Boarding school is a foreign concept for a lot of people. Some people might mistakenly think that boarding schools are just for wealthy, privileged, white kids, who are troubled and whose parents want to get rid of them. In reality, a boarding school is almost like a college for younger students. The application process is similar to colleges’ too – you need to submit PSAT test scores, TOEFL for international students, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and often have an interview. Some students say that they’ve worked harder in boarding school than college.
Boarding school prepares you for college. While other freshmen in college might be experiencing home sickness and having difficulties adjusting to living in a dormitory, boarding school alums have already gone through these experiences, and moving to college is as stress-free as moving into a new dorm. Boarding school’s rigorous schedule prepares you for the future. Students are typically in class until 4PM, and then they usually have mandatory sports, dinner, “study hall” (usually an 8-10PM time period for students to do homework; social media websites, like Facebook, might be shut off during that time), and at 11PM, lights are turned off and the Internet shuts down. This schedule helps students develop their time management skills and leaves no room for procrastination. Students must also give back to their community and fulfill a certain amount of community service hours. Classes at some schools are based on the Harkness table principle (oval table with enough room to seat 12 students and a teacher) and revolve around discussion, rather than lectures. Once you graduate, you’re more than prepared for college and have a powerful alumni network and lifelong friends, who are like brothers and sisters.
Myth #1: Boarding school is like Hogwarts!
Books, movies, and TV shows have created a “classic” image boarding school life. People compare it with shows and movies, like Zoey 101 and the Harry Potter series. While boarding school students do have fun on and off campus on the weekends, surviving boarding school takes a lot of work, dedication, motivation, and self-discipline. The shows are right, however, about eccentric personalities and the formation of long-lasting friendships.
Myth #2: Diversity is rare at boarding school.
Boarding schools draw students from a variety of backgrounds and different geographic areas domestically and internationally. They actively seek diversity in order to create meaningful opportunities for students to interact with each other – not only do they study, play sports, participate in various extracurricular organizations, and volunteer together, but also live together. The conversations in the classrooms and beyond force you to be open-minded because people from various backgrounds share their diverse opinions. Students challenge each other’s views, but also respect each other tremendously. Boarding schools do everything to be safe and inclusive spaces for students, at the same time requires them to step out of their comfort zones. Most importantly, a boarding school is a home for students, faculty members and their families, and pets.
Myth 3: Kids don’t have fun at boarding school.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that there are a lot of rules and curfews at any boarding school. If you want to go off campus, you have to sign out and back in, and if you’re leaving overnight your parents or guardians have to approve your visit and your host has to confirm you’re coming.
Even though strong academics are a key focus of boarding schools, that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Throughout this journey, you make incredible friends. You bond easily in various situations; if you’re an honor-roll student, some schools make “study hall” optional as a reward, so you and other honor-roll students can go to a café and play ping pong or watch TV. Maybe you bond while traveling to other schools and playing a sport competitively; maybe you connect through the conversations you have in the dining hall or activities on the weekends.
Some boarding schools don’t allow you to drive a car if you live on campus, but the school provides buses during the weekends to take you to various events or trips, you just have to sign up. Want to go to a mall, or a movie theatre? They’ll take you!
Myth 4: Boarding school is for kids who are having trouble at home or school.
There are two types of boarding schools – college-preparatory boarding schools and therapeutic boarding schools. Sometimes the two are confused, which causes misperceptions that boarding schools are only for “troubled” children.
College-preparatory boarding schools are for motivated students who are already doing well academically and are looking for new challenges. All the schools profiled in Boarding School Review are exclusively college-preparatory boarding schools. While preparing students for college is also a goal at therapeutic boarding schools, they are equipped to work with students who face various challenges, such as behavioral or emotional problems, learning differences, or substance abuse. Boarding School Review does not list therapeutic boarding schools.
Myth #5: Everyone wears uniforms.
While this might be true at some schools, others have dress code requirements, not uniforms. For example, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday might be required professional business attire, Wednesday is a casual “Polo shirt” day, and Friday might be formal where you have to wear your school’s blazer and colors.
A lot of thought should go into your decision whether a boarding schools is right for you. You should be able to answer the following questions: Do you feel ready to move out from your house and step out from your comfort zone? What sort of goals do you hope to achieve with the help of the school? Do you have good grades? Can your family afford your education or would you rather save money for college? Boarding schools are costly, with board and tuition ranging from $40 to even $70 thousand dollars. Of course, you can apply for financial aid and scholarships. Finally, is it worth going to a boarding school if you have great public or private schools in your area? Another option is attending a boarding school as a day student, if you live near by. It is also a good decision to enroll as a post-graduate (PG) student to raise your GPA if you don’t have the grades that would get you in to your dream college.
Images courtesy of Demi Vitkute