Ds has been fortunate to receive offers from Habs, St Albans and St Columba's. We have always preferred Habs as a school; the boys seem very confident and articulate and the staff has always been very welcoming and enthusiastic, there is much more music, the buildings seem more fit for purpose etc. St Albans does not put on such good open days - we have only been shown round by very shy sixth-formers and had little chance to talk to staff - and has not invited us in at any point of the application process, whereas Habs has provided opportunities to meet staff etc. We are away next week so do not have an opportunity to visit the schools again.
However, we are right at the extreme of the Habs coach routes, which would mean a journey of nearly 1.5 hours each way, whereas St Albans would only be 45mins each way. Even the coach manager at Habs cautioned us against such a long journey, thought the Deputy Head said they had never lost anyone due to distance. Although dh drives past Habs 3 days a week, I do not drive so ds would be completely dependent on the coach service, but there is a public bus to St Albans from the end of our road. I also feel that the Habs catchment would mean that his friends would be very inaccessible - the Deputy said that we would spend the next 7 years being a taxi service to Northwest London.
I had had concerns that ds would struggle with the academic pressure at Habs but he has been offered a small scholarship from St Albans, which I assume means he would not be bottom of the class. To complicate the decision making, he has been offered a more substantial scholarship by St Columba's, which, given that the fees are lower, would mean about 50% of the Habs fees. We loved St Columba's as a school but we have always felt that ds would be happier in a more academic environment and it had been our backup. However, that would be a lot of holiday that we might otherwise have to forego.
Ds and dh think that we should just go with our hearts and go for Habs but, even before the scholarships, I had serious concerns about the logistics. Ds does not need much sleep and insists he would be fine with the journey but 1.5 hours is a lot of time that could be more enjoyably spent.
Apologies for such a long post. I appreciate that similar questions have been asked before but would be grateful for the views of those who have made similar decisions or know the schools well, particularly where long journeys are involved.