Editor's note: I asked Whitney Retzer, the Senior Associate Director of Admissions at St. Timothy's School, Stevenson, Maryland, to answer some questions which I know most parents have about boarding school. Here are her answers. ~Rob Kennedy
RK: 1. Can't my child get just as good an education in my local public school? Why should I go to all the expense and trouble of sending her to a boarding school?
WR: There are benefits to a private boarding school that cannot be matched. Students are given more support, encouragement, and differentiated instruction that is only possible in small classes and with greater access to teachers. St. Timothy’s school has a teacher-to-student ratio of 8:1 which means students can be in classrooms as small as six students and as large as twelve per teacher.
Also, the majority of St. Timothy’s faculty hold advanced degrees, and many live on campus and are therefore accessible and available to students outside the classroom. In this environment, students truly get the time and attention to flourish as 21st-century learners that are critical-thinking, curious, and caring global ambassadors.
RK: 2. What advantages can a boarding school offer parents looking to send their son or daughter to a private school?
WR: Boarding schools offer students once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to study and collaborate with friends from all over the nation and world. St. Timothy’s has students from 20 different countries and 15 different states who are all living and studying together. Students change roommates twice a year and assigned lunch seating changes bi-weekly offering opportunities for friendship and collaboration with all types of students from different backgrounds. This global network of friends, alumnae, and families will last a lifetime and several lifetimes for legacy families.
A St. Timothy's girl finds the hours of the day filled with academic, social, athletic, and community activities. Students are encouraged to choose from a wide range of activities outside their academic requirements, as the daily life of a residential school continues well into the evening when academics and athletics give way to club activities, quiet study, and the many friendships of student life. Supporting students and guiding them is a team of deans, advisors, and counselors who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that they are both challenged and nurtured to grow in healthy ways.
This video offers an overview of St. Timothy's School.
RK: 3. Don't day schools and boarding schools offer the same kind of academic programs? What about sports and extracurricular activities?
WR: Academic programming depends on the schools’ certification, and boarding and day students receive the same superior level of academic instruction. Curricula has different requirements that students need to meet in terms of sports and activities. At St. Timothy’s School, being an International Baccalaureate (IB) program certified in Middle Years Programs and Diploma Programs (MYP and DP) requires activity in sports, rigor in academics, and leadership in social justice and service projects. Traditions and weekly formal and international dinners provide an opportunity for the entire community to gather, to enjoy fresh food from the school’s on-campus farm, and to explore the many cultures represented at the school.
RK: 4. American boarding schools welcome students from outside the United States. Explain briefly the basic steps parents of international students have to follow during the Admissions Process.
WR: The steps for international and domestic students are similar. At St. Timothy’s, we provide I-20 visas for our international boarding school students, so there is minimal paperwork and headache required. The following documents are required for application which can also be found on our website.
- Application Form (Available online)
- Application Fee ($100 for applicants living outside the U.S. payable online)
- Essay (Available online)
- Parent/Guardian Evaluation (Available online)
- Transcripts (Current year and 2 previous)
- Recommendations (current English teacher, math teacher, and principal, advisor, or guidance counselor emailed from STT Admissions)
- Standardized Test Results (ISEE/SSAT, TOEFL/TOEFL, jr.)
- Interview (Available in-person or through Skype)
- Graded Paper (Optional)
Once the student has been admitted, St. Timothy’s processes the visa, and the business office contacts parents for payment options. The Residential Life staff begins planning students’ schedules, boarding rooms, advisors, and “old girls” (senior students) are matched to provide support and guidance to new students.
This video explains the I-20 visa process.
RK: 5. What is the advantage of sending my daughter to a school which offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme?
WR: There are several advantages to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP). University preparedness is the first; students complete an extended essay and attend a Theory of Knowledge course exploring the philosophical, practical, theoretical, and exploratory process of acquiring knowledge. The writing requirements, as well as the inquiry-based nature of the IB programme, prepare students for rigorous university work. Most IB students are surprised by how manageable university work is after completing the DP. St. Timothy's School fulfills these requirements and more as students explore, write and reflect outside of the classroom during two weeks of Winterim each year. International students are placed in ESL classes appropriate to their skill level to help them improve their English speaking, reading, and comprehension skills.
The IB is an established, prestigious, and world-renowned program of study that is considered a gateway to the best colleges and universities worldwide. Schools with IB certification undergo regular review and scrutiny to ensure that curriculum, assessment, staff, and pedagogy align with world-class standards. This transparency and rigor mean that students meet international standards while developing culturally, academically, and socially. The IB is dedicated to cultivating learners who are well-rounded, future leaders with the following attributes: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, and risk-takers. St. Timothy’s School is proud to be the first boarding school in the USA to offer all-girls IB education with certification in both the MYP and DP. This educational leadership is evident in our inspiring graduates.
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