Honor Fairness Kindness Truth

Thacher educates students for lives of leadership and service. Our students enjoy a profoundly engaging intellectual life and develop a foundation for lifelong learning. Graduates also attribute their preparation to qualities cultivated outside the classroom: the resourcefulness and responsibility developed through camping and riding; the integrity that comes from living by an Honor Code; the sense of purpose found in community engagement and leadership.

At the core of our intellectual community lies the relationship between students and teachers, nurtured and supported by our Honor Code, which is exemplified by unproctored examinations in the 11th and 12th grade, and our student-led Judicial Council.

Academic Philosophy and Program

In September 2019, Thacher implemented a new curriculum that no longer included Advanced Placement courses. The 17 offerings formerly designated as AP were redesigned as Advanced or Honors courses. This curriculum is the result of a multi-year effort to develop a program grounded in a broader, more expansive definition of rigor and mastery; it is anchored by foundational studies in the 9th and 10th grades and followed by advanced studies in 11th and 12th grades. The latter involves deeper dives into various subjects, interdisciplinary courses, opportunities for independent study, and project-based learning. The academic program culminates with the Senior Exhibition—a capstone, independent research project. By stepping away from the AP, Thacher is confident we can better nurture the “learning liveliness” of our students, their talents, passion, drive, and intensity of focus.

COVID-19 Response

In response to the covid-19 health crisis, Thacher closed its campus and moved our spring trimester online with a Pass/No Pass grading system. With students from across the country and the world in our community, our new grading system acknowledged the different environments our students found themselves in as they pursued their online courses. Committed to equity and access, we wanted to ensure that no students were unduly penalized for those situations. To earn a Pass, students had to complete all formative and summative assignments and demonstrate proficiency. The Pass/No Pass grades were not computed into the students’ GPAs.

Thacher Programs

Horse Program Requirement

Unique to Thacher is our Horse Program—designed to complement the learning that takes place in our classrooms with real-world experience and responsibility in our barns. All new students are required to learn to ride and care for a horse—ninth-graders for an entire year, transfer students for one trimester. Mucking, feeding, and riding are part of every rider’s day, including on weekends. All students must pass a riding test, take a horse camping trip into the Sespe wilderness, and compete in Gymkhana (western racing). Talented riders can be elected to captain one of three School teams that compete in Big Gymkhana each May; they can earn top distinctions and earn the privilege of leading horse camping trips without faculty supervision. With grit and courage, a select few earn a spot in the Silver Dollar Pick-up roster each year. The great majority of our riders are novices to the sport when they arrive, yet about a quarter remain in the program long after completing their requirement.

Senior Exhibition

In addition to their regular course load, all seniors are required to complete a Senior Exhibition project prior to graduation. This year-long project requires seniors to produce a significant body of research on a topic of their choosing, culminating in a thirty-minute presentation to the School community. Examples of past projects include "Promised Reform in Saudi Arabia," "Social Influence and the Psychology of Consumer Behavior," "Asteroid Mining," "Ulysses: The Greatest Novel Ever Written In English," "The Cost of Endangered Species Conservation," "Mass Incarceration and Rehabilitation in America."

Camping Requirement

All students are required to participate in our Outdoor Program by going on week-long backpacking trips. On these trips, undertaken by the entire community each fall and spring, the focus is on “minimal impact” on the wilderness as well as self-sufficiency and cooperative teamwork. Camping encourages students to develop a deeper understanding and connection with the natural world while presenting them with both physical and personal challenges that foster character. In addition, the outdoors provides valuable, fertile ground for faculty-student and peer friendships.

Afternoon Requirement

While we are not competing in interscholastic sports this year because of covid-19, we remain committed to the value of physical and afternoon activities for the health and well being of our students.

Alongside the riding and camping requirements, all students must participate in afternoon activities, including one trimester of a team sport. Thacher does not believe in specialization; we encourage students to broaden their experiences in a variety of athletic and physical settings. Therefore, in addition to team sports, students may participate in rock climbing and dance ensemble.  Eleventh- and 12th-grade students may apply for an independent project in an area of personal interest, for example, cycling, screenwriting, surfing, pottery, triathlon, or musical composition.

Off-Campus Program

Rising eleventh-graders can apply and be selected to attend:
  • School Year Abroad (SYA)—a resident program in France, Spain, Italy, China
  • Chewonki Semester School—an opportunity to spend half a year focusing on ecology and environmental science in Wiscasset, Maine.

Thacher by the Numbers


founding of the School


students from 24 states and 9 countries


average class size


day students; 233 boarding students


students receiving financial aid


acres the foothills of California’s Coastal MountainRange and Los Padres National Forest


faculty holding advanced degrees


student:faculty ratio


international students


self-defined students of color


AP and post-Ap courses offered until the fall of 2019


AP courses offered in the 2019-2020 school year


Advanced/Honors course across disciplines

New Students for Fall 2020

Applications 697

Percentage admitted 13%

Percentage accepted who enrolled (yield rate) 76%

Median SSAT (total percentile) 84th

“If I had to come up with just one reason why Thacher has had, for the past five years, the highest yield rate of any boarding school— a rate surpassing Harvard’s— it would be that Thacher uniquely combines high-achieving academics and character-building challenges within what we believe is the most authentic, positive, and healthy peer culture of any school in the country. Every year, families tell us they have not found this combination of attributes at any other school.”
Bill McMahon Director of Admission

Class of 2021 SAT 1 Results for Middle 50%

Critical reading 650–730
Math 610–770
Composite 1290–1490

Thacher Graduation Requirements

• 4 years of English
• 3 years of mathematics
• 3 years of history
• 2 years of laboratory science
• 3 years of a foreign language
• 2 years of fine arts
• Completion of Senior Exhibition
Notice of nondiscriminatory policy as to students: The Thacher School admits students of any race, color, national, and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the School. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national, and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other School-administered programs.