Thinking about boarding school? Whether you are the parent or the son, the process of discussing boarding school requires open communication, exploration, and building consensus.
First, we will present the best approach for parents and then we will go over some tips for students.
How to Talk to Your Son About Boarding School
Prepare for the discussion
It is important to think about the reasons why you want your son to go to boarding school. This will help you approach this process in a positive manner. Remember, the last thing parents should do is threaten their child by making statements about sending them away to boarding school. After all, boarding school is a privilege, not a punishment.
Here are some common reasons why parents send their child to boarding school below. As you review the list, pick your top 3-5 reasons for your son.
- Improve Chances to Gain Admission to Select Colleges or Universities
- Improve Grades and Grade Point Average (GPA)
- Develop Stronger Study habits and Receive Academic Support
- Develop Leadership and Real-World Skills
- Improve Time Management through a Structured Schedule
- Establish Goals and Priorities for High School and College
- Strengthen Social and Communication Skills
- Gain Independence, Self-Discipline, and Resilience
- Develop Strong Character and Values
- Pursue Career Oriented Interests
- Improve Chances for Academic and Athletic Scholarships
- Gain More Motivation by Attending a School Geared for Boys
Do research in advance
Begin with some general websites that list private schools, including: Boarding School Review, Niche, and Great Schools. On these sites, you will be able to read overviews and review key statistics. On Boarding School Review, you can compare up to three schools at a glance. Once you have a few schools in mind, check their school websites.
It is wise to select at least three schools, so your son can participate in the exploration process. As you search, ensure schools meet basic criteria. For example, check the location, single gender or coeducational, specific programs of interest (e.g. Learning Strategies, ESOL, Aviation, Computer Science), and your preferred educational approach.
As you look at schools, ask key questions. Will this school address the reasons that I am looking at boarding schools? Will the school improve my son’s situation?
Schedule a time for the discussion
To make the discussion as productive as possible, it is smart to schedule a time when everyone can discuss this idea and check out a few schools together online.
Be ready to communicate
Begin by stating how much you love and care about your son and his future. Present this as an idea you would like to explore with him. As you talk about your top reasons for boarding school, listen to your son’s initial reactions. His level of commitment and interest will be a significant determining factor in his admission and final outcomes.
- Write down a list of the pros and cons. Sit down at the computer to show your son a few schools you have found. Have a paper and pen handy. Right down two columns, so you can go over the pros and cons. In wrapping up, determine the next step. Sometimes, this is a tour of a boarding school near you or in your regional area.
- Contact Admission Offices. Calling the admission office will allow you to schedule a campus visit and find out how to send your son to boarding school. Typically, steps include: speaking with an admission director or associate about your initial questions, submitting any required documents, and then scheduling a campus tour/ appointment. During the campus visit, most boarding schools will take you on a campus tour, conduct the student interview, provide a parent consultation, and in some cases, offer in-house testing and time to write an essay. Most schools are also open to tour-only appointments, if you prefer to visit before completing some or all of the application steps.
How to Talk to Your Parents About Boarding School
Prepare for the Discussion
Why do you want to go to boarding school? Think about the reasons why you think a boarding school would offer specific benefits or advantages.
Prepare for Objections
For some parents, boarding school is a must. They might even ask “why wouldn’t you send your child to boarding school?” Other parents question “why would a parent send their child to boarding school?”
Here are some of the positive reasons, as well as possible objections.
- Parents want their children to get into the best college or university possible. Some parents want their child to matriculate to an Ivy League, public or private university, or a top military service academy. In other cases, parents are worried their child might not even get into college without boarding school preparation.
- Parents often want their children to improve their life habits. This includes: time management, goal-setting, study habits, good hygiene, technology use, and etiquette.
- Parents typically want their children to acquire soft skills in areas such as: communication, problem solving, adaptability, decision-making, motivation, dependability, and critical thinking.
- Parents are sometimes interested in their son acquiring practical job-related skills. This would include specific business skills like leadership, management, project management, and teamwork. However, the skills could also be aligned with a child’s interests in specific careers (e.g. arts, science, technology, engineering, aviation). They might also want their child to pursue interests and expand their horizons via clubs, trips, and weekend activities.
- Parents generally want their sons to have good values and develop good character in areas such as: integrity, respect, responsibility, compassion, and gratitude.
- Parents sometimes just need support and help in raising a teenage son. Boarding schools provide structure and guidelines that could be lacking at home. They also shuttle teens to sports, trips, as well as medical and dental appointments.
- We would miss you too much and/or we would worry about your homesickness.
- We are concerned about your health and safety. What are the policies?
- We are not sure you are ready to live independently. How do they assign roommates? Who will be supervising at night? Who will help with homework?
- How often would you come home? Could we visit you?
- How will we afford both boarding school and college?
Do Your Research
Narrow your list down by thinking about the type of school you want to attend. Here are a few questions to ask yourself: What type of boarding school are you interested in attending (e.g. all boys or coed, college prep). After you have given the location and type of school some thought, then go to some general websites. After you pin down 3-5 schools, go to the school websites. Here are some general sites:
- Boarding School Review
- Great Schools
- Association of Military Schools, Colleges, and Universities
Establish 3-5 Top Goals
In preparation for your discussion with your parents, it is important to establish a few top goals. This list below will help all of you address your main goals and the key question. What do you want to get out of boarding school?
- I want to improve my grades and elevate my grade point average (GPA).
- I need more academic support from faculty, tutors, and peers.
- I would like to develop better study habits.
- I need more structure, motivation, and self-discipline.
- I would like to learn how to manage my time better and prioritize tasks.
- I need to set some goals and work on my motivation level.
- I need to improve my attendance and punctuality.
- I need to strengthen my social and communication skills.
- I want to be more confident, learn how to manage, lead, and be a team-player.
- I need to become more independent and resilient.
- I need to face more challenges, and adversity.
- I would like to begin pursuing some specific career interests.
- I need to establish better values and strengthen my character.
- I want to Improve my chances for college academic and sport scholarships.
- I want to Improve my chances of getting accepted by colleges/universities of my choice.
Schedule a time to discuss boarding schools with your parents
Now that you’ve done some research on schools that might be a good fit and pinned down your main goals, you are ready to schedule a time to discuss this idea with your parents. All you need to say is something like “I would like to discuss my education goals with you and I have some ideas for how I can improve. When is a good time to talk?”
Once you sit down, remember to put yourself in your parent’s shoes. Have your notes ready about your main goals, a computer so you can show them a few school choices, and be ready to listen attentively. Remember, they might think you want to leave home, so assure them by being loving and compassionate during the discussion.
- Schedule time for contact calls and a local campus visit. Ask your parents to take the next step with you to explore the idea further. After you speak with admission offices and tour campuses, hopefully your parents will be better equipped to address the key question: should I send my son to boarding school? Likewise, you will be able to determine if boarding is right for you and your top school choice.
In conclusion, parents and students need to approach discussions about boarding school with adequate information and a rationale for this decision. By thinking about your goals, the type of school, and researching boarding school options, you will be able to engage in a much more productive dialogue. Hopefully, the discussion will result in some contact calls with admission offices and a local/regional campus visit. The campus visit is often the turning point for both parents and students.