Many students from countries outside the United States want to attend American boarding schools. International students make up about 15% of the student population in American boarding schools, according to The Association of Boarding Schools. It is important to know that international students applying to an American boarding school deal with several additional steps in the admissions process. Because many applicants live at great distances from the schools that they would like to visit, schools have come up with a variety of ways to let parents and potential students experience the school, its community, and its programs. If you live in Asia or Europe, for example, it is not always financially or logistically possible to visit schools in person. Furthermore, while the coronavirus pandemic is active in most of the world, international travel is problematic at best. So, what alternatives exist for those situations? Actually several. Off-campus, school visits come in a couple of flavors.
Admissions Staff Visits Overseas
Many boarding schools send their admissions staff overseas to major cities in countries where they have a substantial applicant pool. Ask for details of visits in your area. While you will have to rely on school videos and web presentations of school life and activities, at least you will have a live person to whom you can pose questions. If English is not your first language, this meeting with school officials will give you a deadline to meet. After all, you are planning to attend school in a country where English is the instructional language used in most classes. You will be expected to have your interview in English. Put another way, pass that all-important TOEFL as soon as you can.
This video describes the features of private schools.
Interviews With Local Alumni
Just like many universities and colleges do, boarding schools also will arrange an interview with an alumnus or alumna who lives in your local area. This is a common practice for meeting candidates who live here in the United States. Remember that most boarding schools are looking for qualified candidates from outside the United States as part of their diversity initiatives. Most schools like to think that they are preparing their students for life and work in a global community. So the fact that you are from Europe, South America, or Asia helps them accomplish that goal.
This part of the admissions process is critical for all concerned. The school needs to actually meet you and get a sense of who you are and what you offer. You need to determine if the school is a good fit for your needs and objectives.
This video describes how to handle an admissions interview with an alumnus. While it references college admissions, the same applies to boarding schools.
Virtual Admissions Receptions
Many boarding schools are offering virtual admissions receptions during the pandemic of 2020 & 2021. These are similar in form and function to the kind of online admissions receptions colleges and universities do. These typically take place during the summer and spring. Ask the Admissions Staff at the boarding schools in which you are interested.
This video from St. Paul's School, Concord, New Hampshire offers a virtual tour of that historic boarding school.
Learning About The School
Many parents feel that they know a school because they have spent time on its website. They 'liked' the school's Facebook page and are following it on Twitter. They also have watched all the YouTube videos the school has posted on its YouTube channel. They and their child are convinced that the school is a good fit for them and their requirements. So why bother actually hopping on a plane, renting a car, booking accommodation, and taking all that time to go and visit the school? It goes without saying that you need to visit any school to which you are thinking of sending your child if at all possible. The school will insist on it because they want to meet you in person whenever possible.
Your educational consultant may have given the schools glowing reports. Your great uncle has always spoken about his years at one of the schools on your shortlist with great fondness. In fact, he has given generously to his alma mater. One of your colleagues in the Boston office has a daughter at another school on your shortlist. She apparently loves her school's equestrian program. But that's their opinion. You and your child need to set foot on each campus on your shortlist, scope each one out, and use your own judgment to determine whether your child will be happy there for three or four years.
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