middle school students at ANAIf you are considering a junior boarding school for your teen, it is important to know how to find the best boarding schools in the U.S. In addition, as you research junior boarding schools, it is helpful to focus on key characteristics as you view websites and visit boarding school campuses. In other words, find the best fit by learning about each private school and what makes them different.

To clarify, junior boarding schools (aka “middle schools”) are for grades 7-8 and upper school (aka “high schools”) are for grades 9-12. Some private schools also have a lower school for grades 4-6. Boarding schools vary widely, so think carefully about your preferences as you embark on your search.

Now, let’s turn our attention to some tips to find the best junior boarding schools in the United States and Canada. As you check the sites below, keep in mind that most boarding schools cover grades 7-12 and they are often referred to as “ independent schools” or “private schools,” Some offer both boarding (5 or 7 day residential) and day (non-residential) options.

  • Boarding School Websites – There are many directory websites for private schools, so don’t get overwhelmed by using general sites. Rather, turn your focus to websites where the sole focus is on boarding schools.
  • Boarding Schools – If you are open to looking at boarding schools across the U.S., this site is ideal. Website: boardingschools.com**
  • Small Boarding Schools – This site is for small boarding schools near or below 200 students. Website: sbsaonline.org
  • West Coast Boarding Schools – If you are trying to find a junior boarding school In the western states, you may prefer to use this regional site. Website: westernboardingschools.org**
  • East Coast Boarding Schools – If you’re looking for an east coast boarding school, this site could come in handy. Website: jbsa.myschoolapp.com/
  • New England Boarding Schools – If you would like your teen to go to a New England junior boarding school, this site has a list of 8 independent boarding schools. Website: 8schools.org
  • Catholic Boarding Schools – If you’re seeking a Catholic boarding school in the U.S., this site could prove useful. Website: cbsa.org**

**These sites include junior boarding schools in Canada, as well as the United States. 

  • Use Filters on Websites – Once you’re on a website, narrow your search by using filters if they’re available. Select your preferences such as: all boys, all girls, coed, denominational or non denominational, grade levels, junior boarding, and other criteria.
  • Use the Search Bar – If you are seeking a junior boarding school with a specific type of program, then it is helpful to put this info in the search bar. For instance, if your teen needs support services, you could put ‘top or best junior boarding schools for ADHD.”
  • Narrow Your List – After doing general searches on directory listing sites, you should now be ready to check specific boarding school websites. Try to narrow your list down to your top three junior boarding school choices.
  • Check Admission Criteria – If you check the admission website pages or call the school, you should be able to learn more about the admission criteria. While some schools require high grades and test scores, other schools care more about a student’s commitment level.
  • Reach Out to Admission – Don’t hesitate to contact the Admission Office at boarding schools of your choice as you view websites. Feel free to call, email, request information or apply.
  • Review Literature or Web Pages – It is typically easy to check for digital copies on school websites or fill in a request information form. It is also easy to check website pages for information about academics, athletics, dorm life, and more.
  • Check Transportation Options – If you’re searching for “junior boarding schools near me,” then transportation could be one of your major considerations. If you’re open to distance, ask about nearby airports, trains, and rapid transit.
  • Schedule a Campus Visit – Unless your teen is an international student, boarding schools typically require a campus visit. The visit often entails a campus tour, parent/guardian consultation, and student interview. Request information or schedule a campus tour. 
  • Speak with Students and Parents – Speaking with students directly about their educational experience is highly informative. At most boarding schools, you will have a chance to connect with students while you are on tour.

Best Junior Boarding School Characteristics

  1. Clear Mission and Values – When checking boarding school websites, make sure you look at their mission, vision, and values. The best boarding schools have a strong mission statement.
  2. Engaged Board of Trustees – Websites often indicate who serves on the Board and sites sometimes include background information on each trustee. When visiting, ask about programs, facilities and fundraising. Schools rely on tuition revenue and fundraising to create the best educational programs.
  3. Current Accreditation – Accreditation does vary by region, so ask the Admission Office about their status. Independent private schools go through rigorous accreditation processes, typically every three to six years.
  4. High Rankings – It is important to see how a junior boarding school ranks. Check school websites and sites like Boarding School Review, Niche, and Great Schools.
  5. Robust Academics – One of the main reasons parents often consider junior boarding schools is to prepare their teen for life and college. Check the curriculum, elective choices, and academic support services, and discuss the school’s educational approach.
  6. JV and Varsity Sports – On boarding school websites, look for junior varsity sports and fitness options aligned with your teen’s interests.
  7. Clubs and Activities – Boarding schools typically offer dynamic clubs and co-curricular activities. When visiting, also ask about weekend activities.
  8. Trips and Excursions – Some private schools offer educational trips and are ideally located for enrichment activities. For instance, one all-boys boarding school is located on a beachfront campus in Carlsbad, California with local access to a variety of educational venues.
  9. Specialized Programs – If your middle schooler has special needs, then choosing a junior boarding school with a learning strategies program could be essential. If your teen will be an international student, he/she may require English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to help improve English skills.
  10. Caring and Supportive Faculty and Staff – Knowing your teen will be living away from home is a big step, so it is essential to look for a junior boarding school that has a strong and supportive network of mentors.

Hopefully, you now have some ways to find the best junior boarding school for your teen. You also have some key characteristics to look for as you check school websites and speak with the admission staff.

Ultimately, what is most important is finding the best junior boarding school for your teen, so look beyond the surface and dive deep to ensure the school is a good match.