What If Things Go Wrong?

Updated  February 17, 2016 |
What If Things Go Wrong?
Boarding schools have a reputation for being tough academically and from a discipline point of view. But that's not all they are.

You are thinking about boarding school. But you've heard that the work is tough. Furthermore, they will expel you in a heartbeat if you are caught doing anything seriously wrong. Is this true? Is that the way boarding schools actually work? Let's look at the facts.

The academic work is difficult.

There's no escaping the truth about academics in private school. Academics are the reason a private school exists in the first place. The academic standards are high. There is a lot of homework. There are a lot of subjects and a lot of ground to cover in every class. Sometimes the lessons are hard to understand. Just remember whenever you feel discouraged that you were admitted to the school because it felt you could do the academic work involved. The school based its decision on your academic transcripts and your admissions test scores.

The difference between taking on challenging work in a boarding school versus a public school simply is that nobody in the boarding school is going to let you sink. Why? Well, for one, the classes are small. For example, your teacher will know the instant that you are having problems grasping a math concept. You will not be humiliated in front of your peers. If you don't believe me, read the codes of conduct for any boarding school and see just how seriously they take community spirit and concern for all members of the school community. Teaching their students to be tolerant and to respect others is part of most private schools' mission.

Your home away from home.

How can private schools enforce such an idealistic approach? They do it by being exemplars of what they are teaching. You see, boarding schools don't just teach physics or Chinese and then close the classroom door and forget about you until next class. That does not happen because you are part of a residential community which learns together, eats together, plays sports together and watches TV together. Boarding schools function like one big family.

I can hear you thinking "But I am an only child. My mother is CEO of a multi-national corporation and travels all the time. My parents divorced when I was 12. What do I know about family? I don't even know which of our five homes to call home.  Why should I even care?"

That's the point. Boarding school can fill in all kinds of gaps in your life. Not just the academics either. Your whole life. It's the way in which school molds and shapes you which is probably the best thing about residential schools. They are experts at this. They have been doing it for years. They expect to do it for many more years after you have graduated. When you are at school 24/7, you learn to tolerate different opinions. You also learn to appreciate the diversity which is an integral part of most boarding schools. Private schools will expose you to all kinds of good, positive things which are hard to find in most public high schools.

A balanced approach.

Finally, every one of your teachers wants you to be the best you can be.  Boarding school teachers set a terrific example of hard academic work and integrity. Take a look at how many of the faculty have advanced degrees such as master's and doctorate degrees. They are experts in their chosen fields. Furthermore, your teachers will get to teach you. You see, discipline is a non-issue in boarding school. Your teachers rarely have to worry about disciplinary matters. And when they do, such things fall under the purview of the school's code of conduct. They will stretch you and make you learn stuff you never thought you would ever learn. The truth is that you will probably do more academic work and to a higher standard than the work you will encounter in college.

Now, what about discipline. What happens if I break a major rule? That depends on the school. But let's understand something very basic about boarding schools:  the school chose you, it selected you to be a part of its community. Yes, it costs a lot of money for this privilege. But they wanted you. Following the rules at school is just part of growing up, after all. I mean, you have to drive on the right because it's law, right? You have to pay taxes. It's the law.

That's all the school is doing. It's organizing or codifying its expectations of each member of the community in a document called a code of conduct or something like that. The code of conduct will not be some mysterious document which everybody talks about, but nobody sees. The school's code of conduct will be put in front of you the first day you arrive at school. The school will explain it in great detail. Then you will sign the document and agree to abide by its rules.

Lots of individual attention.

Unlike being in a public school, your teachers and fellow students will know if you are depressed or having problems. Hiding behind a wall of alcohol or marijuana won't be an option because 99% of the time your classmates and teachers will have noticed that something is wrong. You will have had a chance to get the professional counseling and guidance you need. Private schools concern themselves with educating the whole child. They can balance academics, athletics, extracurricular activities and your social life because they have been doing just that very successfully for many years.

Think of boarding school as an adventure. Sure, you could stay home and mosey off to the local high school and be a number. Or a nerd. Or a jock. Or be categorized in whatever way is the vogue of the moment. But you are you. A boarding school will draw you in with its warmth and its concern for your well-being. A boarding school will show you how to accomplish all kinds of things. Boarding school is not exclusively about academics. You will have the opportunity to be on the stage. Perhaps you will play football. You will do all this with your new classmates who will become friends for life.


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