Attending Boarding School: English as a 2nd Language

Attending Boarding School: English as a 2nd Language
International parents and students have found American boarding schools an attractive educational option for many years. We look at some of the reasons why as well as some of the steps involved in gaining admission to a residential school in the United States.

American boarding schools have been popular with families from countries outside the United States for many years. The International Education Specialists website lays out five reasons why this is so. Why Study In The USA? 5 Reasons and Benefits Make USA The Best discusses international students in American universities. But the same reasons apply to residential high schools here in the United States.

Canada, the United Kingdom, and several European countries also have residential high schools. They certainly offer families options. So, why then are American boarding schools so popular?

Learning the English Language

There's nothing like a language immersion program to develop a young person's fluency in English. And that's precisely what boarding schools in the United States offer. All classes except foreign language classes such as Spanish and French are taught in English. In addition, English is the language used in most extracurricular activities and sports programs that schools offer. As a result, students for whom English is their second language must speak, read, and understand English, both oral and written, during classes, on stage, and the playing field.

Being immersed in an American boarding school's academic and community life also means that students quickly learn how to speak and think in conversational English. In their daily routines, they pick up the common, everyday casual expressions that you and I take for granted. However, they also learn to switch to more formal phrases when the occasion warrants it.

With all this in mind, let's look at the reasons why parents feel it is worthwhile sending their children to boarding schools in the United States.

This video offers tips for young people planning on coming to the United States to Study.

Conversational English

Why is learning English this way worth sending a young person to live in an American boarding school far from home? One reason is that English is the common language of business, academic, and scientific communities worldwide. In addition, developing fluency in English and other languages enhances your child's career prospects, no matter what field she chooses.


The United States is a diverse nation. That can present an attractive cultural opportunity for parents wanting their children to be exposed to other cultures and customs. Writing in The Washington Post, Max Fisher notes that many Asian countries and most European countries tend to be homogenous. Of course, you can experience different cultures by visiting other countries in Asia and Europe. But in the United States, you will experience diversity just about everywhere you go.

A comprehensive education

American boarding schools educate the whole child. That combination of academics, sports, and extracurricular activities is a hallmark of most residential schools. 6th-century Roman author Juvenal stated it most aptly: "A healthy mind in a healthy body." It's an educational approach that stimulates intellectual curiosity and develops habits for a lifetime of learning and care for one's physical wellbeing.


Many parents want their children to develop an international network of friends and acquaintances that three or four years at a boarding school can provide. In addition, they understand the value of a robust network in charting a career path.

Expat parents

Sometimes, American parents are posted overseas. While their younger children can flourish in a local private day school, most parents will send their older children to a boarding school back home for the high school years. They do that because they are more comfortable with how American schools prepare students for college.

Carrying on the family tradition

Many overseas parents themselves attended American boarding schools. They have valued that experience and want their children to enjoy the advantages that such an education gave them. Furthermore, they are familiar with the admissions process, eliminating one unfamiliar part of the preparation for applying to an American boarding school. Unfortunately, the pandemic has erected some new hurdles to surmount. Visa applications and appointments are problematic due to staffing shortages. Testing for COVID before, during, and after travel is another procedure that must be explained and understood. Masking and social distancing will be the norm just about wherever your child travels. In short, teach your child to be prepared for the unexpected. Give her the financial resources and emergency contact information she will need to deal with

whatever comes her way.

This video looks back at where students have come from to study in the United States.

Junior Boarding Schools

It is not easy for a child who has been raised outside the United States to adapt to American culture. It can be incredibly daunting for a child to adjust to the American style of teaching and learning. So, when you know that your child will benefit from a year or two of studying in the United States before she matriculates to high school, then you should consider sending her to a junior boarding school. Then, the period of adjustment and adaptation to a different way of doing things will be over when she begins high school. That will contribute significantly to her success both academically and emotionally.

The Test Of English As A Foreign Language

If your child's native language is not English, she will have to take the Test Of English As A Foreign Langauge as part of the admissions process for American boarding schools.

The TOEFL iBT ® test measures a test taker's ability to combine listening, reading, speaking and writing skills where it matters most — in the classroom.

The Educational Testing Service administers the TOEFL worldwide. I strongly suggest that you ensure that your child gets plenty of practice taking the test. Hire a tutor if necessary.

SSAT testing

The other part of the admissions process involves the Secondary School Aptitude Test. This test is administered in English and assesses your child's ability to do the academic work at the school you have chosen. Once again, I recommend plenty of practice taking the test. Scheduling practice tests every two weeks beginning eighteen months before the actual test date will yield a confident test taker.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @boardingschoolreview

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