Looking to apply to boarding school? Here are tips for how to apply to boarding school, as well as best practices to follow during the application process.
Getting into a boarding school can be both fun and challenging. Master the whole process and get into the private boarding school of your choice through preparation and planning.
Tips for How to Apply for Boarding School
Establish the Type of School
Before you even look at websites with boarding school listings, create a simple list to narrow your searches.
- Preferred Locations
- All Girls, All Boys, or Coed
- Junior Boarding School or High School
- Traditional, Non-traditional, Military
Do Your Research
As you research, think about how each school matches up with the type of school you are seeking and your preferred location(s).
It is easy to find schools through various websites that list schools. In particular, Boarding School Review is easy to use and allows up to three comparisons of key data. This particular site is for boarding schools only versus their other site, Private School Review, which lists all private boarding and day schools.
If you are doing broader searches for how to apply to private schools in your area, then take a look at Niche and Great Schools. These sites include their own methods of ranking, scores, and overview information. Once again, keep in mind, Niche and Great Schools are more general sites, so they include both boarding and day private schools.
Ground Your Expectations
Carefully review your top boarding school choices by checking each school’s website. Check their admission requirements against your school records to gain an understanding of whether you are a good fit.
Typically, school websites post their admission criteria. These are typically located in the admission section. Criteria may include a specific grade point average, commitment level, required test score, and other documentation requirements. Based on your school records, do you think you are well positioned to gain admission to the top three school(s) of your choice? Do Exercise B to make this process more clear.
Exercise B: Create a simple list that includes your personal information, such as: grade point average, AP and honors classes, awards, sports, clubs, student government, community service projects, and attendance/discipline. Do you meet the school’s basic admission criteria?
If you think a school is within reach, contact the school’s Admission Office. They typically prefer to hear from a parent or guardian, but sometimes they are open to students being present on the first call. This call is a great time for your parents to describe who you are, what you are looking for in a boarding school, and to address application questions.
Here are some key questions for parents to ask when calling the Admission Office.
- May I tell you a bit about my child to see if my child might be a good fit at your school? (Give them a quick overview of academics, extracurriculars, and social/emotional strengths).
- Would you like me to share my expectations and our top priorities for my child’s education? (This will help them understand your priorities).
- Given the info provided, do you think your school would be a good fit?
- May I schedule a campus visit now (or should I call you back after I coordinate the possible dates with my family?)
- How much time should we allocate for the visit?
- How should we dress?
- What will be covered during the visit?
- Is it possible to do the student interview and testing at the time of the first appointment? (Especially if you are traveling from afar, you might want to get everything done during one campus visit).
- Should we complete the application before our visit?
- Would it be possible for us to meet a staff member(s) aligned with our child’s specific interests? (e.g. faculty member, academic counselor, coach, residential life staff member, etc.)
If you have spoken with several admission offices, narrow your list. Three to five boarding schools should really be the maximum to keep the process moving smoothly.
Visit the Schools
In preparation for campus visits, here is some key information to review and prepare.
- Campus Tour – Typically, the tour begins at the Admission Office, where an associate will provide a brief overview, take the family on a campus tour, and then return back to the office of admission for the student interview, essay/testing (at some schools), and additional parental consultation. At some schools, you can arrange to have lunch to check out their meals, attend a class, or go to events (e.g. parades, concerts, plays, team sports, alumni events). Make sure you allow enough time as this process can take anywhere from 2.5-4 hours.
- Student Interview – According to the Association of Boarding Schools “an on-campus interview is one of the most important parts of the application process. While local and/or regional informational gatherings and interviews are helpful and convenient, most schools place a great deal of importance on the quality of a candidate’s interview. The admission officers at each school want to meet you face to face.”
- Financial Aid – It is important to review the tuition and fees and financial resources information on the school’s website and address questions during contact calls and your campus visit. This will help you determine whether you will apply and what the process entails. Keep in mind that a separate application is required, along with tax documentation. Many boarding schools use the School and Student Services for Financial Aid (SSS) to gather information, including: income, assets, and the number of siblings (in private schools). Parents complete a Personal Financial Statement (PFS) as part of this process.
- Prepare a list of questions before your campus visit:
- What do students like most about this boarding school?
- What do you like about living away from home and boarding school life?
- How was your roommate assigned?
- What do you like best about the academics and faculty?
- What kinds of clubs does this school offer?
- Do you have specialized programs? (e.g. aviation, surfing, band)
- What kinds of sports are offered here?
- What is the top sport? How do you rank?
- What is the daily schedule?
- What are weekends like? What is there to do?
- What kind of meals are offered? How would you rate the food?
- Do you like the location? Can students go into town?
- What kinds of outdoor access is available? (beach, hiking, etc)
- Does your school offer training sessions for new students?
- What is your least favorite thing about attending this boarding school?
- Where do students come from? (local, states, countries).
- How does this school rank by comparison to other boarding schools?
- What colleges and universities are on your matriculation list?
- What are the health and safety requirements here?
- Do students ever withdraw or get dismissed? If so, for what reasons?
- What are the policies about drugs, alcohol, bullying, and hazing??
- How close is this school to the airport, train, and bus station?
- If I get homesick or have anxiety/depression, who would I contact for support?
How to Apply for Boarding School
Boarding School Application Steps
Many private boarding schools now offer rolling admissions based on available spaces. This helps students who are relocating or in situations where a public or private school is not ideal for them. In some cases, however, there are hard deadlines imposed… Here are some basic application steps, but check with each school to ensure you follow their process:
- Speak with the Admission Office
- Schedule a Visit
- Complete the SAO or School’s Online Application**
- Request Recommendation Letters
- Application Letter for Boarding School (sometimes required)
- Request School Transcripts
- Complete the Essay
- Submit Test Scores (if required)*
- Financial Aid Documentation (if applying)
- Accept offer of acceptance and submit contract and payment
*International Students: Check the TOEFL requirements and schedule the exam in the early fall. Private schools handle the student visa (F-1) process through SEVIS, but students must complete an interview at a U.S. consulate.
*Domestic students: The PSAT may be required or some schools waive this requirement. They may offer their own testing or accept other types of standardized test scores.
**As noted by Boarding School Review, most member schools accept the standard online application (SAO). This helps simplify the process for families applying to multiple schools and it does include all of the information required, including: student info form questionnaire, parent statement, recommendation forms for teachers, and academic transcript. If a student is taking the SSAT test, the SAO is included at no charge.
In conclusion, check out school websites, call the schools of interest to find out more, complete the application steps, prepare for your campus visits, select the best school from acceptances, apply for financial aid, and prepare for registration day events.
Remember, everything worthwhile in life does take focus, effort, and follow-through. Boarding schools want to ensure student applications are reviewed carefully so every student has a positive boarding school experience.