When to Apply to Boarding School: A Timeline

When it comes to the boarding school application process, it’s best to start thinking about applying at least a year in advance. At The Winchendon School, in order to meet financial aid eligibility you must apply by January 31st - and you will need several months leading up to that time to meet with admissions and to gather and submit your application materials. Making such a major decision involves time, planning, and even travel as you visit different campuses. Below is a rough timeline to follow as you plan for your college career during Junior and Senior year of high school:

Planning to Apply: 12 Month Timeline
January/February, Year 1

Think about who you are and what you are looking for. What are your interests and goals? What types of clubs, athletic programs, and academic subjects are you interested in? Keep a journal detailing your interests and dreams for the future.

It’s also a good time to think about how you see yourself growing as person over the next few years, and what might help you along the way. Do you thrive in urban environments, or small towns? Big classes or one-on-one discussions in an intimate setting? Make a list of what you are looking for—this will help narrow your search.


Create a list of 10-20 schools that fit your criteria. It is important to consider location, as this will be your new home away from home for the next few years. Always keep in mind your GPA. Your final boarding school list should have a good mix of schools that are competitive, schools that you have a moderate chance of gaining acceptance to, and also schools that you feel confident you would be accepted into. You may find this blog post about how to improve your GPA for boarding school useful.


Visit the websites of each school and request information. It’s never too soon to build a relationship with your admission counselor; visit the admission page of a boarding school and email an admission officer to get the relationship going. You can even schedule a tour of the facilities over spring break or during the summer months. Make sure to download our campus visit checklist to help you prepare. While it’s preferable to visit campus while school is still in session so you can catch a glimpse of boarding school life in action, you can still get a feel for the campus even over the summer—student tour guides will typically be able to answer some of your questions about student life.


Continue to learn about each school and begin to narrow your list down to about 7-10 boarding schools that fit you best. Keep in mind that it typically costs a fee of $50 to apply to each boarding school - be sure to discuss this aspect of your application process with your parents so you are on the same page. If financing your applications is a problem, talk to your guidance counselor. It is possible to qualify for application fee waivers if you and your family meet the criteria.

Many schools require an admission essay, SSAT testing and an in-person or skype interview to complete your application; find out what each school on your lists expects from you and begin to draft your essay or gather materials.

Consider which teachers will provide you with a letter of recommendation, as well as any other supplemental essays or writing samples you may need to submit. Make a checklist; each school has different criteria and deadlines for submission.


This is the time to complete your interview, hand in your essays and application, and submit your materials! Be sure to stay in touch with your admission counselor to ensure you are on time and have all the necessary requirements checked off by the application deadline. Spreadsheets are invaluable, especially if you are applying to several schools.

January- June, Year 2:

Remember to keep your GPA and extracurricular activities strong even after the completion of your applications. Boarding schools do check up on your continued progress even after your submission and acceptance!

Remember: Don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way! Your guidance and admission counselors are there just for you. Take advantage of your resources!

Download the checklist!