Some of the most prominent figures in history found themselves at boarding school during their formative years. You might think that boarding schools are only for rich kids and that public schools are the only option for your student, but this isn’t necessarily true. After attending boarding school, there is a good chance that the student will go on to do something great, which is evidenced by the success of some famous boarding school graduates, like Mark Zuckerberg, Lebron James, and Owen Wilson. Here is everything you need to know about boarding school to help you decide if it is the right choice for your child’s future.
Types of boarding schools
Believe it or not, there are multiple types of boarding schools. They differ from each other in significant ways, and each has different ways in which they teach their students and mold them into the people they will become. Here are the different types of boarding schools to help you choose which one is best for your student.
College Preparatory School
The college preparatory school or prep school is what you probably think of when you think of a boarding school. The academics are stringent, and they have to be. A college preparatory school is a secondary education designed to make sure that every student that steps through their doors is ready not only for college but to have a prosperous career later in life. Prep schools prepare students academically and instill a myriad of other college-related things as well. For starters, they often match students with a roommate, preparing them for living alongside their fellow college students after graduation. Cooperation with other students is the name of the game in these private schools. College preparatory schools also prepare their students for one of the hardest things a student has to go through in college – using their free time wisely, which is a skill that everyone who has gone to college wishes they had more time practicing.
If you choose one of these prep schools, then you will be one of the very few people in America to have done so. In the United States, fewer than one percent of students go to prep schools, so you know you’ll be part of a very select group of people. And select they are as a lot of these schools have strict admission criteria. In most cases, admission depends on academics, but every school has its own guidelines. Not all prep schools are as strict on their admissions policies, though.
Prep schools tend to admit students between 13 and 18, but that isn’t always the case. Keep in mind these schools usually have high tuition fees, although sometimes there are scholarships available. In 2014, the average boarding school had a tuition price of $10,000 to 40,000+.
Prep schools come in many forms as well. Day schools are the typical public school model, and they are used by some prep schools, too. Students learn during the day and then return home in the evening. There are also boarding school versions of the college prep model where students are away at school all the time. Parents can also choose between co-ed and all-boys or all-girls schools, depending on how you feel about having students interact with the opposite sex.
Parents often threaten misbehaving children with a stint at military school, and this stereotype has given military schools a bad name. They have the reputation of being a place to send troubled teens to straighten their lives out. While this may be true, a military school isn’t just a dumping ground for problematic students.
This stereotype is a common misconception. Military schools aren’t the place where parents and courts send juvenile delinquents. In some states, legislators may believe that a rigorous military lifestyle combined with academic learning will straighten out some kids who need it, but these are more often reform schools than military academies. Reform schools are essentially a combination of school and prison. Reform schools often have a very different demographic and a very different environment than military schools.
Military academies are primarily a place where the military trains its officers from a young age. Pre-collegiate institutions are the military schools that take in children of any age and put them through a military lifestyle. You still get the same academic rigor as an average prep school, but students also prepare to serve as an officer in the military. The faculty members are also usually military officers.
Military schools are ideal not for troubled teens but are meant for students who wish to go to a military college, like West Point, after they graduate. If you know a student who wants a career in the military, this would be the place for them.
Most, if not all, boarding schools offer sports to their students. Students need to have options when at boarding school besides academia, but sports schools are something different entirely.
As the name implies, a sports school prioritizes learning a specific sport or, depending on the school, many different sports, with the students often choosing which one they want to practice. You may not get the same academic rigor as other prep schools, but the student who attends a full-time sports school will learn something of a different value. They prepare themselves for a professional career in sports, something a regular prep school may be able to do but not with the same intensity as a sports school. As for the faculty members, they are typically people who have done great things in their specific sports. Teachers may have been ex-players, coaches, or some other member of a sports team. The more expensive the school, the more trained or notable the teachers are.
These schools originated in the Soviet Union and still exist mostly in Eastern Europe and other communist Asian countries. Schools like these that are located in the United States are typically either summer or winter camps or two-week intensive training camps. Some day schools are touted as sports schools in North America, but they tend to be public schools with a more intensive focus on sports. Also, most of these schools have an admission process, which commonly involves showing off a student’s prowess in a specific sport.
Performing arts school
Maybe you know the kind of student who isn’t into sports and doesn’t have any interest in being an officer in the military. Perhaps they have a talent and want to do something more artistic. That’s when you should consider a performing arts school.
Like sports schools, a performing arts school has academia, but it may not be as intense as a prep school. A lot of the focus is on the arts. Acting, dancing, singing, and even magic are taught at these schools, helping students hone their artistic talents and prepare for a career in the arts. If you know a student who wishes to break into the Hollywood scene, this might be the right school for you. The faculty members are usually members of the artistic community, some who have gained notoriety and others who are just incredibly talented.
