Boarding School FAQs

Boarding School FAQs
Read frequently asked questions on a range of boarding school related topics.

By Barbara Kennedy - Director of External Affairs -

Question 1

Boarding school seems awfully expensive. My parents' combined income is less than $90,000 a year. I am the oldest of 3 children. I have had a GPA through middle school and 9th grade of 3.9. I play intramural soccer, had the lead in the spring musical last year and want to be a physicist. Should I even be thinking I can go to a boarding school?

Paying for a boarding school education does require some planning, but it can be manageable, and the investment is invaluable. When considering the cost of boarding school, it is important to know that need-based financial aid, which is based on a family's income and assets is available at most schools. For example, last year Baylor School awarded more than $2 million in financial aid. Other schools, including Baylor, offer other merit scholarships as well. Most schools offer monthly payment plans (administered either by the school or by an outside agency) that allow families to spread their tuition payments over eight to ten months.

This brief video explains how the financial aid program works at one private school.

One helpful resource is the School and Student Service for Financial Aid, a service of the National Association of Independent Schools, which objectively assesses a family's ability to contribute to their child's educational costs. From their website, you can access the forms needed to apply for financial aid. For the most reliable information, though, you should work closely with the admission office and/or financial aid office of the school you are considering.

Question 2

Will my daughter have any free time at boarding school or is every minute of her day regimented and organized? That's one of her main concerns.

The learning process at boarding schools extends beyond the classroom and into sports fields, theater stages, and the local community just to name a few of the experiences students can take advantage of. Here is a look at a day at a typical boarding school.

However, each student can decide for themselves which, if any, opportunities are right for them. Some may decide they are able to accomplish more on their own than taking part in an organized activity or school sport.

Although not every minute of a student’s day is regimented, many boarding schools do require students to participate in a sport or other school-sponsored activities, and chances are no matter what interests your daughter, there will be something for her to enjoy.

Most students enter boarding school apprehensively due to being surrounded in a new environment and not knowing any of the other students. The best way to acclimate new boarding students is to encourage them to engage in some sort of activity outside of the classroom so they can get to know their peers beyond the academic environment.

Being involved with school-sponsored activities or becoming a member of a sports team can help make the transition into boarding school a smooth one. This also leads to better relationships with other boarding students so their free time, outside of the classroom and away from sports and activities, can be enjoyed with newly formed friendships.

Boarding schools not only provide excellent academic opportunities, but they equip students with life-changing experiences and relationships that extend beyond their time at boarding school. Remember that there are countless opportunities for boarding students to get to know their peers through school-sponsored activities, but students do have ample free time to grow as individuals so that they are prepared to succeed in life beyond boarding school.

Question 3

I have heard that sports are compulsory at boarding school. My son isn't good at contact sports but he's a very able tennis player. What kind of sports opportunities awaits him at boarding school?

Not all boarding schools require their students to play a sport, but there are certainly excellent opportunities for students if they have an interest in a sport such as tennis. And if you are a student, or parent, thinking about college, athletic scholarships can be obtained due to many boarding schools being able to provide top of the line facilities, coaches, and resources. And there is something for every child's needs as the following video illustrates.

Other than tennis, there are a plethora of athletic opportunities at boarding schools that can include:

  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Softball
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Crew
  • Track and Field
  • Soccer
  • Cross Country
  • Volleyball
  • Swimming and Diving
  • Fencing
  • Equestrian
  • Baseball
  • Lacrosse
  • Wrestling
  • Cheerleading
  • Field Hockey
  • Ice Hockey

As you can see, there is a little something for anyone that has an interest in contact or non-contact sports. Furthermore, there are different levels of competition in each sport so that your son or daughter can compete against their peers with similar athletic abilities.

Look into the boarding school's athletic history before you decide on a school for your son. Get to know the coaches and find out what potential opportunities your son may have in participating on a sports team such as tennis. It may be a good idea to also see what kind of experience the school has in sending their boarding school graduates to college on athletic scholarships.

This video offers an overview of sports programs at boarding schools.

Question 4

When I visit a boarding school, what should my son and I be looking for?

There are a number of factors to consider when sending your son away for an education, and none of the decisions will come easy. But it is important that you are thorough and decisive in your search. Location, facilities, cost, extra-curricular activities, and student-body size are important points. But perhaps the most important feature should be the quality of education itself.

Boarding schools often offer the kind of collegiate acceptance rate that public and day schools can only dream of. Small class sizes, diverse curriculums, and individual attention from teachers and advisers in the boarding environment can combine to create a progressive, thorough setting in which students thrive. But not all boarding schools offer the same level of education, and you should investigate the types of classes offered, the number of Advanced Placement (AP) classes, the student-to-teacher ratio, and the school’s collegiate placement record.

Remember, however, that it’s not just about the classroom.

This video offers an overview of AP courses.

To create the best atmosphere for your son, you should choose the boarding school that you feel best combines classroom education with real-world education. In other words, investigate each school’s extra-curricular activities just as thoroughly as you would the traditional curriculum.

Does your son like to play sports? Make sure there are a variety of athletic options that offer competitive outlets. Are there clubs, social groups, and get-away opportunities? And what about the atmosphere within the dorms themselves? What does the campus look like? Are the students housed in an atmosphere that they will enjoy? Do you want your son in an all-male environment, or would a co-ed boarding school be more beneficial?

Has your son ever lived away from home for an extended period? The move could present a shock to his system, so it’s key to look for a nurturing environment. Some boarding schools even offer to match students with families living in the area to act as a support for students and a sort of home away from home.

Finally, tuition and boarding fees are always a factor, and boarding schools can be a strain on some budgets. But the benefits often far outweigh the costs, and many schools offer scholarships and opportunities to help trim the costs involved. There are many factors that must be thoroughly considered, and each school has its strong points, so please be diligent in your research to ensure your son finds the right fit for him.

Questions? Contact us on Facebook. @boardingschoolreview

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