Are you considering boarding school?

Portrait Of Pupils In Uniform Outside School Building

The decision to send one’s child to boarding school is never an easy on to make, even if boarding school attendance is part of a long family tradition. Generally, parents send their children to boarding school for a few main reasons: they want to give their children a better academic and/or athletic education, they want their children to learn to live independently, they want their kids to get specialized help with a particular learning issue, and/or the parents may have careers where they travel or move frequently so boarding school may provide stability and continuity for the children. 

Best-selling author and pediatrician Dr. Meg Meeker (who was a day student at a boarding school) says, “Choosing the right school for a child is a uniquely personal decision that parents make.” I agree, but would argue that the decision is best made with the child as part of the decision-making process. So, let’s explore what options parents have for boarding schools.

Boarding schools are usually categorized eight ways, but these eight ways are not mutually exclusive. According to the Global Education Network, the categories are:

  1. College preparatory school
  2. Military school
  3. Sports school
  4. Performing arts school
  5. Religious school
  6. Therapeutic school
  7. Junior school
  8. Single-sex school

The college preparatory school is the type of boarding school that was shown in the movies “School Ties” and “Dead Poet’s Society.” The schools have rigorous academics and an expectation that every student will attend college and go on to have successful careers. The college prep part comes from learning life skills that other students may not develop until their university days, such as negotiating and cooperating with roommates, scheduling free-time, etc. 

The military school has the same academic rigor but with the added layer of the armed services. This type of school may be ideal for students who want to enter the military after graduation or who want to go on to West Point or another military college. 

While all boarding schools offer sports programs, sports-based boarding schools prioritize sports, preparing students for Olympic or professional careers, or maybe even for top-tier university sports programs. 

Performing arts schools focus on music, dance, drama and other creative arts. Juilliard’s Pre-College may be the most famous United States-based performing arts schools. 

Religious boarding schools in the U.S. tend to be mainly Christian faith-based, according to Boarding School Review. Top boarding schools by religion include: Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Episcopal, Non-denominational, Presbyterian, Quaker, Society of Friends, and United Methodist. These schools integrate religious studies into academics and daily life, and the curriculum choices may be influenced by the religious beliefs.

Therapeutic schools “provide daily structure and care that students need due to health concerns, substance abuse challenges, mental health struggles or any kind of extenuating circumstance that may alter their ability to succeed in a traditional classroom,” says Global Education Network. These schools integrate academics with health care. 

Junior schools is the name given to boarding schools for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. 

Single-sex schools are just that in that they welcome only girls or only boys (as opposed to co-ed schools which welcome everyone). Some research has suggested that single-sex schools help some students to thrive more than being in a co-educational environment. 

Dr. Meeker said, “While some students may study harder, receive better instruction or be exposed to a greater breadth of academic studies, parents sacrifice enormous opportunities for their children’s psychological, spiritual and intellectual growth when they live separately.” So, it’s best to decide the needs of your individual children, how each learns best, in what kind of environment the most positive kind of growth could occur, and what kind of support she or he needs. 

And once your decision that boarding school may be the best option is made, don’t let the cost of tuition and room and board change your mind. Every school has need-based scholarships and payment programs and can work to make the school a reality for your family. Some schools may even be free if your family makes less than $75,000 per year.