Boarding school versus day school? If you are considering a private school change for your child, you could be wondering about the differences between a boarding school experience versus attending a local private day school. Learn about the main differences between boarding school and day school through these commonly asked questions.
What is a private boarding school? A boarding school offers a 24/7 educational experience, a real advantage for many middle and high school teenagers. Students at both boarding and day schools typically have access to facilities that typically include: classes, labs, library, enrichment centers, counseling, and athletic facilities. Unlike some private day schools, a boarding school is typically more expansive and is similar to a college setting. At most boarding schools, beyond residential living quarters, amenities include: a health center, dining hall, transportation office, counseling center, full athletic facilities, and administrative offices.
What is a private day school? A private school (aka “private day school”) offers students classes, athletics and extracurricular activities, but students do not live on campus. They will bring lunch or it will be served on campus. Keep in mind that boarding schools are also considered private schools, but they offer the advantage of a residential life experience.
Do some boarding schools offer a day option for local students? Yes, many boarding schools do offer the option to attend during the day only (e.g. Army & Navy Academy, Carlsbad, CA). It really depends on the location and whether commuting to campus is possible. Some boarding schools are exclusively boarding, but some are predominantly boarding with a day option. There are even some boarding schools that are actually more like private day schools. They might have a very small number of students living on campus (e.g. Oak Grove School, Ojai, CA). It really depends somewhat on the location and the types of facilities at the school. Some private schools even host students off-campus through student homestay programs (e.g. Fairmont, Anaheim).
Is there a big cost difference? There is a cost difference for boarding, but keep in mind the cost of food, housing, transportation, clothes and other costs you would incur if your child lived at home. Keep in mind, while tuition varies by school and state, according to the Education Data Initiative, the national average for private high school in 2021-2022 is $16,040. The national average from 260 private boarding schools is $37,590. According to research from the World Scholarship Forum, a boarding school education ranges from $35,000-$60,000. The most expensive boarding school in California is The Webb Schools in Claremont with a 2021-2022 tuition of $70,840 and $50,380 for day students. Consider all of the advantages before you decide whether to pursue day or boarding.
Do students get to see their families while attending a boarding school? Students at boarding schools typically have the option to go home on weekends, holidays, and summer, but it depends on how far away the student lives. International students from places like China, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Canada, Rwanda, Dominican Republic, and other other countries obviously cannot fly home for the weekend. They are required to go home during holidays and during the summer (or stay with their local contact).
Are both kinds of schools welcoming to international students? All schools should be welcoming to international students, but boarding schools, in particular, are ideally equipped to support these students through dormitories, cultural immersion activities, multicultural events, counseling support, college planning services and specialized programs like ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). There are also situations where U.S. citizens are living in another country for work purposes, such as: diplomatic families, government officials, and corporate executives. These students sometimes choose to remain stateside while their parents relocate to another country. Boarding schools are an ideal solution and offer a number of advantages for these families if this is the case.
Do boarding schools take care of transportation to doctors, dentists, sports, and other off-campus trips/excursions? For working parents, this is a real advantage to a boarding school versus a day school. Rather than spend time shuttling your teen to sports and activities, life can center around quality time with your family. Boarding schools transport students to various places including: weekend activities, theme parks, educational excursions, medical/dental appointments, athletic games and meets, and even arrange for trips abroad.
Is there a difference in diversity at boarding vs. day schools? Private day schools tend to attract students from the local area, typically within a 30 mile radius of the school location. However, boarding schools appeal and attract students from all over the U.S. and the world. At U.S. boarding schools, it is quite common to find students from every continent (except perhaps Antarctica!). Most boarding schools attract domestic students from within the region, however, some students, for instance, travel from the east coast to attend a west coast boarding school. For boarding schools in California, it is fairly common to find boarding school students from California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and New Mexico. However, as pointed out, students go to the boarding school that best meets their needs and this could mean leaving your state or regional area.
Where are you more likely to develop lifelong friendships? Friendships can be formed at any kind of school, public, private, or boarding school. However, given the close living arrangements at boarding schools, students often form lifelong bonds. They go to classes, play sports, join clubs, go on trips, and spend time together on the weekends.
Does one type of school help improve family dynamics? Schools often provide guidance to families; however, living away from home can sometimes ease pressures at home. If a parent is getting divorced, going through a separation, or there is a death in the family, a boarding school can lower the stress for the teen. It allows families to work things out and provides the teen with an umbrella of support, mentorship, and specific policies. Also, as teens mature, sometimes there is friction. Going away from the family tends to cultivate more appreciation and understanding for both children and the parents.
