surf-teamAsk most high schools these days about what makes them special and academics will be at or near the top of the list. A predictable response to be sure since a school’s primary mission is to educate students and teaching and learning techniques – and their results — are the focus of their attention. By no means, however, are teaching and learning inclusive of all the reasons one boarding school in California is special, according to an alumnus who graduated four years ago.

Taking note that students spend far more hours outside the classroom on most school days, Vanness Zhu, a 2016 graduate of the Army and Navy Academy, took the time a while back to assess some of the things that make his boarding school special in a guest post on “The Top Five Reasons to Attend Boarding School in Southern California.”** He drew his observations from the high school years he spent at the boarding school for middle- and high-school boys, located on an oceanfront campus in Carlsbad, Calif. 

Zhu excelled in the Academy’s college preparatory curriculum, serving in senior-level leadership positions before graduating and attending the University of California at Berkeley. Upon graduation, he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S Marine Corps. It was at some point along the way that he offered up the following benefits:

The Weather
“If there is one thing California is known for besides its mellow attitude and Hollywood stars, it’s sunny skies year around. The worst days will probably have only a few inches of rain, for just a couple of hours. All this means is that you’ll never be stuck inside, bored with nothing to do. This is a refreshing change considering that most boarding schools are further east and we are as far west as we can get.”

The Beach
“The warm weather is the perfect complement to our location … We even have a private entrance (to the beach) in between the Chapel and the Recreation Hall, so it should be no surprise that you’ll see Cadets donning wetsuits and carrying surfboards every day after school. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could always join a volleyball game with the locals.” 

The Food
“California is incredibly welcoming of foreign influences and the cuisine certainly reflects it. On a single street it’s not uncommon to find foods from across the world. Even though it’s usually dominated by Mexican and fast food, European and Asian fare can still be found. Of course, you’ll probably end up eating Mexican or more kinds on more than a few occasions, and how could you not?  It’s all made perfectly right in our backyard.”

The People
“Southern California is home to a culture that you really can’t find anywhere else. You can meet anyone, from the weekend surfer to the curiously strange. The way Californians are so laid back almost makes it seem like time moves slower here. It’s hard to describe the way of life here, but there’s a certain charm to it that can only be experienced first-hand.”

The Shops
“After a few hours of exploring Carlsbad, you’ll find a bunch of stores and shops and even more if you follow the weekend trips to the mall.  Coffee shops are pretty standard, but you’ll also find both upscale and ‘budget’ barbers, chocolate café, and even a store for military surplus. If you have the money, you could even buy a Tesla at the dealer in the mall. My point is that in the home of Silicon Valley and American fashion, California will always leave you discovering new and innovative products.”

Recapping the other benefits of this boarding school in California
First of all, the Army and Navy Academy is just that – a boarding school. In fact, the 110-year-old school is the only private boarding school in San Diego County. Past blogs have outlined in detail the advantages of the Academy’s boarding school environment, but it’s worth a brief recap here. 

Living on campus during the school year instilled in Zhu and his fellow Cadets the principles of teamwork and leadership as well as good character traits that go hand in hand with academic achievement. The 24/7 environment in which Cadets live, study, and play together builds a strong sense of brotherhood which often forms lifelong relationships. The military theme and structure provide a consistency that boys need in order to develop essential life skills such as being responsible, accountable, self-disciplined, and confident in themselves. The military-like chain of command teaches Cadets how to follow and then lead; in keeping with the adage that in order to be an effective leader, one must first know how to follow.

Benefits that apply to all boarding schools
Broadening the focus to all boarding schools, a nationwide survey a few years ago of boarding and day school students by The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) reported that 9 out of 10 boarding school students said their school was academically challenging, compared to 7 out of 10 from private day schools and 5 out of 10 from public day schools who said so. It turned out that boarding school students typically spend twice the number of hours each week on homework than their day school peers. Nine out of 10 boarding school students said they have high-quality teachers, compared with slightly more than 6 out of 10 private school day students and 50 percent of public school students.

Continuing, the TABS survey found that 87 percent of boarding school students said they were well prepared for college, compared with 50 percent and 39 percent of private and public school day students respectively.  One out of two boarding school students surveyed went on to earn post-graduate degrees in colleges and universities, compared with 36 percent and 21 percent of private and public day school students.

Later in their careers, about 77 percent of boarding school alumni in the workforce said their schools provided opportunities for leadership  development, compared with 60 percent and 52 percent of private and public day school students respectfully. By mid-career, 44 percent of boarding school alumni were holding senior-level management positions, compared to 33 percent and 27 percent for private and day school alumni. By late career, one out of two boarding school alumni were in top management, well ahead of the 39 percent and 27 percent of private and day school alumni who were in those positions.

A boarding school education has myriad benefits anywhere it’s located, but Vanness Zhu’s  beachfront boarding school in California appears to have at least five additional reasons to consider.

For information about the Spring and Fall semesters, visit the Army and Navy Academy website at; e-mail at or phone at 888.762.2338.