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Frequently Asked Questions
We understand you have lots of questions. And sometimes, it’s hard to know what questions you should be asking as you get started on the journey to discovering more about boarding school. Browse through these most frequently asked questions from both parents and students. Our FAQs are updated routinely, so check back to see more each month.
That’s a common misperception about boarding schools. And maybe that used to be partly true a very long time ago. Today, boarding schools are known for strong academics, the ability to play a different sport every season, and the opportunity to try new things that you may not normally get to try. And because you live where you learn, you build really close friendships too.
Boarding schools are as unique as you are. There are so many schools in so many different areas, so learning more about each one is a good idea. Overall, boarding school students say that their school provides more opportunities for leadership and to try new things. It’s worth checking out!
Here, everything is on one campus, so you can make the very most of your time. From classes, to meals, to social events, after-school and evening activities, every opportunity is all in one place. Plus, living on campus means always being with your best friends.
Spoiler alert: boarding schools are nothing like you see on TV (and that’s a good thing).
While the campuses may be just as beautiful, there’s no wizarding curricula or throngs of contemptuous, gossipy teens. Instead, boarding school is like one big family. You’ll have the opportunity to take on leadership roles, try new things, live with your best friends and find out what you’re passionate about.
Boarding schools are as unique as you are. There are lots of different kinds of schools, so learning more about them is a good idea. Overall, boarding school students say that their school provides more opportunities for leadership and a very supportive environment. It’s worth checking out! Have a look at more than 200 boarding schools of all types – junior boarding schools, coed, all-boys, all-girls, learning differences and military schools in the US and Canada.
Great question! Happy, loving families that have strong connections make great boarding school families. And believe it or not, your connections to your family will probably grow even stronger when you’re living away from them. Like sleep-away camps in the summer, after the first day or two, you start to get involved, and that homesickness begins to fade. You’ll get to see your parents for events at the school, and of course you go home on breaks and vacations. About 70% of boarding school students say that boarding school has helped them develop self-discipline, maturity, independence and the ability to think critically. All things that help prepare you for college, and for life.
All-boys prep schools are just as much fun as public or private high schools. In all honesty, you’ll probably make closer friends at boarding school because you do everything together – from classes to meals to sports to hanging out on the weekends. And, don’t worry, many all-boys schools are located close to all-girls or coed high schools, so you’ll interact with kids from other schools frequently at dances, mixers and games. Read more about how all-boys boarding schools are intentionally tailored to the way boys learn.
That’s a common misperception about boarding schools. And maybe that used to be partly true a very long time ago. But these days, boarding schools are pretty competitive, and you even have to take an entrance exam to be accepted. So, if you have good grades, you shouldn’t have a problem getting in. Today, boarding schools are known for strong academics, the ability to play a different sport every season, and the opportunity to try new things that you may not normally get to try. And because you live with your friends in a dormitory, you build really close friendships too.
Not really. All schools can have cliques, but at an all-girls school, the competition is rarely centered on one girl or one group competing over another for status or attention. All-girls’ schools provide the opportunity to compete to be your best self. Students cheer each other on and are genuinely happy for another’s success. Another benefit is that there is a lot less pressure to dress up and wear make-up at an all-girls school, so students are able to focus on their classes, athletics and arts activities without pressure to impress boys. Girls have the ability to be in more leadership positions as well at an all-girls school, enabling them to achieve in all aspects of life, not just academics. Learn more about the benefits of attending all-girls boarding schools and how girls feel more engaged and empowered in that environment.
No way. About 70% of boarding school students say there is little or no cheating in class, compared to 31% of private day and 26% of public school students.
Yes. Boarding school students are busy doing many interesting things. They spend considerably less time watching TV – only about three hours per week. If you like to stay busy, but also have some free time to spend like you want, boarding school might be just what you’re looking for.
Yes. While most boarding schools do require all students to be involved on one team per school session, the good news is that you can try a lot of different sports beyond just the typical ones most schools offer. Dance counts as an athletic option at boarding school too. And, more good news is that 35% of current boarding school students spend between seven and 14 hours per week on non-athletic extracurricular activities like the arts, student government and clubs. There’s really something for everyone.
At boarding school, teachers often live in the same building you do. Entire families may live in your same dormitory, and they are there for you, like a family. You’ll also eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with your teachers and coaches in the school dining halls, so you see them every day, many times a day. We did a study and found that boarding school students enjoy more time with teachers, coaches and staff members outside of class than public and private day school students do – about nine hours per week, compared to four hours. That’s a big difference!
Boarding school is pretty unique in that kids from many different states and countries choose a school for a particular reason. That means most boarding schools have kids who have grown up somewhere in the US or Canada, but could also have kids who have grown up in Europe, Asia or the Middle East. You’ll make lifelong friendships in boarding school because you share so much – classes, sports, a dormitory and meals. If you’re looking for a place to make friends from all corners of the globe, boarding school could be for you.
