Sometimes it is difficult to decide between appealing local schools and best boarding schools. Both may offer great academics, state of the art facilities, a capable student cohort and qualified teachers. To help you make a high quality decision, examine your public and boarding school options against these criteria. Then you may have a clearer picture of best way forward. Remember, however, nothing can replace a school visit and conversation with key school staff to help you decide where you really belong. Make sure to evaluate these important criteria:
1. Attention to students – boarding schools generally have small class sizes that help teachers engage every student in the classroom. Classroom settings are often specifically designed to encourage student participation and interaction among everyone in class. Faculty are routinely available to students outside of class time including informal opportunities for conversation over lunch or at sporting events.
2. Quality of faculty – the majority of boarding school faculty have advanced degrees in either education or another specialty. Faculty may also have expertise in several areas, beyond their particular academic specialty. For example, a biology teacher may also play the viola or code or speak Portuguese. She would likely deploy all these talents in some form or fashion, enriching the overall student learner community.
3. Quality of resources – student resources at top boarding schools – such as the library, theater facilities, or athletic complexes – can often be superior relative to local options. Make sure that the facilities that you are seeking, in particular, meet standard. For example, you may not care as much about playing fields as you do about art studio.
4. Challenging academics – academics at boarding schools operate at high standards. Students are pushed to “ask why,” become inquisitive, and tackle challenging problems.
5. Broad and diverse offerings – course selections at boarding schools tend to be quite diverse, have plenty of AP options, and offer a wide range of topics. Athletic and extracurricular options tend to be broad as well, which encourages students to try new things. Best boarding schools also offer opportunities to study in different countries for a term.
6. College counseling – college counseling departments at top boarding schools are generally well-staffed and the college application process is taken quite seriously. Counselors often have plenty of experience in helping applicants identify appropriate schools and advising them on best approach to competitive institutions. Ask how many advisees each college counselor has. Are students assigned a college advisor in addition to their academic advisor?
Remember, when you have finished your evaluation and comparison, use your results as a helpful guide. This is but one data point. Ultimately, deciding between local school and boarding school means selecting the setting where you would best be set up for success academically and personally.
Sara R. Schmidt
Global Field Supervisor