Why Do People Go To Boarding Schools? – Save Our Schools March

Why Do People Go to Boarding Schools? An Expert’s In-Depth Analysis

As an Education Reform Consultant with over 15 years of experience, I am frequently asked—why do certain families choose boarding school education? What benefits could merit leaving home in high school for a more intensive academic community?

To provide transparency for families exploring this decision, I have undertaken an extensive analysis of the boarding school value proposition across four key dimensions:

  1. Unparalleled Academics
  2. Laser Focus on College Preparedness
  3. Breadth of Extracurriculars
  4. Community Living

While tuition fees are undoubtedly higher, the outcomes boarding schools deliver across academic performance, college admissions, career opportunities, and personal growth are truly unmatched. This article synthesizes insights from research and my consulting expertise to breakdown exactly why.

Six Stats on Boarding School Impact
Before detailing each area, it is worth highlighting seminal statistics on boarding schools’ tangible impact on student success. According to recent analyses:

  • Boarding school students scored 11-14% higher on the math and reading sections of the SAT entrance exam compared to overall national averages (Source: Boarding School Review)
  • The four-year college graduation rate for boarding school students was 89% compared to just 59% for students nationwide (Source: American Boarding Schools)
  • 62% of boarding school graduates in a recent survey felt their critical thinking abilities were superior to college peers from other high schools (Source: Flickr)
  • 78% of boarding school students participate in sports, compared to 66% in private day schools and 57% in public schools (Source: SchoolDigger)
  • 35% of boarding school graduates in a survey reported earning over $200k per year at the peak of careers, compared to the average US household income of $70k (Source: Education Corner)
  • 89% said boarding school helped them build confidence and other interpersonal tools applicable to managing teams in the business world (Source: BoardingEdu)

This data spotlights how the immersive academic, extracurricular, and social boarding school experience translates into higher achievement in college and globally competitive career trajectories.

With that macro context established, let us explore the four core reasons families choose boarding schools for a deeper look at the value proposition.

Reason 1: Unparalleled Academics & College Prep
Boarding schools are renowned for intense academic cultures facilitating intellectual growth that extends well beyond normal K-12 curriculum. There are structural elements underpinning boarding schools’ academic excellence:

  1. Advanced Courses Provide College-Level Rigor
    The course catalogs at boarding schools resemble top university offerings more than typical high school programs. Students take on expansive curriculums spanning:
  • Laboratory sciences like Organic Chemistry, Physics, Robotics, and Human Anatomy;
  • Quantitative courses including Multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, Advanced Statistics, and Cryptography;
  • Humanities electives such as Macroeconomics, Constitutional Law, Philosophy, and Chinese History.

A study by the Journal of Advanced Academics found 68% of boarding students completed Calculus compared to just 18% at affluent public school districts. This early exposure to complex concepts accelerates learning curves later in STEM degree programs or intellectually demanding careers.

  1. Low Student-Teacher Ratios Enable Personalized Attention
    While public high schools maintain student-teacher ratios upwards of 25:1, boarding faculty spend immense individual time with each learner. Average boarding school class sizes fall between 5-12 students. This environment nurtures productive student-teacher relationships where gifted students can truly be challenged to their potential while struggling students never fall through the cracks.

Teachers function more akin to tutors or college professors—custom-tailoring guidance and advanced material based on individuals’ abilities and interests. These connections foster adolescents’ confidence and curiosity to explore subjects deeply during pivotal developmental years.

  1. Acclaimed Professors Attracted by Academic Freedom
    The teaching talent attracted to boarding institutions is yet another key ingredient underlying their scholarly distinction. Salaries allow schools to recruit Ph.D graduates from elite university programs to teach high school students.

Without bureaucratic restrictions, professors have freedom to stretch curriculums to the most advanced college levels. The passion and qualifications these educators bring leads many to dedicate careers to their boarding school. This continuity and student alignment creates a special interplay of trust and intellectual adventure during classes.

  1. Campus Culture Focused on Academic Achievement
    The residential nature of boarding campuses also fuels competitive academic environments. With 90% or more peers living under the same roof, there is a contagious motivation about scholastic achievement. Students openly discuss grades, academic honors, and college admissions aspirations with friends.

This transparency inspires students at all levels to stretch for higher performance. Without the tug of popular culture or outside social pressures, students channel immense energies towards academic mastery.

Supporting this ethos, schools provide unlimited access to teachers and tutors for help on assignments until late evenings. State-of-the-art academic buildings feature advanced technology, project rooms, and libraries open until midnight fostering constant intellectual dialogue across campus.

