From the original posters questions: Follow the money!
Top Tier Schools are schools with over $100 Million Endowment. I just went through all of this with my son for the past 5 months. He graduates from Jr. Boarding next week and his placement adviser followed the money!
Just to name a few. Some other things to keep in mind:
1. All of these schools talk to each other about what they are willing to offer a student for Aid depending on how bad they want that kid. My son didnt even get into a school that was less academically endowed because of the amount of Aid another school was offering, and they came right out and said it.
2. Luckily my son was taken as a Varsity player, but the coach did mention they have 4 other kids moving up from Varsity B. I was surprised as I have heard all along many coaches don't do that.
Good luck, it is not easy by any means but stick to your plan, it will work out.
Just to be accurate, Exeter's endowment is over $1 Billion, that is with a B!
Yes Exeter 1B
Thats alot of aid available.