Boarding School • Boarding School Application Guide

An Overview of Boarding Schools in the US and Canada

POSTED ON 05/16/2019 BY The Red Pen

An Overview of Boarding Schools in the US and Canada | The Red Pen

Recently, many parents and students have started considering boarding schools in the US and Canada as they provide a stepping stone for further education in these countries. Each school offers its own unique experience, which can play a crucial role in your child’s long-term goals.

Here is a quick glimpse of boarding schools in the US and Canada:

1) Types of boarding schools:

The sheer number of boarding schools spread across the US and Canada makes it difficult to choose what type of school you should consider. Each focuses on different aspects of education. Knowing the answers to questions such as ‘What is this boarding school offering for my child?’ ‘What is the best fit for my child?’ and ‘What school aligns with my child’s goals?’ can help you narrow down your search.

Mainstream preparatory schools such as Phillips Exeter Academy and St. Paul’s School in the US and Ridley College in Canada serve as a bridge to competitive universities in these countries. They focus on character-building and leadership opportunities while developing a holistic profile. Military schools such as Admiral Farragut Academy in the US and Robert Land Academy in Canada offer an education with a military influence, while therapeutic schools, such as Grand River Academy in the US, support students with learning differences and offer non-conventional education.

Each of these schools differs in size, resources and opportunities, so ensure that you spend some time researching the school and what it offers.

2) Academics:

There are many reasons to consider a boarding school in the US or Canada, the primary one is the high quality of education. Most schools in the US and Canada offer college prep curricula, often including AP courses or the IB Diploma Programme. These courses are designed to meet the needs of a modern classroom. One of the most unique teaching methods in US boarding schools is the Harkness Table where students lead discussions on various topics in a round table setting rather than a typical classroom lecture. This is beneficial as it encourages students to be more confident, develops an open-minded and self-driven approach to learning and also enables a smooth transition to the college environment.

3) Entry requirements:

Boarding schools in the US and Canada have demanding requirements that vary from school to school. Most schools will require your child to submit SSAT scores as a prerequisite, along with grades from the last two years. The SSAT is a standardised test that measures basic verbal, maths and reading skills and is ranked in percentiles. These results are used to assess the academic ability of all students seeking to enrol. In addition, some schools may also ask international students to take an in-house English proficiency test or submit TOEFL/IELTS scores. While achieving high grades and scores are important, admissions officers usually admit students based on their entire application, including extracurricular activities.

4) Application process:

Starting your child’s application process well in advance is crucial. The academic year at most schools commences in August and application deadlines are usually at least six months prior. Each school in the US and Canada has its own, school-specific admission process, application forms and timelines. However, there are some that are a part of a centralised application portal such as The Gateway to Prep School and Standard Application Online. Common requirements, which you can compile ahead of time, include scanned copies of your child’s school transcripts and report cards. Apart from this, having a resume ready can help you to keep a better track of extracurricular involvement so that you can easily showcase what your child can contribute to a new academic environment beyond the classroom. In addition to this, a few schools may require an essay, which is a simple statement of purpose talking about a student’s academic journey so far and their plans for the future. In addition to a student essay, some schools ask for a parent essay as well. After submitting your child’s application forms, some may ask for additional testing. Following these tests, the school will extend an interview invitation, which can be conducted at the campus or via video conferencing. Post this, the school will make an offer of admission, which may depend on the completion of certain academic conditions.

5) Fees and financial aid:

When considering sending your child to boarding school, the cost can become a deciding factor. A typical boarding school education would range from 45,000 to 60,000 USD. However, it is important to acknowledge that sometimes, depending on the size and location of the school, the fees may be above the typical range. Fortunately, more and more schools in the US and Canada have begun reshaping their financial policies to allow academically-strong students to attend, irrespective of their financial situation. Aid generally goes to students who demonstrate financial need, usually families that earn less than 150,000 USD a year. A small number of schools are 100 percent need-blind and will not reject a student because of their inability to pay. For example, schools such as Phillips Academy (Andover) in the US have large financial endowments which allow them to offer scholarships to deserving students. More schools are exploring their ability to offer such scholarships to add to the diversity of their school ecosystem while maintaining a high academic standard.

Navigating the range of boarding schools available can be daunting. A great way to decide which one is right for your child is to visit the campus to learn about each school’s unique offerings, location and suitability for your child’s interests and aptitude. It is also important to familiarise yourself with the typical entry year of a particular country’s education system so that you do not miss the application deadlines. For more information, get in touch with us.