Midland School: A Santa Barbara Prep School that Prepares You for Life


The Midland School sits on 2800 acres of land 5 miles off the road atop the lush hills of California's santa Barbara County. A year in the school would cost $49,900 and a chance to getting into Harvard or Stanford, just like elite schools like Andover and Exeter would. However, Midland offers something most schools doesn't: the discipline of knowing the difference between needs and wants and curbing the latter.

Paul Squibb, the school's founder envisioned his institution to be one that is free from the clutter of affluence and the need to keep up with everyone else. Squibb, a graduate of Harvard, and his wife Louise started the school believing that a student, a teacher and an idea are the only essentials for a good education.

That was in 1932, fast forward nearly 8 and a half decades later, the school still doesn't require that much kitchen help or does it need janitors to keep school ground clean.

School facilities are modest and in the opinion of some, it might even be lacking considering the amount families have to pay to get their kids in the school but for Midland administrators and faculty, having the students play a role in having their own needs met is an important lesson in self-reliance.

Students live in cabins that have no running water except for the sprinklers and a basic wood stove for heating. Phones are confiscated at the start of the school since there's barely a signal, students won't have much use for them.

Each year, the sophomore class are expected to install solar power systems to give the school additional 3% more electricity from solar energy. Since there are no heating systems and running water, upperclassmen are also given the task of gathering and chopping firewood for the entire school and they take turns lighting the shower fire for everyone.

Food is also not a problem since the school is in part still a ranch. Students and faculty work on the 10-acre farm organically growing produce that provides 50% of the school's food. They also grow their own cattle and farm animals.

Students are also allowed to bring their dogs so long as they - the animals, pass their admissions test.

Apart from instilling self-reliance in their students, the Midland School also believes that each young adult who will join the school must embrace a great responsibility for the community and become a part of the great tradition of service.

This sense of collective and individual responsibility can be tricky but the faculty seem to have found the right mix, carefully calculating wants and needs. Their approach is to push students beyond his or her known limits according to the person's experience while keeping them within the limits of their ability.

Midland's philosophy is simple: needs, not wants. Over the years the school have seen former students made generous offers to build facilities like a tennis court or a swimming pool but the administrators remained true to Paul Squibb's vision of keeping things simple.

Instead of accepting the offer for facilities that will be expensive to maintain, the school encourages donors to give their donations for financial aid that will benefit the student body with scholarships.

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