What is the daily schedule like at boarding school? The day is typically comprised of the following: classes, tutorial period, athletics, rest and relaxation, study time, rest and relaxation time, dorm meetings, and meals. Students learn to set goals, manage their time, and develop self-discipline and motivation.
Are private schools similar to college campuses? Day schools often have outstanding facilities; however, most boarding schools tend to be on more fully equipped campuses. They are also sometimes located near a village center or have access to the ocean, lakes, mountains, or deserts. They have additional facilities like recreation halls, student enrichment centers, and outdoor access areas for students. Some boarding schools are even on oceanfront properties, where students can surf, bodyboard, and enjoy the beach. Other schools may offer other kinds of access such as: urban centers and wilderness areas.
Does a private boarding school help if parents move frequently? For any family relocating frequently or as mentioned for diplomatic families or corporate families, a boarding school offers stability, consistency, mentorship, counseling, life and college preparation, strong friendships, and a chance to acquire independence and confidence.
What is the better option to gain admission to an Ivy League, military service academy, or top university? Private schools, whether it is day or boarding school, potentially offer students a chance to be competitive for college admission. This is due to on-site testing, study time, academic support, academic and college counseling services, and other study habit programs. It is wise to check out schools by visiting campus and comparing college matriculation data on each site.
Is there a difference in faculty engagement and support? All private schools pride themselves on strong faculty support. For private day schools, the support ends after the school day ends, but at boarding schools, students benefit from school tutorials, faculty office hours,study hall, and mandatory study time into the evening hours.
Do students study more at boarding schools vs. day schools? Boarding schools follow a daily schedule and this includes study time. At military boarding schools, the schedule is quite rigorous and mandatory study time is integral to the schedule. Data from national associations seems to suggest some marked differences in study habits, college matriculation, graduate degrees, and career compensation. (Refer to the infographic chart on the page link).
Are there college counselors at both types of schools? College counseling services are offered at both types of schools. The advantage at a boarding school is the level of access to workshops, test prep, individualized support, and other services that could be offered.
Why does someone choose to attend boarding school? Students attend boarding schools for many reasons. U.S. students might choose to attend a boarding school to improve grades, gain social skills, get into a top college, become a stand out in a sport for athletic scholarships, or for social/emotional growth. In addition, more families are choosing boarding schools for life and college readiness. Boarding school students gain confidence, independence, and resilience as a result of attending.
What types of private day and boarding schools are out there? Private Schools, whether they are day and/or boarding schools include, but are not limited to these types: all boys, all girls, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Christian, Jewish, and non-denominational schools/academies. Schools can be for elementary, middle, or high school; however, most boarding schools are for middle and high school. Boarding schools vary widely in the U.S., but seek out the type of school that fits your teen best. Once again, they can be single-gender, faith-based, military, or focused on an area of specialization (e.g. learning differences, ESL/ESOL). Most private schools are college preparatory, but some also offer an edge for the service academies (USNA, USMA, USCGA, USAFA, USMMA). Some private schools also offer career development opportunities (e.g. aviation, cyber security, computer science, media).
Who are some famous people who have attended boarding schools? Politicians include: George W. Bush (Phillips Academy Andover), John F. Kennedy (Choate School), Ted Kennedy (Milton Academy), and John McCain (Episcopal High School). On the creative and business side, the list includes: Ted Turner (McCallie School), Owen Nelson (New Mexico Military Institute), Steve Carell (Middlesex), Uma Thurman (Northfield Mount Hermon), Charlie Day (Portsmouth Abbey School), Jewel (Interlochen Arts Academy), Kieffer Sutherland (Ottawa Catholic Boarding School), Mark Zuckerberg (Phillips Exeter Academy), Benecio del Toro (Mercersburg Academy), Matthew Fox (Deerfield Academy), Oliver Stone (The Hill School), Laura Linney (Mount Hermon School), Stephen Sondheim (New York Military Academy), T.S. Elliot (Milton Academy), Lorenzo Lamas (Admiral Farragut Academy). Georgia O’Keeffe (Chatham Hall), J.D. Salinger (Valley Forge Military Academy), General William Crouch, (Army & Navy Academy).
In summary, as you can see, it is important to determine the best educational approach for your children. If you are on the fence about boarding versus day, you will get a much better idea of what life will look like for your child by scheduling a campus tour. Admission offices will help you determine what is the best direction and whether the school is a good match for your child’s education.