Boarding schools offer a number of critical support systems to address mental health and well-being. While a boarding school is not for every teenager, most boarding schools offer a high level of emotional and social support through mentorship, counseling services, mindfulness workshops, and peer counseling.
So you might be asking, does boarding school affect mental health? Given the long history of boarding schools around the globe, there is significant data that supports positive outcomes for students who are ready and committed to the experience.
Here are some of the potential mental health outcomes for teenagers:
Independence – As teens move through adolescence, they want and need to become more independent. In a boarding school environment, teenagers can do the following:
- Learn How to Seek Support – Rather than rely on their parents exclusively, boarding schools offer an umbrella of consistent support and mentorship from the faculty and staff. This helps students gain self-esteem as they learn how to navigate and balance their lives through academics, social, and athletic activities. Seeking support when needed is essential to well-being.
- Develop Time Management – Boarding school students need to follow the daily schedule and meet deadlines. This helps them learn how to be accountable, reliable, punctual, and responsible. This provides the structure for good mental health by keeping students active and focused.
- Take Care of Basics – Boarding schools require students to monitor their nutrition, hygiene, and exercise. This leads to a positive self-view.
Resilience – Many teens today have faced challenges and adversity; however, by living away from home in high school, they become better prepared to face the academic and social challenges that college and life will present. Teens improve their mental outlook through the following:
- Face New Challenges – Boarding schools offer a wide array of opportunities and challenges. Students learn how to improve their grades, manage their homework, and ignite their specific interests. They also face social challenges as they live with a roommate, work in teams, take the lead, resolve conflicts, and forge new friendships. This helps students persevere and feel better about themselves.
- Weather Adversity – Teens today want and need to solve problems. This gives boarding school students a chance to think through a situation and determine the best way forward. They gain direct experience as they see the impact of their decisions and choices. This has a direct impact on how they will weather anxiety and stress.
- Figure Things Out – It isn’t always easy to figure things out on our own, but boarding school offers a chance for students to trust themselves and gain greater confidence as they master new skills and deal with situations. They also learn how to reach out for support when needed.
Life Skills – For teenagers to thrive and stay mentally fit, it is critical to provide opportunities to learn and grow both inside and outside the classroom. Boarding school students have a chance to do the following:
- Learn Time Management – A structured daily schedule can work wonders for students to help them organize and prioritize tasks. This can lead to healthy living as it becomes a blueprint for balancing the demands of life.
- Set Goals and Achieve Them – There is perhaps no better antidote to feeling better mentally than setting goals and achieving them. Boarding schools offer personalized attention to help students achieve their personal goals.
- Develop Strong Values – Values are often not considered part of mental wellness, but if you think about integrity, it is critical to mental health. Boarding schools all have a mission, vision and values as part of their strategic plans. Feeling good about your actions and interactions helps boost morale and esteem.
- Career skills sets – In pursuing college and career interests, this can give students a sense of purpose and meaning. Boarding schools offer students a chance to gain real-world skills, including specialized classes, electives, and activities in STEM, computer science, aviation, design, media, the arts and much more. This can ward off anxiety about the future as students hone practical skills.
Social Skills – In a boarding school environment, students live and work in a close community. This fosters real friendships and relationships to help avoid loneliness and depression. Boarding school students benefit from:
- Positive Role Models and Mentorship – Everyone can benefit from mentorship, but at boarding schools the level of mentorship is pivotal to a student’s success in academics, athletics, and other aspects of campus life. Support and encouragement is key to mental health.
- Resolve Conflicts – Addressing stressful situations and resolving conflict can improve mental well-being. Counseling departments provide guidance as students navigate relationships both at home and at school.
- Build Friendships – Choosing the right friends and figuring out how to sustain friendships makes students feel a sense of belonging. This curtails homesickness and often leads to lifelong friendships.
- Become a Strong Communicator – By communicating more effectively, high school students can become more assertive about their needs and address stress more directly.
- Take on Leadership Roles – Learning to lead can be instrumental in building more confidence in oneself. This helps students become mentally fit to address a range of projects, processes, and people situations.
Career Development – Given the strong interest that younger generations have in career development, boarding school students have a chance to pursue academic interests and electives that can inspire future career directions. This gives students a sense of control of their future and helps them set goals. Boarding school students typically do the following:
- Pursue Interests – Interests keeps the mind focused and active, an important part of enjoying life and elevating mood.
- Set Career Goals – Learning practical life skills really helps teens feel less anxious about college and their futures. It can help ignite passions to keep students focused on the positive.
- College Planning Services – Knowing how to address the process and receiving support significantly lowers the stress and anxiety of the college application process.
Does Boarding School Affect Mental Health
Boarding school and mental health is an important topic in today’s educational landscape. To make boarding school a positive experience hinges on the level of readiness, as well as finding the right boarding school. Here are some questions to ask as you explore boarding schools.
- Is your teenager committed to attending a boarding school? In other words, does he/she see this as an opportunity? If boarding school is viewed as a punishment or feels abandoned by his parents, then it is important to address these issues in depth.
- Is your teen at a point where he/she has had some life experiences that could help prepare for life away from home (e.g. summer camps, travel abroad)? In other words, is your child ready to live away from home?
- Is your teen able to use reasonable judgment in social situations? For instance, do you think he/she will be able to choose a positive circle of friends, follow the policies of the school, and ask for support when needed?
- Is your teen currently doing therapy or seeing a counselor? Will the boarding school be able to work with the current practitioner or provide a psychologist and/or counseling services?
These are just a few questions to dive into, but reach out to boarding school admission offices to address your questions and for more information. Oftentimes, visiting a local or regional boarding school campus is a great way to start. This will help you better determine the positive mental health outcomes for your child and their level of readiness for boarding school.