Mon, March 7, 2022

How to Make the Best Boarding School Decision

In a few weeks, admissions decisions will come out from boarding schools. With luck, your family will get good news. Should you have more than one acceptance, choosing a school can be complicated and possibly fraught. Especially since it’s likely you’ll be making the decision with a teenager. Being well informed from every angle is the surest way to make a smart choice. Here are some of the factors you might be considering:

Location, both for convenience and weather

You may want to visit your student for sports or arts events so proximity may be important. Location can also determine what kinds of activities (skiing or surfing?) are offered.

School size

Some schools are intimate, with only 60 or so students, while some have over 1,300 students.


There is a range of academic rigor within boarding schools that can’t be assessed just by looking at college lists.

Campus and facilities

Connected to location, some schools have thousands of acres that allows easy access to nature. Some schools have special facilities (squash courts or ski jumps for example) that enable different activities.

Boarding school tuition and/or financial aid

Tuition is sometimes as high as $70K but because most boarding schools are just high school, they have robust financial aid available in 9th and 10th grades.

Single sex or co-ed boarding schools

Even if you select single sex, schools do provide opportunities to interact with the other sex through dances and other social events.


Many families want to see a wide range of ethnic, racial and economic representation in the students and faculty.


There are a variety of housing styles (dorm style or family style, availability of single rooms) and of student make-up within dorms. Your student may thrive in dorms of his or her age group or in a blended environment.

Dress code

Some schools are formal (jacket and tie, skirts) whereas others may allow jeans and sneakers.

Food quality

This can be a very important factor for a teenager!

Activities and trips

Does your student want to do a language immersion program? See if the school offers something like School Year Abroad, a semester program or an exchange program.

Family connection

Is this school a family tradition that you want to continue or are you okay breaking it?

Access to a town or city

Going out for pizza, coffee or ice cream, going shopping or to a movie, or access to public transportation may be very important to your student.

Religious affiliation

Is this important to your family? Would you prefer it not be a part of his or her school life?

Disciplinary policy

Is the school a “one strike you’re out” or does it have a second chance policy?

Learning support at boarding schools

Many schools have learning centers but depending on your student’s needs, you may want to check how many specialists are available and is it an added cost.

Emotional support

Much of the faculty act in loco parentis at boarding schools but often there are trained psychologists on staff.

You and your teenager may not agree on every point but it’s important to give everyone an opportunity to voice an opinion. If you have the opportunity, definitely try to revisit. It may feel very different to be on campus as an accepted student.

Here’s to a great well-reasoned outcome!

And if you have more questions or need in-depth assistance making the best school decision for your family, speak with an expert school advisor. Make your one-on-one boarding school advisory appointment when you become a member of Parents League today.

Recommended Reading