When parents first begin thinking about a boarding school for their child, they may be reluctant to share their thoughts and views with others. They could be wresting with the decision within themselves, because of many misconceptions. In fact, they might have even been confronted by a neighbor or friend asking them rather pointedly “why would you send your child away?”
The question itself implies there must be something wrong with their child or within their family. It tends to question their love, connection, and commitment to their child, so it is a question that can potentially cause a real sense of guilt and embarrassment for parents considering a boarding school.
And yet, ironically, if you told a friend on the east coast, the parent might be more inclined to ask “why wouldn’t you send your child to boarding school?” This type of response implies a positive and accurate understanding of the many benefits of attending a boarding school. In fact, they might have viewed the statistics developed by The Association of Boarding Schools.
Many associations echo the finding from TABS, like the Enrollment Management Association and the Western Boarding School Association. They all report findings that clearly demonstrate that boarding school students have better study habits, higher entrance to top universities, a higher percentage of students with post grad degrees, and careers with higher incomes. But even beyond the statistics, there are also other outcomes, including: better time management, greater independence, resilience and perseverance. Boarding schools are known for cultivating good values and a strong work ethic as well.
Some families discover boarding schools by looking at various education websites with listings and profiles on private schools such as: Niche or Great Schools, while others find out through friends. They may know someone who graduated from a boarding school, so they may have witnessed how it led to admission to a top college or university, a fulfilling career, and a built-in network of lifelong friendships.
There are boarding schools around the globe, with top well known boarding schools, in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Belgium, and even the Czech Republic. Some of the world’s top boarding schools, however, are found right here in the United States, and may be more accessible and affordable than you might think.
So, now let’s dig into five common misconceptions to help you figure out whether a private independent boarding school could be a good fit for your son or daughter.
Five Common Misconceptions :
From unfriendly teachers to suffocating rules, learn the real truth about how boarding school life is a lot more fun and fulfilling for your child than you might think.
1. The admission standards are so high, my child will not get accepted.
Many families believe it is very hard to gain entrance to a boarding school because the admission standards dictate that only top students can attend.
Although it may be true that some boarding schools are extremely competitive and only accept students with exceptional grades and test scores, it is also true that there are many schools within the reach of a broad spectrum of students. Some schools look at different factors and put little weight on the PSAT or other test scores. They may look beyond GPA and be far more concerned with the commitment on the part of the applicant, their discipline and attendance records, their passions and interests, or even their English proficiency level.
2. Boarding schools are generally unfriendly and are reserved only for the rich, famous, or well-connected.
Of course, this can be true of any secondary or higher education institution, whether it is a private school, college or university for that matter. Some families think that boarding schools may favor families that give generous donations or treat children of alumni differently. They may also feel that boarding schools, like some colleges, present barriers to different ethnicities, display implicit cultural biases, or show preferences based on race.
It would untrue to say injustices cannot occur in private independent boarding schools. However, most educational institutions, whether public or private, have become far more vigilant about their admission standards to ensure inclusivity and to address systemic issues centered around gender and race, as well as ways to celebrate religious and cultural differences.
Most private boarding schools now incorporate related content in their classroom lessons, counseling sessions, campus events, clubs, and activities. They also ensure their mission, values, philosophy, policies and procedures address: diversity, multiculturalism, gender bias, and much more.
As a sidenote, it is interesting to see how the strong emphasis on leadership and team-work at military boarding schools can help combat elitism, racism, and bias. Cadets are specifically trained to become future leaders and offer mentorship and support to peers, both inside and outside the classroom based on values, including: compassion, respect, and responsibility.
3. Boarding school is probably too expensive and beyond our reach.
Many families think boarding school is completely out of reach and this may be true, but it really depends on the particular school. Every private boarding school has their own financial assistance program and many have started new practices to provide tuition indexing and flexible tuition models based on verified income levels.
Historically, there was a time when education was all about accessibility, but as time went on, tuition have risen to the point where most families feel it is about affordability. With that in mind, unfortunately, many families don’t even consider applying.
To get a sense of what is possible, families should set an appointment with the admission office, go through the application process and find out whether they can make it work. The process typically requires an online application and submission of tax documentation.
Some families find it is more affordable than they thought, and later reap the benefit of enhanced college or athletic scholarships that help offset some of their secondary costs.
Remember, most boarding schools function as non-profits and tuition revenue constitutes the main source of income to cover their operating expenses, but that does not mean they do not budget for financial assistance. Most offer some form of need-based financial aid and some schools also offer merit-based awards.
4. Boarding schools are only for kids who are in trouble.
Boarding schools, in general, but especially ones for boys are sometimes viewed as havens for troubled teens, but this is far from the truth. Traditional boarding schools are not reform schools nor are they bootcamps.
Of course, there was a time historically when boarding schools cast a wide net and may have admitted students with issues, but most schools today do check for psychological, social/emotional, and learning differences to best determine if their school is the right match for the child. Schools have an obligation to provide a service and it does not serve the family or the school when there are nondisclosures on the part of the applicant family or by the school regarding their programs.
If a child has specific issues to address, there are specialized programs for drugs/alcohol, severe learning issues, and psychiatric disorders, typically at wilderness and therapeutic programs. If your teen has a diagnosed psychiatric, learning or health issue, it is very important to fully disclose background information to schools so they can help you find the right school or program.
5. Attending a boarding school isn’t fun and it’s all about rules.
Beyond the parents, it is also quite possible for the applicant to have a very different perspective. They might think there will be too many rules and restrictions and it may be even harder than living at home with their strict parents. They might think it is all about hard work and no fun. And yet, once they go on a campus tour, they might leave with a sparkle in their eye when they see all the potential for fun and new friendships.
Most students also quickly see that boarding school can offer them mentorship from an umbrella of adults and peers following a consistent set of rules and policies. When everyone plays by the same rules in an environment, it can actually make life easier for teens.
Every boarding school is different, but it is important for both students and parents to realize that most private boarding schools offer a structured daily schedule, one that incorporates: classes, tutoring, sports, clubs, assemblies, meals, rest and relaxation time and weekend activities. Boarding schools offer a life balance, offering time for mental, physical, and social activity every day. Most boarding schools are also located in amazing places, including beachfront campuses, urban settings, and more.
Making the Decision
When visiting a campus, ensure you ask questions about academics, college planning services, as well as address key questions regarding safety, meals, local transportation, sports, clubs, and weekend activities.
Ideally go on a campus tour with a student, check out reviews on Google and Facebook, and do research on Boarding School Review, Niche, and Great Schools to do comparisons. Sit down as a family to weigh the pros and cons, set expectations, and ensure there is consensus on the final decision.
Boarding school is not right for every child, but understanding the key misconceptions will hopefully lead to an exploration and decision. Choosing a boarding school for your child can be fun, rewarding, and fulfilling; it is an experience that can leadi to life-changing experiences and outcomes.