How NOT to Choose a Boarding School

You’ve put in the time, completed your applications, embarked on tours and prepped for boarding school interview questions - congratulations! As spring approaches and acceptances start to roll in, you’ll likely be bombarded with advice about how to choose the best boarding school. Something you might not have heard? How NOT to choose a boarding school. Here’s the low-down.

Don’t Let Location Be A Deal-Breaker.

Perhaps you are nervous to leave the big city for a smaller town, or feel another state (or several) is too far away from home. It is understandable to feel anxiety about moving, but don’t let a fear of initial homesickness dictate your best and brightest opportunities. Location is important to consider both logistically and financially, but your real stock should be placed in the school community as a whole. Whether you end up in a New York City or a private school outside Boston, odds are you will be totally engrossed with your friends, busy new schedule, athletics and academic work. This is why your focus should be placed not on the outside world, but the quality of your new environment. Boarding school life often becomes a city unto itself. There are multiple chances to get off campus, explore nearby cities on class trips, and even international programs! Instead of worrying about surrounding corn fields or noisy city streets, focus instead on the size of the campus itself. Some students thrive among a larger student body and lecture style classes, while others do their best in smaller, more intimate discussion based classes and communities.

Don’t Follow a Significant Other or Best Friend.

Changing schools is a big decision. Deciding which boarding school to spend the next several years of your life will have a tremendous impact on your future - and should be a truly individual choice - for the right reasons. Factoring in a current romance or inseparable best friend could end up being, at best, a huge compromise on your college aspects; at worst, a relationship disaster. People grow and change - particularly in a new environment - so putting a lot of stock in one relationship in a new school is a very big gamble. It is important to make a pragmatic decision based on your own personal and academic goals, not your proximity to loved ones. (The bright side? The Winchendon School follows a college academic calendar, so you’ll get you reunite with that best friend during one of the many breaks or long weekends!

Don’t Choose A Boarding School Based on Career Aspirations.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? It actually makes sense. High school is a time to expand upon your interests - and also to expose yourself to new subjects altogether. You may be a natural mathematician, but wait until you attend a philosophy class at The Winchendon School. Your college counselor will ultimately help you develop a college list of schools that will enhance your career prospects and natural strengths - but for now, it’s up to you to choose a boarding school that will meet your academic abilities with challenge and finesse, as well as expose you to a well rounded curriculum. Focus on the unique opportunities of each boarding school, the academic support provided, class size, lecture style, and the diversity of class selection the school can offer rather than zero in on one particular department or athletic program. Bottom line: Don’t box yourself into a corner; think generally about your intellectual passions and seek out a school that will best help you grow all around.

Don’t Rule Out a School Based on Sticker Price.

While it is critical to consider the projected cost of room, board and tuition (as well as any yearly travel costs) when finalizing your boarding school and acceptances, don’t write off a particular school based on the fees alone. Meeting certain application deadlines ensures that you are considered for financial aid, so be sure to talk with your admission counselor to determine these important deadlines. Regardless of where you apply, you need to be emotionally prepared not only for rejection letters - but also for that acceptance with a lack of financial aid offered. This is why you should be sure to create a boarding school list that includes a healthy range of possibilities that factor in diverse financial tiers, just in case your aid packages differ greatly. While the boarding schools with higher price tags shouldn’t scare you off from applying (you might actually get that great scholarship or large financial aid award in the end) you certainly need to be prepared should your dream school not pan out for the family budget. If you are not awarded the aid you need to attend, talk to your admission counselor about what types of student loans you qualify for and what they would look like as you pay per semester, which may not end up being as scary as the shock of the initial sticker price.

Don’t (Totally) Ignore Your Parents.

This may be difficult to follow, but realistically, your parents are funding your education. You certainly need to be mindful of how much your college education is going to cost you, but you also have to feel comfortable and inspired for the next few years for any boarding school to be a worthy investment. If you are having difficulty seeing eye to eye about what schools you would like to attend, seek outside mediation: schedule a meeting to chat with your current guidance counselor or a trusted family friend, and include your parents in on the conversation. Make a list together of pros and cons of each school, and what you can do to make a school work for you and your family once accepted. Be respectful of your parents’ reasoning, but be vocal in expressing your own goals and needs - even if a compromise needs be made when it comes down to cost or location. This is an important decision abour your future – and ultimately, a decision that you should to take reasonable charge of. If you have any concerns, talk further with your admission counselor to see if there are any solutions, whether financially or academically.

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