Like many families, you may currently be in the throes of searching for the best boarding schools, gathering information online via sites like www.boardingschools.com, www.boardingschoolreview.com, and www.admissionsquest.com. It can seem overwhelming, especially if you do not have any particular criteria in mind before you start.
Having worked in a boarding school admission office for three years, let me offer a few suggestions as you continue on this journey this fall.
- Know that there is no such thing as “best boarding schools.” Different students have different needs, and different schools offer different advantages and programs. This is all about finding a match.
- Decide how far you’re willing to go. Some families have no problems with their children going halfway around the world or across the country to boarding school, but if you’re not one of them, make sure the entire family knows that upfront.
- Make a list of sports and other extracurricular activities, and decide which ones you can’t live without and which ones are negotiable. Boarding schools and their programs are as different as individual people are. There will be one that has all of the programs you’re looking for. For example, if you’re a German-speaking, tuba-playing, drama-loving, football-playing pilot, then Randolph-Macon Academy has you covered. But R-MA would not be a good fit for a French-speaking, hockey-playing equestrian!
- Choose a boarding school that is strong in the academic areas that interest you. If you love computer programming, but the boarding school doesn’t offer that, it’s just not a good fit. They might say they’re planning to add it, but don’t count your disk space before it’s installed.
- Make sure you’re compatible with the climate. If you hate the cold, don’t go too far north; if you can’t take heat, make sure you don’t stray too far south. If you have allergies, check out the area to see what kind of allergens are present there.
- Visit, visit, visit. It might sound cliché, but truly the best way to know if a boarding school is right for you is to visit. If it is allowed, go into the dorms to see where the students live while at school.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, remember that there is no accurate list of “best boarding schools,” no matter what you see in online forums or read in magazines. That’s because just as individuals have strengths and weaknesses, schools do as well. No single boarding school is right for every student. Finding the ones that are the best boarding schools for you is what this process is all about.