Why do parents send their kids to boarding schools?

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Metta Dael, Education administrator of 20 years. Expertise in international admissions.

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Boarding schools are wonderful places for students to grow. They start as early is middle school - a junior boarding school. Some school even offer a PG or a post graduate program which is a one year transition program for new high school graduates before they enter college.

Often parents do not send their kids to boarding school, but it is their kids who choose to go to boarding school. The biggest reason that kids chose to go to boarding school is because their current school can not offer them the best academic match. Either, there is not a competitive enough program for a student to take advantage of or stretch in. For instance, there are not enough AP courses offered or not enough languages taught or not a large selection of upper class electives. On the other side, there may be a student with learning differences who can not be supported in their current school due to a large size classroom or programmatic restrictions.

At the heart of it, kids are heading to boarding school because it provides strong academic and social skills that prepare students for college and the world after. Boarding school teachers spend twice as much time with their students than teachers in public school or even private day schools. The TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) website reports that 90% of students say that their teachers are of a great higher quality. College counselors at boarding schools have a much smaller load than their public school counterparts. Students typically are in class with kids from all around the world - sometimes schools have students representing almost 50 countries in their school. One great factor of boarding schools, is students tend to be more motivated to succeed. Again, TABS reports that 78% of students are motivated by their peers. Lastly, families see it as a one-stop-shop. Meaning, they can provide academic excellence and combine it with elite academic and athletic programs. Students who really want to delve into their interests don't have to waste time in carpool, but rather they walk 10 minutes to get to the hockey rink or the music building for a viola lesson. Students learn not only how to be independent, their executive functioning skills grow - organization, leadership, time management, critical thinking skills, etc.

I can't stress or agree with the previous contributor more when it comes to finding the right match in a school. Families can work with an educational consultant who suggests different schools based on your child's academic profile, extra curricular interests, and financial need. Boardingschoolreview.com and boardingschools.com are two great websites to start exploring. Many boarding schools offer open houses or class visit days where you get to experience boarding school for the day. Boarding schools are not for everyone, but they are wonderful places for kids to grow.

Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, and Author

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The way you phrased this question is fairly broad. There are many reasons why parents send their children to boarding schools. Some of them are very specific to an individual child's needs and/or how a parent believes their children should be educated.

Let's start with a sometimes stereotypical reason: parents may choose a boarding school for disciplinary concerns. Boarding schools run a tight ship and keep kids on a schedule. For a lot of young adults, a more methodical, organized environment is helpful. Plus, boarding school takes Mom or Dad out of the role of nag, homework assistant, disciplinarian or worrier. In fact, headmasters routinely mention in their "welcome address" that the school is now assuming the role of parent. For Mom and Dad, depending on who they are, and who their child is, that can be a blessed relief.

Boarding school is structure, structure, structure. And there are a lot of educators who believe this is what kids need the most to succeed, feel safe and develop the best study habits. A day in a boarding school student's life looks like this: up around 7:00am, race to eat breakfast in the dining hall in the short time period it's served, academic classes, repeat for lunch, mandatory sports practice for two hours, mandatory dorm/study time, repeat for dinner, free time, mandatory dorm/study time, lights out. To some kids, this might seem restrictive, but don't forget, kids are living side by side with their peers. This is a student-driven community. It's restrictive, but typically it's also a lot of fun. Dorm life is what you imagine it might be - bonding, parties, room-mates, a private kitchen, late night pig-outs.

Some parents believe that since high school has now become an intense four-year pressure cooker to succeed and achieve, boarding school does a great job at keeping kids on task. And importantly, this advantages them. A lock step schedule helps avoid procrastination and keeps kids focused on academics. If a student has to stay in their dorm and study, so does the entire school. No fear of missing a party here. Again, with a more controlled environment, there are going to be less concerns about how recreational time is used. Weekends offer far more free time, but again in a safe and well managed environment. Social events are planned on campus. They can be awesome - like going to a mini Bar Mitzvah each weekend complete with hypnotists and visiting comedians. Your child won't suffer from a lack of exposure to professional entertainment. Plus, there is a curfew, and kids shuttle bus or walk home. Mom or Dad don't have to worry about who is driving who, nor the dangers of a distracted teen or inebriated driver.

Beyond offering structure and a focused experience, boarding schools can be pretty magical places in ways that day programs can not. At boarding schools, faculty live in the dorms and often serve as mentors. The access to faculty for guidance on a daily basis is unparalleled and offers a nurturing academic environment. If a student needs extra help for a bio test, that's typically a matter of making an appointment with a teacher, and meeting that faculty person in their residence in the afternoon or evening. Faculty at boarding schools are often there with family in tow, including a spouse who probably teaches there as well. It's a great gig, and their interest in their students is therefore genuine and generous. Because of this, many parents report that their child flourished in boarding school in a way they hadn't before. A friend of mine whose daughter switched to boarding school after just one year of public, reported, "In public school, my teachers just expected me to do the work. They didn't really notice or care about me. In boarding school I felt that everyone was rooting for me to succeed."

Of course, boarding schools believe they offer standout academics and college preparation; many do. Classes are often quite small allowing every student to have a voice. It's not unheard of for a class to only have 8 pupils in it. Boarding schools also provide opportunities for top notch athletics and leadership positions. Operating like mini-colleges, there are countless clubs and activities to join: a capella groups, improv theater troupes, eating clubs, etc. Boarding schools may offer a wider foundation on which to build a platform of diverse and unique experiences for the college application.

Finally, ask any college admissions officer what qualities they value in a student and they will tell you: resilience, strong time management skills and study habits, and the ability to adjust and adapt. Students who come out of a boarding school community typically have all this. Living away from home nurtures independence, judgment and maturity. The majority of parents would probably say they chose boarding school so their child could access top notch academics, benefit from the attention of devoted teachers, and develop strong interpersonal skills.

Not all boarding schools are going to be right for your child. Like college they come in many varieties and types. Fit matters. To learn more about boarding schools and their unique offerings, check out Noodle's advice about boarding schools or search for the best boarding schools near you.

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