"I can't find any rankings!" "Which is the best boarding school in Massachusetts?" Hardly a day goes by without somebody asking about the rankings of boarding schools. I know that you are trying to figure out how one boarding school compares with another so that you can choose the one which is best for your child. You probably even have tried looking for a site that ranks schools. Well, good luck! If you find one, let me know. There is no ranking system for boarding schools that I know of.
Try it yourself. Google "boarding school rankings" or "ranking boarding schools" and review the results. Yes, you will find several lists of "the best schools." However, what are the criteria used to select those schools? Maybe some of them are a good fit for your requirements. Maybe not. So, let's look at the reasons why this is the case.
1. Boarding schools are unique
This is the main reason why it is impossible to rank boarding schools. Each school is unique. Each school does its own thing. Schools are overseen and managed by trustees and faculty who have a particular point of view. For example, a Jesuit boarding school such as Georgetown Prep has a quite different approach to curriculum and teaching than The Putney School. Yes, as you look at schools, you can compare basic criteria such as the number of students, what they teach, and the sports programs they offer.
The broad strokes of the program may be similar on the surface. Most schools will offer courses in core subjects such as English, science and math, sports, and extracurricular activities. But what courses and levels they offer, what teams are fielded, and how many extracurricular activities are offered vary widely from school to school. This video offers an overview of Asheville School.
So, how do you find the best school for your child? You start by deciding what is important to you. Do you want her to attend a small school, a large school, or something in between? A school with a student population of 250 students in grades 9-12 has a different vibe than a school with 1,000 students in high school. Is location important, or can it be anywhere? Think about how you will feel if you fly across the country to get to your child in an emergency. What about religion? Do you want her to attend a school that will allow her to continue to practice her beliefs? Does she learn differently or have special needs? Do you prefer a traditional college prep education for her? Or would a progressive school be preferable? What about financial aid? Answer these questions as honestly as you can. Those answers will help you determine the best school for your child. Read 5 Reasons You Might Be Looking At The Wrong Schools for guidance on choosing schools.
2. Boarding schools do not divulge data.
The second reason you cannot find rankings of boarding schools is that boarding schools do not have to participate in ranking surveys or other tools that the media and websites use to rank schools. The National Association of Independent Schools has taken the lead in this debate. And for all kinds of very good reasons. It and all the state and regional associations have for many years counseled their members not to talk to the press. That's why there are no rankings for boarding schools, such as in Newsweek or U.S. News and World Report for colleges and high schools. Things like where graduates matriculated, SAT scores, and so on must be discovered by checking individual school websites or asking the admissions staff. The data is readily available. It's just not gathered and neatly packaged in one convenient place. Here is another fine boarding school. Review its website and see if it meets some or all of your requirements.
3. The best school is the one which works best for you.
The third reason rankings don't matter is that choosing a boarding school is similar to choosing a college. You are looking for the best fit. The fit matters most. So, how do you determine the best fit? You need to discuss exactly what you desire in a school seriously. Let that determine which schools end up on your shortlist.
Put another way, we all know that Exeter and Andover are top boarding schools. But there are hundreds of other boarding schools out there. They have great academic programs, superb facilities, dedicated, highly credentialed teachers, and all manner of athletics and enrichment activities. Most do an excellent job of preparing your child for college.
How do you find these schools? It takes doing a lot of research. Hire an educational consultant if you can afford it. Consultants have forgotten more about boarding schools than you, and I could ever know. The fee you will pay a consultant virtually guarantees you a good fit. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but you get the idea.
In this video, you can explore Harkness Learning at Lawrenceville School.
One of the things which boarding school admissions departments look at very carefully is your child's ability to handle academic work. They assess that ability by reviewing the results of admissions testing and scrutinizing your child's transcripts from her previous schools.
As you can see, there are several steps to finding the right school for your child. Allow yourself plenty of time to research schools. Develop lists of ones that generally meet your requirements. Then visit and evaluate a short list of 3 to 5 schools. Choosing the right boarding school will take time. It is not something which you can do in 2 or 3 weeks. I always recommend allowing at least 18 months for the school search process.
In the end, ranks don't matter. Only the fit does. Get the fit right, and you will have a happy child and a great learning experience.
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