Most parents agonize over ensuring their kids get the best education possible. They move into school districts with the best institutions, save up thousands for private schools and college tuition and they don’t hesitate to hire tutors, use extracurricular resources and otherwise give their children the best opportunities to learn and grow.

Yet, few parents ever consider enrolling their kids in boarding school. 

Boarding school feels like the product of another time, but boarding schools did not die out with the Victorians. In fact, there are plenty of boarding schools that are thriving in the United States and abroad. Yet, before you pack your kid’s bags and send them off until summer, you should learn a bit more about what boarding schools are like in this day and age.

What Is the Modern Boarding School Experience?

The beauty of boarding school is that no two are exactly alike. Because boarding schools offer a relatively niche education experience, most schools seek to differentiate themselves with unique practices or emphases. For example, sports boarding schools focus on athletics, training students for semi-professional or professional careers in baseball, football, golf and the like; meanwhile, there are boarding schools that focus on performing arts, military training, religion or foreign cultures. Some schools offer students unique learning environments, like single-sex classrooms or additional resources for various learning disabilities. There is such variety in boarding schools that you and your child should sift through your options to find the unique experience that fits both of your needs and wants.

That said, most boarding schools abide by certain rules to maintain order and ensure an educational and beneficial environment. For instance, unlike public and private schools, most boarding schools have students live on campus in dorms, which they might share with fellow classmates. Though some boarding schools allow weekend visits home or off-campus, most require parental permission for these trips; almost the entire year is spent on campus, studying or training. Typically, boarding schools have strict rules regarding social conduct, especially nightly curfews, to prevent underage drinking, drug use and other dangerous activities.

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Why Do Parents and Kids Choose Boarding School?

Boarding school remains an option because some parents and kids seek the unique benefits offered only by these institutions. Such benefits include:

Specialized learning. Public and private schools might be known for high-quality programs in sports or the arts, but boarding schools tend to specialize in a certain field. Boarding schools tend to have the budget for the best possible teachers and trainers in specific subjects, so they can promise the best education in their discrete field.

Smaller class sizes. The average class size for public high schools across the country is about 27, and for private schools, the class size hovers around 19. In most boarding schools, students can enjoy average class sizes between eight and 10 students, which means they don’t have to jockey as much for one-on-one instruction from the teacher or coach.

Greater independence. Being away from their parents allows boarding school kids to become more independent, increasing their confidence from a young age. They learn how to feed themselves, manage their time and perform chores like laundry, giving them a head start for college and adult years beyond.

Greater sense of community. Boarding school kids don’t have as much access to other groups of students because they aren’t permitted to leave campus as frequently to interact with other kids their age. Typically, that gives students in boarding schools a stronger sense of community with one another, which can provide them with a strong social and professional network as they age.

How Much Does Boarding School Cost?

Because boarding schools tend to offer more amenities than the average public school, they do charge tuition and fees. However, the annual cost of boarding school will depend on the exact school, so you should make a shortlist of boarding school options and investigate costs yourself. Typically, a complete boarding school education costs between $35,000 and $60,000, which could include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and board
  • Special programs
  • Supplementary items and services, like books, uniforms and laundry
  • Special trips and events

Many institutions offer scholarships to high-performing students whose families might lack sufficient wealth. Additionally, it isn’t uncommon for boarding schools to offer financing options.

Boarding school isn’t necessarily the best option for your child, but it might be worthwhile to consider if during your school search. Talk with your kid about the pros and cons of boarding school, maybe even visit some campuses for tours, before you make your final decision about your child’s academic future.