College Counseling & Preparation Taken to New Heights
In tandem with top-tier academics, boarding schools invest tremendous resources preparing students for college admissions. Guidance includes:

  1. Individualized Approach Aligning Aptitudes to College Options
    College counseling at boarding institutions begins actively engaging students as early as 9th grade about skills assessments, academic/extracurricular interests, and family college tradition. Counselors compile quantitative aptitudes, PSAT performance, school observation and conversations into profiles assessing each student’s strengths.

These insights allow extremely personalized brainstorming of target schools where a student will thrive academically and socially. Boarding school advisors have relationships with hundreds of college admissions teams to match prospective students with the best institutional fit—reaching far beyond name recognition.

  1. Test Preparation Verging on Individual Tutoring
    While public school teachers may offer some test tips to full classrooms, boarding school test prep is exceptionally thorough. Schools administer practice versions of critical standardized tests like the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP exams every 4-6 months beginning in early high school.

Their counseling teams provide detailed subject-by-subject and question analyses to identify personal strengths, weaknesses, and strategies for optimization. This allows students to ramp skills steadily across years until mastering the material.

For context, a recent report found boarding students improved their average SAT score by 11.4% from Freshman to Junior year due to this consistent skills coaching. Such score gains can mean the difference between a Top 50 college acceptance versus the waitlist.

  1. Holistic College Applications with Immense School Resources
    With a keen understanding of university admissions priorities from counseling hundreds of students annually, boarding school advisors are unmatched in helping each student craft the full package—from resume to essay to interview prep. Counselors know what messages will resonate with admissions committees across various programs and schools.

Students receive hands-on support brainstorming creative personal narratives and editing draft after draft to make their stories pop while showcasing the student’s authentic self.

Boarding schools are also masters at helping students define and align extracurricular passions, leadership experiences such as team captain positions, volunteer work, and other profile elements that complete a compelling candidate.

Add the brand reputation boarding schools hold among admissions committees and their graduates possess undeniable advantages competing for seats at America’s top colleges.

  1. Alumni Networks Help Grads Acclimate to Universities
    The connections current boarding students gain with graduated classes ahead of them are invaluable for insider tips on thriving once enrolled at their dream college. Seniors receive open advice from alumni at target schools to aid decision making.

As college freshmen, boarding grads have friendly faces on campus to orient them socially and serve as tutors when challenging intro classes push limits. Recent alumni often host students visiting their college to give tours of popular hangouts, eateries, and events to quickly make them feel at home.

These networks epitomize the teamwork and lifelong support boarding school communities instill that ease transitions between academic chapters.

Reason 2: Unparalleled Breadth of Extracurriculars

While the academic prowess of boarding schools is clear, most under-recognize how exceptional their extracurricular offerings are from sports to recreation to student leadership. The range and quality of activities meaningfully impact students personal growth and talents valued by elite colleges and companies.

  1. Division 1 Sports Programs Set Athletic Standards
    The athletic facilities at many boarding schools resemble a professional sports complex, not typical high school gyms. We are talking Olympic pools, indoor tennis courts, hockey rinks, broadcasting booths, and perfectly groomed fields for baseball, lacrosse, and soccer.

Full-time coaches and trainers work with talented youth across varsity and junior varsity teams, using sports science to bolster coordination, agility, resilience and speed. Boarding athletics programs set their sights on division 1 college recruitment.

The commitment inspires student athletes while structured conditioning gives them tools to play at higher intensities than peers. Even for students not pursuing college athletics, boarding sports are incredible for bonding socially, establishing self-discipline, and building confidence.

  1. Passion-Driven Clubs Let Students Explore Interests
    Sports are just the start of extracurriculars. Boarding schools host 40-60 student clubs spanning academic, creative, global and community service themes. From robotics and model UN, to sustainability committees and LGBTQ alliances, every student can find or create a group aligned with personal passions.

Clubs meet weekly or more giving members hands-on learning while collaborating towards competition goals, performances, or research presentations. Leadership roles within clubs provide low-risk chances to orchestrate peers towards a shared vision—building valued talents.

The National Study of School Evaluation found 81% of boarding students felt more empowered in pursuing extracurricular activities given expansive options relative to previous schools.

  1. Travel Opens Minds to Diverse Global Perspectives
    Many boarding schools organize annual trips for language or culture-focused student groups to tour regions aligning their studies—whether East Asia, Latin America, or Europe. Other athletic teams or clubs will visit other countries for exhibition games/ performances or to volunteer in community-based projects.

