Choosing a School

You’ve decided boarding school may be the best option for your child’s education. Now it’s time to find a school that meets the needs of your family. Determine when your child is ready to attend boarding school, learn why students can benefit from a single-sex education, and get tips on finding data and comparing schools. Discover the benefits of education consultants, explore Quaker schools, and find get expert advice on making an informed decision.
View the most popular articles in Choosing a School:
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Why Are You Only Looking At Very Competitive Schools?
It makes sense to cast your net widely when looking at boarding schools. Here's why.
First of all let's define competitive. At its most basic level a competitive boarding school is one which admits less applicants than it receives applications from. For example, a school has a fixed admissions deadline of January 31 each year. Last year it received 250 applications for 100 places. That means that 150 applicants were not accepted by the school. Perhaps some of them were put on the waiting list but we will look at that later.
 
So, essentially a competitive boarding school receives more applicants than it has places which it can offer to those applicants. Within the scope of competitive schools are several subsets. There is nothing official here, of course, as no organization will officially state that such and such a school is a highly competitive school or a less competitive school and so on. Having said that, you do not have to know a lot about private schools to look at the data which our site Boarding School Review offers after doing a little sorting of acceptance rates. 
The other filter which we have to apply is for admissions to special schools. These schools which specialize in teaching students with learning disabilities, for example, have acceptance rates which are generally subject to other variables. In most cases we will classify these as non-competitive.
 
So, where are we going to set the bar? Anything below a 25% acceptance rate is very competitive. 26-50% is competitive. 51-75% is less competitive. Individual educational consultants will have their own scales
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Characteristics Of The Best Schools
What are the characteristics of the best schools? We explore what makes some schools the best schools.
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 that 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 the 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.
 
This video from Loomis Chafee illustrates the school's global perspective.
 
 
The 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 oftentimes it seems that boards have a rather difficult time with change.
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 Have You Checked All the Boxes?
Use this checklist to keep you on track as you choose a boarding school for your child.
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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How Can an Educational Consultant Help with a Boarding School Search?
Finding the right boarding school for your child is one of the most important and expensive decisions you will ever make.
 
Finding the right boarding school for your child is one of the most important and expensive decisions you will ever make.  You might try to research thoroughly on your own, only to find that most websites look alike, and very few give information on the profile of typical accepted students. Families who want guidance often turn to “independent educational consultants” or, IECs.
 
IECs are professionals who are paid by the family to advise them on the boarding school search and admissions process.  Many offer full-service comprehensive packages that span over a year’s time, and others have shorter packages or an hourly rate.  A typical consultation starts with a focus on the student’s background and interest in boarding school.  This includes a review of his transcript, testing, activities, interests, and academic successes and challenges of the past.  An IEC talks with the student and parents about goals for the future and what they hope to get out of the boarding school experience.  Consultants might give examples of schools that are nurturing or offer learning support, or those which give extra help to students when they need it, whether they ask for it or not!   IECs discuss the pros and cons of the more rigorous schools or might help a family decide whether to repeat a year.   Families might hear about how the schools are different from each other, and why a single-sex school might be beneficial, or why a rural, primarily boarding community, will feel different than a suburban school
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The Western Boarding Schools’ Difference
There are almost 40 boarding schools west of the Mississippi River.
There are almost 40 boarding schools west of the Mississippi River. If you were to drive west from this great river, the landscape and climate slowly change and, likewise, a perhaps previously unexplored region of boarding schools will begin to unfold before you. Like the Louis and Clark expedition many years ago, this voyage of discovery will be an astonishingly educational experience.
 

Start anywhere west of the Mississippi, from Manitoba down to Texas; head west across the Great Plains and even past California and British Columbia all the way to Hawaii.  On this voyage, you will find the many boarding schools represented by the Western Boarding Schools Association.  These boarding schools can rival anything found in the East and, quite often, we offer more! For example, did you know that Hawaii Prep has 80% of the world’s ecosystems and a LEED Platinum Energy Lab? Or that one can safely predict that many of the ice hockey medalists at the Sochi Olympic Games will have attended high school at Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota? Or that you can simultaneously watch condors fly overhead while on your way to surfing each day at Cate School in Carpentaria, California? Or that at my school, Brentwood College School, we can integrate marine biology and oceanography into our curriculum because we are situated directly on the Pacific Ocean?

Academically, our western boarding schools stack up with the best of them.  Unfortunately, there still permeates a mindboggling misconception
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Choosing a School

Getting Started

This section covers the basics of choosing a boarding school. Learn more about educational consultants, explore the dos and don’ts of making the right choice, and learn why you should trust your instincts. When is the right time to attend boarding school? What is a post-graduate year? How can an educational consultant help? Here you’ll find the answers to these questions and more.

Narrowing Your List

You’ll find helpful tools and resources to aid in narrowing your list down to the best schools that meet your requirements. Determine the benefits of Quaker education, learn how girls benefit from single sex education and get 5 reasons to start your search early.

Evaluating Schools

Here we’ll provide you with information on evaluating boarding schools. From comparing schools to identifying language and sports programs, our articles will help you make an informed decision. Learn the best approach to compare schools, get tips on creating a spreadsheet, and determine where to find the data.