How do you choose a boarding school with so many good schools throughout the United States, how do you distinguish which one is best suited to your child’s needs?
In my work as an educational consultant, I’ve visited more than 200 boarding school campuses, many multiple times. While I have a good sense of most boarding schools and what they offer, I also know that in addition to academic quality and environments, good boarding schools should provide safe, nurturing, personalized learning communities with strong residential support systems in place.
In considering schools for your student, you need to consider each school through the lens of your family’s and your student’s needs, strengths, and values. Consider these six big questions as you evaluate each school for the best possible match.
In many ways, a boarding school becomes a second home to your child. It’s important that the school’s values align with your own. Looks at the school’s recruiting materials, online or in print, to get a sense of the school mission statements. Speaking to school leadership, alumni, and their families is another way to get a sense of the school’s values and culture.
What image do students on campus project? Do they look happy and relaxed? Are they friendly? Stressed? If you have the chance to speak directly with current students, ask about how the students feel about their instructors, professors, projects, availability of classes, class size, and where do they go for help and college guidance? If an international community is important to you, are there students on campus? What are the students’ takes on offered activities and weekend events? What kind of student do they think would be happiest there, and whom do they think would not be happy there? What do they like best about the school and what would they change? Don’t be afraid to ask these questions when you choose a boarding school.
“We loved the arts programs and the whole ethos and vibe of the place. The fact it is so Stunningly beautiful didn’t hurt. The website somehow doesn’t fully convey this,” wrote a parents after touring a boarding school recently.
You will want to ascertain if the school is truly well equipped to handle boarders. Ask how many students live on campus as boarders, as compared to the number of day students. If there are boarders, are they five-day boarders who go home on weekends, or full-term boarders who only go home for term breaks?
Find out not only what extra-curricular activities the school offers but also whether they are utilized. do students feel about the quality of those extra-cirricular activities that align with your student’s interests? In addition, what kind of support is available for students with tutoring, writing and math centers, and more formalized support for kids?
Is there access to a major airport? Is it rural or urban? Do the surroundingneighborhoods have offerings of interest to the student? Campus safety is also extremely important; learn what kind of neighborhood it is in and what the student will pass through to get to and from campus..
If diversity is important to you, how strong is the institution’s commitment diversity and to helping students adjust? What is the composition of the student body? Are different cultures, ethnicities, and races represented? Ask for statistics from the school, and if you visit, take note of what level of diversity (or lack thereof) you see on the actual campus itself.
No matter how resilient and independent your child is, a supportive and engaging community is going to be critical for your child to make good friends and do well in school. Without new friends and activities to engage them, some children may become lonely and isolated, which can lead to emotional and behavioral issues like depression, acting out, withdrawing, regression, anger and even physical ailments. Do your homework to help ensure the right fit.
To learn more: Check out this article from Rebecca on choosing the right boarding school. When you are ready to start the application and interview process; check out our blog about “Rocking Your Skype Interview”.