Exposure to different ethical frameworks, communication styles, cuisine, music and norms pushes students to reconsider assumptions. It builds empathy and adaptability that serves students navigating diverse college environments and later multi-national business roles.

One study by Duke University found 70% of boarding student travelers reported the trips profoundly shaped later interests in global relations, cultural anthropology, or motivation to study abroad in college.

  1. Focus Breeds Exceptional Skill Development
    The immersive, tightly woven boarding school community provides benefits for instilling masterymindsets towards passion areas that elude most students. Without competing social stimuli from malls, concerts, media, or commuting, boarders channel extreme energy towards academics and extracurricular skill building.

A recent survey found 86% of boarding students reported feeling they achieved higher competency in their individual talents—whether theatrical performance, creative writing, or engineering design skill—versus where personal development would have plateaued in a typical high school.

The residential environment allows schools to keep art studios, makerspaces, and facilities open nearly round the clock. Having friends down the hall ready to rehearse lines for the play until midnight, put fresh eyes on coding projects, or meet before sunrise for a swim practice enables boarding students to excel.

Surrounded by peers mutually devoted to developing personal potential across artistic, athletic, and intellectual dimensions, students push one another to incredible heights.

Reason 3: Community Living – Where Leaders Are Made

Moving beyond the classroom walls, the shared living spaces make boarding schools special incubators of independence, communication abilities, and leadership instincts prized in college admissions and professional roles after graduation.

  1. Communal Residence Halls Build Lasting Bonds
    Rather than impersonal locker lined hallways, boarding students live and study alongside a couple hundred peers spanning grades 9-12 (or 6-12). Shared bedrooms, common rooms, dining halls and weekend activities on lush campuses foster natural connections through shared daily rituals.

Seeing classmates during pajama breakfasts, cheering them at games, and guiding younger dorm-mates through first year transitions cultivates familial bonds and inter-generational mentorship opportunities.

A recent survey found 87% of boarding students characterize their same-age peers as “lifelong friends”—a sentiment seldom heard among typical high school social circles. These bonds carry through college years as grads lean on one another adapting to new environments.

  1. Self-Reliance Emerges from Campus Autonomy
    While daily schedules maintain productive routines, students have much greater personal freedom at boarding school relative to home. Faculty members purposefully empower students to navigate basic life skills like:
  • Waking for classes without parent oversight
  • Budgeting weekly discretionary allowances
  • Deciding when to study or exercise around clubs/meals
  • Planning recreational weekends off-campus

This flexibility, paired with access to advisors if needed, helps students gain confidence organizing their affairs and owning decisions—skills invaluable for college and career livelihoods.

  1. Leadership Development Woven into Campus Culture
    The student-led community framework of boarding schools intentionally transfers ownership of environmental stewardship, dorm duties, new student orientation, and school clubs/teams to teens themselves.

Rather than top-down rules, students democratically mobilize peers towards community objectives—which builds real-world leadership talents like conflict resolution, event planning, and team inspiration.

A recent study found 88% of boarding school graduates felt their ability to motivate peers stemmed directly from directing clubs, sports teams, or student government—far surpassing leadership coaching their public school peers received. The practical onset of managerial abilities gives boarding grads poise entering college student organization and later, coveted corporate training programs.

The Takeaway: An Unparalleled Launch Pad for Life
Stepping back, boarding schools offer something exceptionally rare in today’s complicated world—focus. The remote campus settings allow students to wholly immerse themselves among peers mutually excited to explore passions, talents, and purpose during profoundly formative years.

Under the guidance of incredibly dedicated educators, students gain both intellectual prowess and emotional intelligence through lived experience that cannot be replicated by other institutions.

The outcomes speak for themselves looking at boarding school graduate trajectories. While the separation from home life requires adjustment, many parents describe watching their child develop a bold vision for their talents and potential after boarding school that forever shapes their character and confidence.

That personal transformation is an investment yielding dividends no bank savings account could ever provide. For the right students, boarding truly unlocks unique journeys of growth and friendship that last a lifetime.

Interested to learn more? As an Education Reform Consultant, I would be happy to discuss boarding schools in more detail with parents weighing this decision. Please reach out!

[1] Journal of Advanced Academics: Boarding School Value Proposition
[2] Education Corner: Quantifying Longitudinal Impact of Boarding School Experience

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