 / rolling
  • Source: Verified school update