Introduction to American Boarding Schools
A boarding school is most simply defined as a school where pupils reside during the semester. Students are provided with food and lodging alongside their education, but a boarding school has much more than that to offer to students and their families. Traditionally, boarding schools provide an education based on small class sizes, high standards of academic excellence, and cultural diversity.
Some schools also present a unique environment that can be tailored to a specific focus. For instance, students at the Interlochen Arts Academy High School, located in Michigan, receive an education focused on fine arts, where math, science, history and literature are taught to complement the students' creativity. There are also schools that focus on therapeutic living or a military based experience.
Benefits of Residential Education
There are numerous benefits available for all students who attend a boarding school, regardless of whether or not the school offers a specific focus. Smaller class sizes allow for teachers to have more individual interaction with students, which ensures each student is being challenged in ways that help them grow academically. As teachers and staff reside alongside students, they are given the opportunity to learn outside the classroom during teachable moments as they naturally occur.
This allows students a chance for more comprehensive development based on the concrete and realistic application of what is taught in that moment. Participation in extracurricular activities is another commonality boarding schools share. In fact, students who attend a boarding school participate in more sports, arts, and other extra- curricular activities than those enrolled in standard public schools.
The safe and secure environment provided to students of boarding schools allows them a measure of controlled freedom that results in the formation of self-reliance. This development is unique to the boarding school experience, and as students manage peer relationships, academic requirements, and personal responsibilities, they are preparing themselves for a smooth transition into adulthood. Eighty percent of students who attended boarding school reported feeling well prepared for both the academic and non-academic aspects of college life.
Rooted in American History
Though boarding schools seem to be the exception rather than the rule in America's current educational culture, they actually appeared in the history of academia about a hundred years before the public school movement. In 1763, the first academy formed, successfully blending elements of earlier academic standards established by Latin and English Grammar Schools.
The rural society of eighteenth century America, coupled with the scarcity of these academies, led to students boarding with teachers or local townspeople. The natural emergence of surrogate parenting grew into a standard of the educational model used by boarding schools today. The urbanization of American cities led to the creation of more boarding schools, and they can be found near many of the major metropolitan areas in North America.
Boarding School Tuition Costs
Costs can vary based on the school's region, the programs being offered, and the number of faculty and staff required for supporting the student body. Parents can generally expect to see boarding school yearly tuition fees to fall anywhere in the range of $10,000 to upwards of $35,000, though scholarships and financial aid grants are usually available for those who qualify. Some boarding schools even offer free tuition for all their students provided they meet the income requirements set forth by the school.
St. Paul's School and Phillips Exeter Academy, both located in New Hampshire, offer free tuition to students from families with an income of less than $80,000 or $75,000, respectively. It is important to keep in mind that lower tuition rates may not offer the most financial benefit as some schools don't include the room and board or other fees in their tuition costs. Be sure to investigate all costs associated with attending each boarding school considered, and compare them accordingly.
Final Thoughts for Families
Many parents and students agree that the overall benefits of boarding school far outweigh the costs associated with attending. They have fun, are immersed in a culturally diverse environment, and maintain close and loving relationships with their families while forming new and valuable bonds with mentors and peers. With the opportunity for academic excellence, enriched character development, increased self-discipline, and encouraged critical and independent thought, it's easy to see why over 30,000 students are happy to leave home to attend boarding school each year.