A young student prepares for boarding school

Is Boarding School Right for Your Child?

Your children are your ultimate legacy. As such, they deserve to be given the best tools in the most suitable environment. But each child is different; luckily, there are different environments to match every individual. While not every family is suited to being separated for several months out of the year, boarding school can be a great option for frequently traveling parents or high tension home situations. And not just for these circumstances. Boarding school offers a very different education for a certain kind of student.

Cost of Boarding Schools

Boarding school is often forgotten about; it seems like a rather Victorian-era notion for budding Harry Potters or the very wealthy. Some of these schools have retained this aristocratic feel, while others have evolved to be more available. Nonetheless, the average boarding school tuition is around $50,000 a year, though some schools offer scholarships and work-assistance programs. This goes a long way to explain why less than 1% of children in the United States attend boarding school.

Amenities

To make a grade school education that costs more than some colleges provide enough bang for the buck, food and living accommodations are provided. Students have access to on-site gymnasiums, theaters, chapels, sports fields, large grounds with swimming pools and boats, libraries, science labs, study quarters, dining and common rooms, and much more. Some students live on campus all the time (as do many of the teachers), taking occasional weekends and holiday breaks between terms to visit their family (boarders), while others live at home and attend school during the day, accessing the amenities after classes. These schools may be for only one gender, or they may be co-ed.

Successful Kids

For boarders, a system is set up to ensure everyone is watched over. The school is often divided into “houses,” which are each led by a male and female student; a male and female prefect from higher grades are also chosen, and between these students, the younger ones are tended to. Generally, there is a strict schedule with bedtime and quiet hours, during which students are expected to do their homework. Nonetheless, a certain amount of responsibility must be procured much earlier, as students don’t have a parent waiting at the end of the day to tell them to do their homework. A handful of students to lead is a considerably lower ratio than the normal parent-child ratio found in homes.

Conversely, regulations are often much stricter in regards to what children are and aren’t allowed to wear and do. Since boarding schools, especially in the U.S., are more common for secondary schools (students over the age of thirteen), it is largely adolescents - the more rebellious and independent of the age groups - who are being so closely supervised, monitored, and molded. Children who are unwilling to accept such an intrusion may not do well in boarding schools.

Risks and Benefits

Surprisingly, this does not prevent bullying. Because boarding schools are often a privilege of the rich, they generally become a societal hierarchy in miniature. There are expectations, even among the other students, of high performance, and cliques develop just as intensely, if not more so, as in public or private schools. Drug abuse, emotional or mood disorders, and unhealthy behaviors geared toward fitting in can all manifest, especially in students who lack a strong support system or sense of self.

This is not to say boarding schools are all bad. The instructors, since they frequently live on-site as well, are generally very committed to teaching and their subject matter. This, combined with a lower student-teacher ratio, leads to a higher caliber education, which ideally leads to higher caliber students. Clubs, teams, and societies are likewise high-quality. These students are often more college-ready, because the self-sufficient environment is already familiar to them.

Making good grades and performing well are the expected norm at boarding schools, rather than the nerdy stereotype found in public schools. Additionally, because the environment of boarding schools is so small, friends are often much tighter-knit groups that last into adulthood. For the right child, boarding school can be an extremely positive atmosphere that yields bright, motivated young adults.

Last Updated: June 08, 2015