What Makes Boarding School Special?

What makes a boarding school special? I know some of you reading this will say "the cost". No, what I have in mind are the characteristics of a boarding school which set it apart from private day schools and public schools. Back to cost, however. Let's get that out of the way. Most boarding schools have incredibly generous financial aid programs. No deserving applicant will be turned away because his family cannot afford the tuition and fees. On the other hand if $60,000 or more is a tariff which you can handle using your own resources, then the cost is not an impediment.
 
It's an adventure.
 
I happen to think that The Association for Boarding Schools got it right when it describes boarding school as an adventure. You and I as parents know that it will be an adventure in learning. At least that was always our intent when our daughters went off to boarding school. It's the new friends your child will make which are part of the adventure. These are friends who will be with her 24/7 for weeks at a time during school. These are classmates she will bring home for a weekend. I still remember as though it were yesterday when my eldest daughter arrived home for an afternoon with one of her new friends. We lived about 10 miles from the school. Her classmate was from out of state. While their laundry was in the washer and dryer, the two girls were sharing...
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Every now and then the question does occur to me, as it should to you, exactly why is it that I think a certain school is one of the best schools. Inevitably I have to conclude that the best schools have all of the following characteristics. What's more they have them in abundance. Now, before you start thinking that I am only talking about older established schools, that ain't necessarily so. I am aware of a couple of newer schools which fit neatly into the category of best schools simply because they have all of the characteristics explained below. So let's take a look at what I think the traits of the best schools are.
 
Great leadership
 
The best schools have strong, dynamic, dedicated leaders. They are led by women and men who have a clear vision of what they plan to accomplish. They also have the experience to execute their plans in order to achieve that vision. The head of a best school is a superb fund-raiser. She is a capable administrator. She leads by example. She expects the best from everybody in her school community.
 

Solid support of the trustees
 
I know of several schools which could have been great. But they never made it because their fractious board of trustees kept getting in the way of progress. Change is never easy. But oftimes it seems that boards have a rather difficult time with change. That always surprise me because most board memberstend to come from business...
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Summer is often an ideal time for administrators in a private school to take stock of what worked and what didn't work in the year just finished. It makes sense for the marketing team to step back and spend a few hours reviewing their campaigns. Because marketing sometimes feels more like an art than a science, it is even more important to examine the tools which your school is using. This is what prompted me to ask what your marketing team is doing this summer. 
 
In particular the ideas and suggestions which I offer here are aimed at the small to medium-sized schools which have limited marketing resources. My long years of observing and writing about private schools have taught me that these small to medium-sized schools are hidden gems. Their message deserves to be heard and seen. Hopefully using social media effectively will make that a reality.
 
Boarding schools offer unique marketing challenges.
 
Whether yours is a small or large school, you have to get your message out. Getting your school's message out is made tougher by the mere fact that yours is a residential school. There aren't many boarding schools in the United States anyway and they tend to be misunderstood by most people especially the media. Ask about boarding school outside your circle of friends and acquaintances. The answers you will get are precisely the challenges which you as the marketing professional must overcome. "Those schools are just for rich kids." "That's where you send a kid who doesn't...
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Financing a boarding school education can be very confusing for many parents. You wonder whether you make too much to be eligible. Is there a specific time when you apply? Here are some facts most of us didn't know about private school financial aid.

1. You have to apply for it.
 
Applying for financial aid at most private schools is a separate process from applying for admission to the school. You also need to make sure that you apply early. This is particularly important if the school has no specific admissions deadline or rolling admissions. Each school has allocated a specific pool of funds for financial aid. Once it is spoken for there generally are no more funds in that academic year.
 
2. You may be eligible for free tuition if your family income is below a certain amount.
 
Exeter, Andover, Groton, St. Paul's and Deerfield, to name just a few schools, all have financial aid programs which offer a tuition free education to admitted students whose income is below a certain threshold. The threshold varies but is in the $60-75k range. Why are these highly competitive schools offering a free education to children from families with incomes below $75,000? Simply because they want to make their excellent educations available to a wider constituency. When tuition and expenses creep into the $50,000 range, it means that only a tiny percentage of American families can afford to attend those schools. Schooling has to be...
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As you work your way through the process of choosing the right boarding school for your child, you will find it very easy to get side-tracked. Nothing wrong with getting side-tracked. Just make sure that you get yourself back on track. There are three to five schools for you to visit. Lots of observations, evaluations, assessments and questions. Make sure that you have checked all the boxes.
 
___1. Location
 
The location of the boarding schools on your list is important simply because travel these days is never easy. Review the logistics involved carefully. Ideally you don't want to be more than a couple of hours from the school.  That may seem unrealistic but practically speaking it is not. For example, there are dozens of schools within an hour of Boston's Logan Airport. From there you can get to many major metropolitan areas within two hours. Incidentally, those New England boarding schools are old hands at transferring students from campus to airport. Those are precision operations honed over many years so that just about every travel eventuality is thought of. Naturally, cellphones make communications with you waiting anxiously on the other end much easier than they were back when my daughters went to boarding school. So draw a circle 60-120 miles out from any major airport. If boarding schools fall within the circle, you should be all set.
 
___2. Academics
 
Once you have more or less decided where you are looking for schools, then you can begin to get granular with that very important...
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Recent Articles
What Makes Boarding School Special?
What Makes Boarding School Special?
Published June 22, 2014
Several things make boarding school special. The learning, the community, the sports. All these and more.
What are the characteristics of the best schools? We explore what makes some schools the best schools.
The ideas and suggestions offered here are aimed at the small to medium-sized schools which have limited marketing resources.