Are you wondering how to get into a boarding school? Here are some tips on how to apply to U.S. boarding schools to set yourself up for success: How to apply to Boarding School

  1. Speak with the Admission Office 
  2. Schedule a Campus Tour and Appointment 
  3. Complete the Online Application
  4. Request Recommendation Letters
  5. Request School Transcripts and Records*
  6. Complete the Boarding School Essay*
  7. Submit Test Scores*
  8. Fill out Financial Aid Documentation (if applying)* 

In addition to application tips, which may vary from school to school, we will also cover information about the following to help you get into a boarding school of your choice.

  • How to research the different types of boarding schools. 
  • How to choose a boarding school that is right for you. 
  • How to prepare questions to ask the admission office.
  • How to handle the boarding school application process including admission interviews, testing, and financial aid. 

At the end, we will also provide some resources and related articles to help you find the right boarding school.  

*Note: Not all boarding schools require all of the eight steps listed above and many offer their own school application. Alternatively, some schools do accept the Standard Application Online (SAO). For more information on the list of schools that accept the SAO and how to apply, go to

Research the Different Types of Schools

Before you begin your internet search for boarding schools, jot down some notes about your preferences such as location, single gender (all boys or all girls), or coeducational and grade levels (e.g. grades 4-8,  7-12, or 9-12). 

You can compare U.S. boarding schools quickly by checking the resources below to view private school overviews and filter by specific preferences. 

For example, on Boarding School Review, you can even narrow your list by state or region. There are also filters to help you find boarding schools for learning differences, ADHD/ADD, ESL, Merit Scholarships, programs for International Baccalaureate (IB), summer camps, and post-graduate studies. 

Boarding Schools Directories Include: 

  2. Boarding School Review 
  3. Great Schools 
  4. Niche 

Reach Out to the Boarding School’s Admission Office 

If you think a boarding school is within reach based on their admission criteria, contact the school’s Admission Office. 

5 Questions to Ask the Admission Office:  

  1. May I tell you a bit about my child to see if your school might be a good fit? (Give them a quick overview of your child’s academics, extracurriculars, and social/emotional strengths). 
  2. May I share my expectations and our top priorities for our child’s education?  (This will help them understand your priorities). 
  3. Based on the information discussed, do you think your boarding school would be a good fit? 
  4. Should we move forward and apply and will you please review the application steps with me?
  5. When should I schedule a campus visit to complete additional steps? 

If you have spoken with some admission offices, it is now time to narrow down your list. Three to five boarding schools should really be the maximum to keep the process simple and help you avoid the time and cost of too many campus visits. 

*Note: International students should contact the boarding school to ensure they follow the process for non-U.S. citizens. Boarding schools handle the student visa (F-1) process through SEVIS, but students must complete an interview at a U.S. consulate. Also, please note that international students typically complete the entire application process remotely. 

Prepare for Your Boarding School Application Interviews 

In preparation for the campus visit and interview,  here is some information to review. 

  1. Campus Visit  – Typically, the campus visit includes a campus tour as well as completion of specific application requirements, which may include: student interview, essay/testing, and parent/guardian consultation. Some schools offer the option to complete some or all steps remotely if distance poses an issue. 
  2. Student Interview The admission associate will ask the student a number of questions about goals, academics, and co-curriculars. 
  3. Related Article – For more tips about the interview process, this article reviews six ways to prepare for a boarding school interview

Prepare for Boarding School Testing  

Boarding schools may or may not require test results for admission purposes. While some schools will only accept a certain type of test, other schools will be far more flexible. includes the following secondary school exams: 

  • ISEE – Independent School Entrance Examination.
  • SSAT – Secondary School Admission Test.
  • PSAT – Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test
  • HSPT – High School Placement Test.
  • COOP – Cooperative admissions examination program.
  • SHSAT – Specialized High School Admissions Test.

International students: Check with the International Admission Staff to learn more about test requirements and how to schedule exams according to deadlines. Ask about the TOEFL and Duolingo exams for non-U.S. citizens. 

Domestic students: The PSAT is required by some boarding schools, but some schools waive this requirement. They may offer their own testing or accept other types of standardized test scores.  

Finalize Your Financial Aid 

  1. 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 are eligible to apply and what the process entails. 
  2. Financial Aid Application – 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 also complete a Personal Financial Statement (PFS) as part of this process. 
  3. Apply for financial aid after receipt of official acceptance to the school has taken place. 
  4. Make sure you adhere to any application and financial aid deadlines. 

Choose Which Boarding School is Right for You 

Knowing the acceptance rate and speaking directly with the admission team will also help you narrow down your list, complete a limited number of applications, and ultimately choose the right school after being accepted. 

Choosing the right school involves a number of factors and personal preferences, so make sure you get to know the school and address your key questions. Don’t rely on lists of top schools alone, as the right school could be one that offers something unique and aligned with specific interests and/or needs.

Acceptance Rates at Boarding Schools 

As you search, you will find some boarding schools are fairly flexible, while others are highly selective based on very specific GPA, test scores, and other admission criteria.  

To put this in perspective, according to the Boarding School Review, many top boarding schools have “acceptance rates of less than 30%.”

On the West Coast, for instance, there are boarding schools like The Webb Schools, Cate, and Thacher falling under the 25% acceptance rates; however, don’t be discouraged. 

There are other excellent college prep boarding schools like Army and Navy Academy, Stevenson School, Athenian School, Midland School, Dunn School, and others in the 40% or higher range. To determine their selection from the applicant pool, these West Coast boarding schools often look at academics, but also at student commitment level, character attributes, co-curricular, as well as the potential to add to the school community. 

Remember, the right boarding school is the one that you choose based on your needs and preferences. Getting into a boarding school is like everything worthwhile in life; it does take focus, effort, and follow-through. Make sure you follow the top 8 tips to apply and get into a boarding school of your choice.

Related Articles: 

International: Find the best boarding school for international students.

Junior Boarding: Tips to find the best Junior Boarding school 

ADHD Boarding Schools: ADHD boarding school for students 

Thinking about applying to a college prep military boarding school geared for boys? Whether you are college-bound or thinking about West Point or one of the service academies, getting into ANA can give your college application a competitive edge. 

“This school understands boys – how they learn differently and how they are motivated differently. In addition to the excellent academic and athletic programs, boys really respond positively to the leadership training, character development, and brotherhood inherent in an all-boys boarding school.” – ANA Alumnus 

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