Yes, you would. It’s a fact that at boarding school, 12 hours per week are dedicated to exercising or playing sports, compared to about nine hours in private day and public schools. If you’re looking for more challenges, more variety or more interesting activities, boarding school is definitely the way to go.
Absolutely. Boarding school students spend about six hours per week on creative endeavors, like performing music and painting, compared to four hours by private day and five hours by public school students.
For most students who go to boarding school, homesickness does not last very long, if it even shows up at all. At the beginning of the year, schools do a really good job of making sure students meet one another, participate in fun activities to break the ice, and get comfortable in their new surroundings. If you are homesick, there are always older students who know the ropes, and adults who are there 24/7 looking out for you to make sure that you’re okay. In the end, homesickness is totally normal, but it usually only lasts for a little while.
The admission process is actually a lot of fun. During the journey, you will learn a lot about yourself and about the schools to which you apply. At each school, you will meet students, admission officers, and oftentimes even parents who want to share with you why they love their school. The hope is that through the admission process, you will find the best school for you. Of course, each school has its own set of criteria for evaluating students as candidates. Some schools are very competitive, and just a few students are admitted. Yet other schools’ admission processes are much less grueling. At those schools, it’s less about what you’ve accomplished so far, and more about what you’re capable of doing once you get there.
If you feel like it might be hard for you to make friends, remember that there are lots of other new students just like you who feel the same way, and are likely just as nervous as you. Generally speaking, students at boarding schools are eager, open-minded and adventurous. Most students find it very easy to make new friends as they begin the adventure of their life.
New students, and younger students, tend to have more structure built into their day. They have fewer free periods and more structured study time in the evenings. But as students get older, they earn more independence and freedom each year. By the time students are seniors, they have a good deal of freedom, and are expected to manage their time effectively. The goal is that over time students become completely self-reliant and able to manage their time and responsibilities so that they are ready for the freedoms and challenges of college and university life.
Students and faculty work hard to create great options for students on campus each weekend. From dances and mixers, to movies, games and other activities, schools make sure that weekends are action-packed on campus. Weekends are also a time for students to go home, or visit the homes of friends who live nearby. And, weekends are also a great time to relax, take a nap, watch TV and hang out with friends.
There are many. First and foremost, boarding school will challenge you by offering you more opportunities to stretch and grow than you ever thought possible. Whether it’s in the classroom, on the stage, or on the field, boarding school is an immersive environment. That means everything is right there for you on campus. Faculty, staff and coaches are available 24/7. It’s a close-knit community that you’ll belong to. You won’t be a number at boarding school – everyone will know your name.
At most boarding schools, there is an expectation that students will be involved in some aspect of school life. Whether it’s the arts, athletics or another activity, boarding school students are often at their busiest after school. Schools offer a wide variety of options, from traditional sports and arts to mountaineering, community service and much, much more.
Nothing compares to home cooking, but boarding school food is pretty good. At breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll find lots of options, and you’ll never go hungry. And if you don’t like the options one day or another, you can always order a pizza!
It depends on the school. As a general rule, most schools do not allow students to have cars on campus. Students are allowed to leave campus often, either by Uber or a shuttle, or on school-supported trips. At some schools, seniors are able to have a car on campus.
No. Boarding school is for students who are looking for more. Students who attend boarding school are often very successful, and truly want to attend. And in fact, it’s usually their idea. Ultimately, boarding school is a place where you can do more, try more and be more.
Considering boarding school is a family decision. Ask your child questions about their dreams, what they’d like to do, what their hopes are. Listen to your child and the needs they express. Parents can encourage the whole family to go visit and see a few schools – no decision needs to be made right away. Often, after getting onto a campus where a student feels very comfortable, they will self-identify with schools that seem to be the best fit for them. As parents, your involvement with your student doesn’t end when they enroll in boarding school, and it often makes the bond stronger between parents and their children.
Most schools have events and activities to kick off the school year, specifically designed to build connections between new students, existing students, faculty and staff. From dances to bonfires, every school plans beginning-of-the-year activities in order to get students involved early and often, making friends among the school community at every level.
Dorm parents play an integral role in helping with homesickness, as they live with their families (and often pets) in every student dorm, available to talk to every day and evening. If homesickness lingers, all schools have counseling support for students to help deal with the transition from living at home to living on a boarding school campus. Most schools also have strong peer counseling programs, in which older students take a leadership role and work to bring younger students into the fold at a comfortable pace.
This question may have come from some old stereotypes of boarding schools. In admissions, we look at character, citizenship, teacher recommendations and grades. When our schools are making admissions decisions, they consider whether a student will succeed academically and also whether they will contribute in a positive way to the school community. Some schools have more qualified applicants than spots available, so requirements do focus on good character and demonstrated ability to live and learn in a community in a respectful way.
Our schools work carefully to build a student body from all economic levels. Schools designate financial aid budgets in order to accept students from families who may not be able to pay the full tuition on their own. Ask about financial aid options for your family during the application process, in order to make sure that if you do need assistance, you qualify by each school’s posted deadlines for submitting the required paperwork.
