Boarding and Day · Co-ed College Prep · Grades 6–12 & Postgraduate · Hebron, Maine

10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Boarding School

10 Questions to Ask When Considering a Boarding School
Julie Middleton

This is your child, your child’s education, your child’s’s what we think about as parents all the time and when it’s clear that boarding school is the right option for growth and success, how do you sort it all out? There are hundreds of options to choose from: large and small, near and far, traditional or niche. Which one is right for your unique child? 

While all college preparatory boarding schools provide a curriculum for college readiness and placement, it’s also recognizing the makeup of your child, how they connect, and where they are happiest that will help set the table for what to look for in a boarding school. 

While the below areas may overlap and are certainly connected, they present a range of areas to consider when narrowing down the field for your child’s best fit.  

  1. Learning profile. Does your child have a learning profile indicating they would benefit from specific academic coaching or extra support? Executive Function needs, processing, access to extra or untimed testing, social/emotional guidance. If you know these factors to be important components for your child’s successful learning, seeking a school with Learning Support and/or Social/Emotional guidance could be the first guidepost in directing you in your school search. 

  2. The right setting. In what environment is your child happiest? Are open space and fresh air important? Is geography something that matters to them, to your family? Is “familiar” better (staying within a certain few hours)?  Or, is freshness the key- a place where they can branch out on their own? 

  3. Culture. What type of cultural space is important for your child to feel “at home away from home” and comfortable? What is the best cultural fit for focused learning and personal growth for your child?  Does your child feel most at ease in a uniform, not worrying about what to wear?  Is gender-specific education or a religious base a priority?  Is it important for your student to have a personal expression in how they dress? Is the tradition of military or an arts-based education in your child’s best interest? 

  4. Structure. Does your child thrive with a predictable routine with most time managed for them, or are they ready to manage limited free time? What level of supervision do they need to be productive? Are they a student who will ask for help when they need it? Or, is integrated support best? Most schools have study halls-- but how they present can vary greatly, from supervised to independent to in-class to in-dorm.

  5. Activities. Does your child have one or more activities that they are passionate about, that are a “must-have” item for their happiness and trajectory? Music lessons, a specific sport or art, an academic area? This can sometimes be a guiding factor. Similarly, what is the activity level of the school for free-time, entertainment, and relaxation? Does your child need directed activity or is free time and freedom to choose more in line with how they interact best?

  6. Academic rigor and style. Does your student thrive in an environment of honors, IB or AP? Do they rise to the challenge in a competitive classroom? Are they more inclined to glean from collaboration, hands-on, or discussion-based lessons? Sometimes looking at the college placement list can provide insight into what types of students are likely to be the peer group. There are schools that lean one way or the other or have a combination of both. 

  7. Size of school- Ages and grades at the school? Average class size and faculty-student ratio can vary greatly. The size of the community can be important for making connections and for a sense of belonging. 

  8. Diversity and Inclusion. There are schools with high percentage boarding populations or schools with large day populations. There are schools with 5-day boarding programs and schools with rich weekend life. Where do the students come from? Are they all coming with the same background...and is that the same as your children or are they all coming from diverse backgrounds that are inclusive for your child? 

  9. Safety. What is the climate of safety at the school...for both health issues (like Covid protocols) and for overall city/town access. What are the school’s policies around technology, cars on campus, visitors?

  10. Values. Each school has a mission statement. Each school practices and embraces certain values and qualities that embody the type of experience provided at that school. Following a school’s social media channels and having a chance to speak with Administrators, faculty and current parents can highlight the values celebrated at a school. 

There is a great range of schools out there, and one that will be a perfect fit for your child. Starting with some of the above questions as a family will help you determine what items to seek in your child’s next setting.  As well, admissions offices want to enroll the students who will be happy, thrive, and succeed at their schools. Having candid conversations about your child’s needs and interests is welcomed and appreciated! 


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