This article offers answers to some of the more common concerns we parents have when our child goes off to boarding school. Most, but not all, of these questions and their answers come from my own personal experience.
1. Your child is expelled?
Expulsion is a big deal. You will have a lot of explaining to do when you apply to another private school. It may just be that you will have to send your child to public school for the rest of the academic year while you try to find a new school willing to take her. I have always taken the view that it is how we handle failure which is the true measure of our character. Shall we learn from our mistakes and be the success we know we can be? Or do we blame others and retreat from reality. I suspect that some counselling for both you and your child might also be helpful.
2. Your child is asked not to return?
Your child attends a boarding school on a year by year basis. You and the school sign a new contract every year in April or thereabouts. You will have already had a couple of meetings with the school before being informed that the school has decided that they do not wish to have your child back. Read the warning signs carefully and act accordingly.
3. Your contract is not renewed?
I slipped this question and its answer in with boarding school teachers in mind. Your contract is most likely going to be year to year. You will receive plenty of notice that the school has decided not to renew your contract. Always keep your resume and curriculum vitae up to date just in case.
4. Your financial circumstance change?
Hey! It happens. Been there. Done that. Losing a job or your savings in a down market. It happens. As soon as you know, discuss the matter promptly with the school. You won't be the first parent who has been put in this situation nor will you be the last.
5. Your uncle went to a school you want your child to attend?
Schools always like to have several generations of the same family attend. The admissions staff refer to those applicants as legacies. But don't push your luck. If little Rodney's uncle attended St. Swithin's and the school is now a very selective school, Rodney's application will have to stand on its merits. The legacy angle won't be much help unless all the other parts of his application are sterling.
While this short video discusses legacy admissions at the college level, the concept is pretty much the same in private school admissions.
6. Your child has poor grades?
Not every child is an Einstein. I get that. As a teacher, I always encouraged my students to do their very best. If their best was a B, then so be it. Poor grades can be caused by many factors. Let's rule out other factors and focus on the more common reason a child doesn't get good grades. Simple things such as not turning in the work on time and being distracted when she should be concentrating on her studies can be fixed fairly easily. Not understanding the material is another matter. Some extra help usually works. Incidentally, the school will be keeping a very close eye on your child's progress. It will have identified issues and taken steps to remediate them before they become a major issue.
7. Your child hates her school?
Occasionally things just don't work out. Do your best to get to the bottom of the reasons why your child hates her school. If it is something which a conference with the school can fix, then go that route. If the situation is hopeless, then tell your child to tough it out. And begin looking for another school.
8. You have to get your child into a boarding school after the school year has begun?
There many reasons why you may be forced to find a new school for your child weeks or months after the school year has started. I recommend engaging an educational consultant. She will know which schools have openings. Or she can find out very quickly. Don't expect financial aid in these situations. Complete all the admission requirements as quickly as you can.
9. The school sends you an I-20?
An I-20 or Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status - For Academic and Language Students is given to foreign students. Your child will present this to the Consular Officer when she goes for her Visa Interview in her home country.
10. You need financial aid?
Always ask the school about financial aid early on in the school selection process. Complete your PFS and gather all the documentation. Complete this task several months before the admissions deadlines. Depending on the school,s financial aid pool and your need you will likely be pleasantly surprised at the financial aid package which the schools offer.
This video offers expert advice about financial aid in private schools.
11. Your child receives low scores on his SSAT?
If you have made sure that your child prepared thoroughly for the SSAT, you will know what kind of scores he is capable of. Start SSAT preparation at least six months before the test date. Buy lots of practice tests and have him work them without distraction. The final preparation consists of working a test or two to the clock. That way the actual test will be much less nerve-wracking.
12. Your child is homesick?
Every child gets homesick when she goes to boarding school. They show their homesickness in different ways, of course. Stick to your guns. Don't take endless calls or text back and forth. Let her get used to the separation from her familiar surroundings. Trust the school to handle homesickness sympathetically and skillfully in a day or two life will have returned to normal as she makes the adjustment to a different routine and new friends.
13. Your child wants to bring home a classmate or two?
We lived about 10 miles from eldest daughter's boarding school. So a couple of times a month our home rang with peals of teenage laughter. Much laundry was put through the washer and dryer. Plenty of tea, sodas and cookies were consumed. Do it. Allow your child's friends to come to your home for a brief visit. After all you do want to see what kind of children she is hanging around with, right?
14. You realize that all of the schools on your short list are real stretches?
This happened to us with our eldest daughter. We thought that we were pretty about private school admissions. In truth we had no clue as to how very competitive two of the schools on our list really were. So when those two schools rejected our daughter, we held our breath until the postman delivered a fat envelope from the third school. We learned our lesson when it came to youngest daughter. We hired the late Hugh Silk to advise us on the selection of schools. Then all we had to do was decide which of the three acceptances we all preferred.
15. Your child graduates with a very respectable academic standing?
You respond to the school's financial campaigns with as generous a donation as you can muster. And encourage your children to do the same. Their small gifts will be gratefully received. The important thing is to get them into the habit of supporting their beloved alma mater.
Laying a solid foundation for academic work in college is what boarding schools do very well. Here's how one student at Middlesex School, Concord, Massachusetts describes her learning experience.
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