Some performing arts schools have students audition for admission, which could mean many different things, including performing a dance routine, singing, performing a monologue, or playing an instrument. The audition process often features a panel of judges and may also have an interview process in addition to the actual audition.
If you are a student or you know a student who has artistic talent and wishes to pursue that talent as a career, then a performing arts school may be the perfect place to do so.
If the student looking for a boarding school comes from a religious background, then a religious school might be for them. These academies not only have a high focus on academics, but they also teach pupils more about a specific religion. They are also places where religious pupils can practice their preferred religion and are subject to the same religious practices they are outside of school. For example, most catholic schools make students participate in mass. Some religious schools deviate from their religion in the form of other religion classes where they teach about other world religions.
For Christians and Catholics, there are some different options. The main one is Catholic schools, where students learn about the Catholic religion. Believe it or not, the Catholic Church is the second most prominent school system in the world. In 2016, they had 43,800 secondary schools and 95,200 primary schools. The faculty at these schools are part of the Catholic religion, specifically priests, brothers, and nuns. Although some staff and faculty members are just teachers. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, there are seven key responsibilities for Catholic schools:
1. Encouraging and supporting efforts in Catholic education by fostering the distribution and implementation of both universal Church documents on education as well as related documents developed by the bishops of the United States.
2. Supporting educational efforts in the Church in the United States by developing policies, guidelines, and resources for use by bishops in their dioceses.
3. Providing consultation on educational issues when requested, including advising and representing the bishops.
4. Collaborating with the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis regarding evangelization and catechesis in Catholic schools and universities.
5. Providing support and advocacy in federal public policy on behalf of Catholic educational institutions from preschool through high school levels.
6. Embodying the concerns and priorities of the bishops of the United States for ministry formation and certification for specialized ecclesial ministries through the work of the subcommittee for Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service.
7. Bringing to Catholic education the perspectives and concerns of other cultures and people with special pastoral needs through collaboration with other committees/offices.
But Catholic schools aren’t the only religious schools you’ll see in the United States. They’re not even the only Christian boarding schools you’ll see. There are also Lutheran schools and Cathedral schools for Christians that aren’t specifically Catholic.
It isn’t all about Christianity in the United States either. There are some Jewish schools as well. Bais Yaakov is ultra-orthodox schools that are specifically for girls that exist all around the world. In the United States, this type of education does focus on a lot of Jewish practices, but they tend to be a lot more secular than their Israeli counterparts. Jewish girls who attend learn a regular school curriculum as well as ways to be better Jewish people in their communities. In most Bais Yaakov schools, the young school-aged and teenage girls learn Judaic studies in the morning then move to college prep studies in the afternoon.
They tend to wear uniforms in these schools, and the faculty members can be rabbis or teachers. Most if not all the students must be Jewish.
There are also Chabad schools, which are also orthodox but can be co-ed. The idea is generally the same as Bais Yaakov schools: learning about Jewish practices alongside regular curriculums.
One of the final most notable religious schools in the United States is the Madrasa, which focuses on the Islamic religion. Much like Jewish and Catholic schools, students practice their religion while attending religion classes, but they get a top-notch education as well. These schools aren’t as common in the United States, but, in recent years, there has been renewed interest in them.
All of these religious schools are different in their teachings but similar in their goal. They teach classwork.
Therapeutic Boarding Schools
Therapeutic boarding schools are schools where you may not plan to send students, but they may end up there due to some unfortunate circumstances. They are schools outside of the traditional academic environment and are often houses for troubled teens, but they’re not just teens, and they’re not just troubled. You often find students with mental health issues in therapeutic schools, as well as students with health concerns or substance abuse issues. If for any reason they have trouble surviving in a regular school environment, they may find themselves in special needs schools.
These schools put less emphasis on academics, mostly because they are interested in healing their students. Parents often turn to these boarding schools when they feel they have exhausted all options at home. If the current support system isn’t working, and the parents and students need help to cope with issues like alcohol abuse, criminal activity, or drug use, then a therapeutic boarding school can help. These schools focus on building the student’s strengths and learning how to cope with their weaknesses.
Pros and Cons of Boarding Schools
Now that you’ve figured out which boarding school would be best for the student in your life, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of going to a boarding school. It’s a big decision to make, so there are a lot of contributing factors to consider before diving into this new world. Let’s start with the pros:
Pros of Boarding Schools
The best education experience. Let’s face it, boarding schools have some of the best teachers in the world working for them. Because they charge an admission fee, they can hire some of the smartest people in education, and that intelligence is going to be passed down to the students. The public school system just can’t match the salaries paid by the boarding school system.
Specific education. Not only are students going to get a higher-tier education, but they can also get a more specific one. This specificity is mostly a case for military academies, sports schools, performing arts schools, and religious schools. Because a boarding school is specific to those various subjects, not only will students get a specialized education, but they will also be taught by some of the most talented people in that field.
