Frequently asked questions in the search for boarding schools

08/ 09/ 2018

Are you wondering if boarding school is the right choice for you? Check out this list of frequently asked questions that might help your decision-making. 

large_photo401055_4470326.jpgWhy boarding school?

In boarding school communities, it is cool to be smart. By nature, boarding schools are learning communities composed of faculty and students who are passionate about learning and excelling in the classroom. There are many opportunities in and outside of the classroom that challenge students intellectually. Why not take advantage of a community environment that helps students develop into life-long learners?

Boarding schools provide excellent preparation for college. Students learn what it is like to live independently and to be responsible for their own actions and choices. At the same time, the faculty and staff at boarding schools provide support to help students learn important life lessons that set a foundation for success in college and beyond.

What are boarding school academic programs like?

Boarding schools offer some of the most rigorous and comprehensive academics. You will definitely be challenged, but that’s also what makes it so rewarding! A typical boarding school will offer a traditional core curriculum of English, history, science, math, foreign language, and the arts.

How available are faculty members to their students?

This will vary depending on the school, but for the most part, the faculty members at boarding schools are very accessible. Classes are usually small and students are encouraged to ask questions, engage in discussions, and ask for extra help when necessary. Because most faculty live on-campus they are available outside of classes for extra help—during free periods, study halls, and evening meetings. These are teachers who love what they do and are passionate about helping students learn.

How can I get a better understanding of a school?

Technology has opened up a wide array of ways to get to know a boarding school. Visit websites, follow schools’ blogs, like Facebook pages—the choices are endless. But once you get a general sense of each school and select a few that fit your interests and academic needs, it is really important to visit the schools. Set up an interview and take tours of the schools that most interest you. Each school will have a unique feel that is hard to capture in words and pictures; it’s all about the connection you feel with the people and the programs.

What is a typical day like at boarding school?

Life at a boarding school is busy. While there is probably no typical day, boarding schools usually have rigorous academic schedules and required athletic or afternoon activities. Meals are most likely provided in a communal dining hall; some schools schedule family-style meals, taking advantage of this opportunity to build community and provide structure to the day. Evenings are usually set aside for structured study hall; students can meet with teachers and receive extra help, if necessary.

While the regular daily schedule is busy, boarding schools also typically provide opportunities beyond the classroom to learn. Weekend trips, evening performances, and on-campus activities all contribute to students’ educational experiences.

What do boarding schools look for in their applicants?

Boarding schools are looking for engaged individuals who will contribute to their communities. Boarding schools are by nature close-knit communities in which every person matters. In order for those communities to work, boarding schools need applicants who care about others and who want to contribute to the world around them—whether that is on a sports team, in the classroom, or through community service.

Students at most boarding schools learn to be independent learners who know how to advocate for themselves. There is no doubt that boarding schools, due to their small classes and close relationships between students and faculty, offer plenty of opportunities for extra help and guidance, but students need to be proactive and take responsibility for seeking that help.

What tests should I take/how important are test scores?

Schools typically require specific admission tests such as the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) or the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE). International students may be required to provide scores from tests of English proficiency such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language Junior (TOEFL Junior).

Other tests accepted by some schools in their admission process include the PSAT, the SAT I, and ACT.

What is an admission interview like?

Boarding schools request interviews so that they can get to know you as a person and determine if you will be a good fit at their school. You may be evaluated on things such as your communications skills, your interest in the school, and your ability to articulate your passions, goals and accomplishments.

Interviews are also a chance for you to get to know the schools you are visiting. Come prepared with questions so that when your interview ends, you can determine if the school is the right fit for you. Can you see yourself being happy, challenged and supported at this school? Could you call it home? Inquire!

What should I wear when I visit campus?

This will vary from school to school. If you can find a school’s dress code online before your visit, it’s a good idea to wear what students are expected to wear. 

Will boarding school help me get into a good college?

While no school can make promises about what colleges they can help you get into, boarding schools are helpful and thoughtful about college placement. You will most likely have a college counselor who will help you create a list of schools that fit your interests and will guide you through all the steps of the application process. The other advantage of boarding school is that because classes are small, your teachers and coaches and dorm parents know you well and will be able to write recommendations that are personal and thoughtful. 

How do I know which school is right for me?

The best way to know which school is right for you is to visit each school, perhaps even multiple times. Boarding schools usually have open houses, participate in school fairs throughout the country, and offer tours and on-campus interviews. The more opportunities you have to visit each school and interact with its students and faculty, the better. In the end it comes down to feel. Can you picture yourself calling the school your home during your high school years?

Is there a minimum GPA to get into boarding school?

Every school is different. It will be important for you to check the individual requirements for each school.

What college counseling resources are provided to students?

While boarding schools are in the business of providing students with well-rounded high school educations, they also recognize the importance of preparing students for college and guiding them through the application process. This process often starts in the sophomore year -- students meet with college counselors, both as a class and for individual meetings. Students are guided through all steps of the search and application process which includes choosing high school courses that will prepare students for success in college to taking standardized tests to applying to a variety of colleges. Boarding schools also typically provide students and parents with online resources for building college lists and keeping applications organized. Lastly, most boarding schools will provide on-campus access to standardized testing or provide transportation to test centers. It is a wholistic approach that help students balance their senior-year commitments and finding a college that is the right fit.

How are roommates and dorms chosen for boarding students?

This will vary widely from school to school. At some schools each dormitory is home to a different grade, while others mix all grade levels. For the most part, students have at least some say in their rooming situations.

Is student safety a concern?

Boarding schools take your child's safety very seriously. Contractually a boarding school functions in loco parentis, which is a legal way of stating that the school acts in the place of the parent.

In many respects your child is safer in a boarding school setting where most students are not allowed to drive. Drugs, alcohol, and smoking are not permitted in boarding schools and most have zero-tolerance when their rules are broken. Does it prevent teens from pushing the limits and experimenting? That's impossible, of course, as any parent knows. However, the limits are strictly proscribed and teens learn to respect those limits and rules or face the consequences.

Will I have to go to church?

Some schools will hold services on a daily basis; others might have weekly services or perhaps not at all. You won’t find chapel requirements at all schools, but many boarding schools are built upon religious values and therefore provide opportunities to reflect on self, spirituality, and faith.

Have additional questions for us? Let us hear 'em!