What is a Boarding School? And other FAQs

Kent School
Kent School. Photo © Kent School

You have questions? We have answers. We're tackling some of the most common boarding school FAQs.

What is a Boarding School?

In the most basic terms, a boarding school is a residential private school. The students actually live on campus in dormitories or resident halls with adults from the school (dorm parents, as they are typically called). The dormitories are supervised by these members of the school's staff, who are usually teachers or coaches, in addition to being dorm parents.

Students at a boarding school take their meals in a dining hall. Room and board are included in a boarding school tuition. 

What is Boarding School Like?

As a rule, boarding school students follow a highly structured day in which classes, meals, athletics, study times, activities and free time are predetermined for them. Residence life is a unique component of the boarding school experience. Being away from home and learning to cope gives a child confidence and independence.

In America most boarding schools serve students in grades nine through twelve, the high school years. Some schools will even offer eighth grade or middle school years; these schools are typically referred to as junior boarding schools. Grades are sometimes called forms in many older, traditional boarding schools. Hence the terms Form I, Form II, etc. Students in Form 5 are known as Fifth Formers and so on.

A little history lesson for you ...

British boarding schools are the main inspiration and framework for the American boarding school system. The British boarding school tends to accept students at a much younger age than an American boarding school. It runs from primary grades through high school, whereas the American boarding school typically begins at 10th grade.

Boarding schools offer an inclusive approach to education. Students learn, live, exercise and play together in a communal setting under adult supervision.

Boarding school is a great schooling solution for many children. Explore the pros and cons carefully. Then make a considered decision.

What are the Benefits of Boarding School?

I like the fact that a boarding school offers everything in one neat package: the academics, the athletics, the social life and the 24/7 supervision. That's a huge plus for busy parents. You won't have to worry as much about what your little darlings are getting into when you are not around. Best of all, your child will have very little time to be bored.

Boarding school provides a stepping stone experience for college, by introducing students to life away from home, but in a more supportive environment than they might find at college. Dorm parents play a large role in student lives, reinforcing good behaviors and helping students develop life skills, like time management, work and life balance, and staying healthy. An increase in independence and confidence are often reported in students who attend boarding school. 

Students also get a taste of world cultures at many boarding schools, thanks to large international student populations.

Where else are you going to live and learn with students from across the world? Learning how to speak a second language, understanding cultural differences, and getting new perspectives on global issues is a huge benefit to boarding school. 

Getting involved in everything is another perk of boarding school. When you live at school, a whole world of opportunities ​is available. You can get involved in activities all week long, even at night, which means you have more time to try new things.

You even have greater access to teachers at boarding school. Since you literally live within walking distance of their apartments and houses, getting extra help can happen before school, in the dining hall during meals, and even at night during evening study hall. 

Some parents even find that their relationships with their children improve, thanks to boarding school.

Now, the parent becomes a confidant and an ally. The school, or rather the dorm parents, become the authority figure who ensures that homework is done, rooms are clean, and students go to bed on time. Discipline primarily falls to the school, too, holding students accountable for their actions. If your room isn't clean, what happens at home? A parent can't give detention for that, but a school can. 

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski - @stacyjago - Private School Page