Unique courses. Public schools have to be broad because, as the name implies, they are offered to the public, so the curriculum is pretty standard. Not so in boarding schools. They can offer many courses, especially in the aforementioned specialty schools. If the student you know who’s trying to decide on a boarding school wants to do something very specific in their life, boarding school may be the best choice. Not only will the courses be unique, but, as previously mentioned, they are taught by some of the best professionals in that field.
Better career opportunities. We aren’t saying that public school won’t get a student a good career, far from it. Many public school students have gone on to do great things. But students are going to get a higher-level education at a boarding school, and they are making better connections. Remember, teachers are often very well connected when they teach at a boarding school, especially in the field that they teach. Even by just being in the classroom with these teachers, students are already making connections in a field they may want to join in the future. This idea goes double for the teachers of specific classes in specialty schools.
The feeling of belonging to a community. Spending all day every day in the same place means that you’re going to develop an attachment to it. Most of the time, students who attend boarding schools form a strong sense of community that remains after graduation. After all, seeing the same people every day and being in the same place every day helps to create a sense of pride in their school. This sense of pride lasts throughout their whole lives. How many people do you know that are still proud of their old alma mater?
Lifetime friendships. The friendships formed in boarding schools are a part of building a community, but it’s so much more than that. Imagine living with the same people every single day for years and years. There’s a good chance you’ll develop a strong bond, especially with roommates who are going through shared experiences. Now, multiply that for every person in the school. Students in these schools form friendships that last a lifetime. Yes, the same can happen at public schools, but we can all agree that it can’t be to the same degree.
Responsibility and Independence. When you attend public school, you go home every day and there’s less of a sense of responsibility. Once they go away to boarding school and spend long periods away from their parents, students take more responsibility for their education. Furthermore, they feel more independent.
Boarding schools are nice, but they aren’t impervious to criticism. Next, we’ll talk about some of the cons of boarding school.
Cons of Boarding Schools
Homesickness. There is a good chance that the student you know may feel some homesickness when going away to boarding school. It’s tough being away from your parents, especially at a young age, and being in a whole new place without them can be scary. This homesickness might cause them to have a great degree of distress, which could impact their education.
Tuition fees. The best part about public school is that it’s free. You can just send your kids there and you don’t have to worry about making enough to keep them in school or paying for an expensive room and board. Boarding schools, on the other hand, often have high tuition fees. The financial burden is something more for the parents to worry about.
Pressure. Students may feel a lot of pressure when going to boarding school, especially if it’s one with high tuition fees or one that was hard to get into. This pressure may affect their mental health, which would affect their education.
How a Boarding School Can Prepare Children for College
We’ve gone over a lot of the pros of boarding schools, and a lot of those are the reasons why this type of school can prepare children for college. Better teachers mean they are better educated, which should give students an edge in college. The fact that they’re away from their parents means they’ll be more independent. Independence is something a lot of first-year college students struggle with, so boarding school kids will have the advantage there. A focus on sports, the arts, or other specified classes means that your student will excel in those areas as well.
Whether it’s just playing on the quad or joining a team or club, students may be eligible for more college scholarships because of their boarding school extracurricular education. And, of course, there are the connections that students make in boarding schools. Remember, the teachers are highly educated, so they may have some good words to put in for exceptional students at their old alma maters. Not only that, but the connections students make with other students may secure them a spot in the college of their choice. Finally, what looks better on a college application – a student who rocked the public school system or someone with a 4.0 grade average at one of the top private schools in the nation?
Top Boarding Schools
And now, the moment that we’ve been waiting for. After learning the pros and cons, you might be leaning toward sending your child to a boarding school. Now that you know the types of boarding schools and all the ways they can prepare a student for college and their career, it’s time to look at the best boarding schools in the United States. There are a lot of boarding schools to choose from, but here are the top three:
The Putney School is for grades nine to 12. This Vermont boarding school is a great option for students who want to gain entrance to Ivy League colleges and universities, like Boston College, Dartmouth, Columbia, and even Yale. About 79 percent of students board and the annual tuition is $50,800. That does seem pretty steep, but the school does offer financial aid as well. One of the most notable former students is Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn.
2. Phillips Academy (Andover)
The Phillips Academy at Andover is one of the oldest schools in America, and it’s the feeder school for students who wish to go to Yale. This Massachusetts boarding school offers financial support for its $48,850 annual admission fee, and about 75 percent of the students who go there board. Do you want your student to be like a president? Well, send them to Andover, George W. Bush’s alma mater.
There’s a good chance that students who attend Phillips Exeter Academy want to go to Harvard. It’s a boarding school in New Hampshire for students in grades nine to 12, and it accepts both boys and girls. About 80 percent of its students board, and the tuition is about $46,905 a year. They do offer financial aid to students whose families make less than $75,000 a year, and one of the most notable alumni is Mark Zuckerberg. This is truly one of the most elite boarding schools.