Boarding schools originated in medieval Europe, as boys were often sent away from home to monasteries to become literate and then work as clergymen. The King's school, Canterbury, in England dates back to 597. In England and other countries, children often begin boarding school at younger ages, while in the United States, most boarding schools begin at 9th or 10th grade. Some students also take a postgraduate or PG year at a boarding school after they finish high school in order to bolster their skills or transcript to prepare for college. There are also junior boarding schools for younger students, generally in grades 6-9. The Fay School in Massachusetts is the oldest junior boarding school in the country.
Boarding schools often cater to students with specific interests or needs. For example, some boarding schools specialize in the arts, while others are therapeutic in nature and help students with learning, behavioral, or emotional issues.
Today, boarding schools offer residential programs for students that combine academics, athletics and other extracurricular programs, and adult supervision. In general, boarding schools have very structured programs that keep kids busy all day. About 30,000 students attend U.S. boarding schools, and an increasing number of the students are international students who want to go on to attend U.S. universities. Here's a bit more about what daily life is like at boarding schools, including at some of the top boarding schools in the country.
What Are Boarding Schools Like?
While the popular image of boarding schools might embrace the wonders of Harry Potter or the abuses of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, boarding schools in reality are quite different. Boarding schools have structured school days, and students usually attend supervised study halls after a full day of classes and extracurricular activities. They are expected to function somewhat independently, but they work closely with their faculty. While it's up to the students to get the help they need, they have access to dedicated faculty who they get to know well not only as teachers but also as advisors, coaches, and dorm supervisors. The academic programs at top boarding schools are rigorous, and many schools offer a large number of AP or Advanced Placement classes in addition to a large variety of sports and extracurricular activities. Often, boarding schools have large campuses and athletic facilities and playing fields and can offer sports such as hockey, squash, horseback riding, swimming, skiing, and others.
In addition, boarding schools offer personalized and intensive college counseling and often have connections with some of the top colleges in the country. Generally, colleges feel that students coming from top boarding schools are well prepared to take on their work.
As students must live away from home during boarding school, they form close relationships with their teachers and advisors and often with other students. The boarding schools have attempted to broaden the diversity of their students, and now, one-quarter of students at boarding schools are either international or represent another form of diversity. In addition, about one-third of boarding school students receive need-based financial aid. The boarding schools with larger endowments tend to offer greater amounts of financial aid.
Though many parents who did not attend boarding schools are at first wary of choosing boarding schools for their children, some students enjoy and benefit from the structure and close faculty and peer relationships at boarding schools. These schools keep kids busy all day and offer the structure they may not have in their home environment. In addition, boarding schools often offer the type of academics and college counseling that students could not access in their local schools.