Every parent who sends a child to boarding school knows that some people will shake their heads and mumble “Poor kid!” But it’s time to ignore the outdated urban legends about boarding school and recognize that most contemporary boarders value the experience.
The myth of a “monastic life of formal dinners, daily chapel and cold showers” was debunked long ago (Link). Although many (but not all) boarding schools preserve some formality by requiring uniforms, today’s boarding schools devise their rules and routines with the goal of motivating students rather than punishing them. Research shows that the positive results are eye-opening (Link):
- 91% of boarders say their schools are academically challenging, compared to 70% of private day and 50% of public school students.
- 75% of boarders say their schools provide a supportive environment, compared to 70% of private day students and 50% of public school students.
- By mid-career, 44% of former boarders work in top management, compared to 33% of private day and 27% of public school graduates (and by late career, boarders have widened their advantage).
This doesn’t mean that boarding school is right for every child. A look behind the numbers suggests that boarding school provides, on balance, a more intense experience than other types of schools do. The numbers imply that faculty and staff are generally more attentive in boarding schools, so they can feel too much “in your face” to some students.
And let’s admit that some young people are better prepared than others to recover from (or simply accept) homesickness.
It’s a call that each family has to make on the basis of its knowledge of itself. But if a highly attentive faculty and staff and some geographic distance from family seem like good things, the rewards of boarding school might make it worth the plunge.