Boarding schools are focused on helping our students lay the groundwork for lives full of great choices and great options. Our schools foster the development of student skills like persistence, discipline, hard work and curiosity. We encourage kids to grow in ways that colleges are going to respect on an admissions basis and on a community-building basis. Kids who go to boarding school understand how to manage their class load, how to get their homework done without their parents forcing them to, how to seek out adults when they need help and how to become their own advocate. We prepare kids for success in college and beyond by making learning together in a community big fun!
Student safety is every school’s top concern. Our schools are located in urban, suburban and rural areas, so each school has their own set of safety issues and precautions. For instance, in our middle schools, we make sure that adults are present in every building where our middle school students are. Our middle schools and high schools include security ranging from doors locked on all administration buildings throughout the day to pass cards permitting entry to buildings, 24/7 gate protection and even roving security guards walking campuses each day. Additionally, all schools have plans for extenuating circumstances that might occur.
While boarding schools are known for rigorous academics, competitive sports and developing critical thinking skills useful for life, there are no guarantees of an Ivy League acceptance. Many boarding school graduates do attend Ivy League and other prestigious universities. What we can guarantee is that the character and independence kids learn at boarding school allows them to adjust more quickly and seamlessly to university life.
Each school is unique, and while most weekdays are fairly structured, there is typically an hour or two of free time each evening. Some schools have Saturday morning classes. But there are many opportunities and events in dorms and classes as well for students to just be teenagers and relax among friends.
Risk takers by nature, boys find a new comfort level with nontraditional subjects and activities when they are encouraged to do so by trusted mentors within the safety of a close-knit community. Young men, who may not step up in the presence of girls, take on leadership roles at all-boys schools, often heading community service programs or serving as mentors to younger students. Learn more about the ways that all-boys boarding schools teach students based on the way they learn best.
Each school has a unique campus look and feel, and level of formality. Not all schools require uniforms. Some schools maintain a level of formality because it’s a special tradition on campus. For instance, dining together for “family style” meals, where students serve their table of peers and faculty, just like they would at home. Visiting several school campuses will be critically important to get a glimpse of what campus life would look like and feel like for you and your child.
Research from the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools (NCGS) and others point to some specific advantages of an all-girls education. Primarily, girls who attend all-girls’ boarding schools are known to develop greater self-confidence and leadership skills. They feel safer speaking up in class, feeling like their opinions are respected. Students at these schools are steeped in an environment in which learning and success are valued. They have higher aspirations and greater motivation than their female peers at coed independent and public schools. Learn more about the benefits of an all-girl boarding education.
Boarding school presents an alternative learning environment where many happy, well-adjusted kids thrive. A loving home life is a wonderful springboard to boarding school, and allows each student to grow and learn in a new environment, becoming more independent and resilient. It’s natural that you will miss your child and they will miss you. Kids who are looking for more challenges academically, more diverse friends and more opportunities to try new sports or activities see boarding school as the opportunity of a lifetime.
Not according to our research. In fact, 95% of boarding school students say that their social lives do not revolve around drugs and alcohol, compared to 82% of private day and public school students. Many boarding schools also have ethics standards and codes of honor, and experimenting with drinking or drugs (or sex) is not tolerated.
The process begins by identifying schools either in your general area or that specialize in the talents of your child. Once you visit several campuses, you’ll have a good idea of which schools will provide your student with the best possible educational experience for them. Your child will then take an entrance exam. There are two main tests – the SSAT and the ISEE. Some schools accept both tests, while others accept one or the other. For international students, the TOEFL Junior (Test of English as a Foreign Language) test is required. You can start your journey here. Begin by locating schools in your preferred geographic location and requesting information on the schools that interest you. Then click on the links to the tests your child will need to take. TABS is the best resource for learning all about boarding schools, how to apply and what to expect.
Absolutely. Each school has different programs for parental involvement and interaction, but all schools recognize the critical role that parents play in their child’s development during their school years. There are typically many opportunities to visit campus and catch up with your student. While some schools do have policies against cell phone and social media usage, we find that those students quickly adapt to a new schedule full of interesting activities and rarely miss their devices.
Many high schools in the US and Canada feature state-of-the-art equipment, great faculty and diverse teaching styles. Likewise, many boarding schools in the US and Canada feature state-of-the-art equipment (available all day long), talented teachers (who spend every day with your child, and often represent their dorm family) and hands-on, real-world learning opportunities, like mission trips abroad to provide water to communities, composing the score for the school musical, or chopping wood to heat living quarters.
Most schools have a full-time school counselor or psychologist on campus to meet the needs of all students on a confidential basis. Additionally, schools offer a wide network of other resources ranging from faculty leadership, student advisers, dorm parent, peer-led honor councils and off-site counselors that are willing and able to help a student in need, anytime, regardless of topic.