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8 tips to choose a good boarding school

By Namita Mehta
October 04, 2019 10:01 IST
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It is important to understand the resources that each boarding school offers.

Doon School

Image published for representational purposes only. Photograph: Kind courtesy Doon School

Once parents have decided that boarding school is the right step for their family, the next step is to find the 'right-fit one' to ensure that their child thrives in the new environment.

In the UK alone, where the concept of boarding schools was born, there are over 500 boarding schools.

Here are some factors that parents should consider when choosing a boarding school for their child:

1. Natural entry points

Similar to day schools, boarding schools don’t allow students to enter at every grade level.

Boarding schools in India and globally have different entry points -- the year where students can gain admission in boarding schools.

In the UK, many boarding schools have natural entry points at ages 11 (grade 6), 13 (grade 8) and 16 (grade 11).

Boarding schools in India and Switzerland also have entry points at grade 6, grade 9 and grade 11.

US boarding schools tend to enrol students in grade 9, before high school (grades 9 to 12) as what students study in these four years are important for higher education.

2. Curriculum and subject choices

This is a key differentiating factor among boarding schools.

As most students attend boarding schools after age 11, they are used to studying in a particular curriculum. Therefore, understanding the boarding school’s curriculum is a major factor in deciding the right school.

In addition to the curriculum, it is important to look at the subject offered at the school as not all schools offer all subjects.

A student that we worked with last year wanted to study design and technology in the IB. Very few schools in the UK offer this subject.

Understanding this will further help you finalise your choice of university.

3. Distance to home and family

Sending children away can be unnerving in its own right.

Many parents prefer to send their children to boarding schools where they have close family or friends nearby or they can reach quickly in case of an emergency if needed.

4. Cost

Boarding schools are an expensive affair!

Some boarding schools in Switzerland, such as Institut Le Rosey can cost as much as USD 1,24,000 per year, while in the UK, the average fee is about half this amount -- approximately USD 41,000 per year.

Indian boarding schools that offer the local curriculum, such as The Doon School are priced at USD 14,000 per year, while Indian boarding schools that offer international curriculum, such as Woodstock School, charge almost twice as much; about USD 24,000 per year.

It may be pertinent to keep the cost in mind and find one that meets your requirement and budget.

5. University admissions

Many parents look at boarding school as a means to access better university admissions for their children.

Top, competitive boarding schools have a history of sending their students to highly ranked global universities globally. For example, Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts sends approximately 33% of its students to Ivy League colleges.

Westminster School, London, one of the schools with the most Oxbridge (University of Oxford and University of Cambridge) admissions, sees about 40% of students going to either of these two schools. Aiglon in Switzerland helps its students gain admission to competitive colleges in the US, Canada, the UK and even Australia and Singapore.

6. Discipline and pastoral care

Boarding schools serve as the child’s home away from home and are therefore responsible for the child’s overall well-being.

To ensure discipline and focus, a structured work day is enforced.

Time for extracurricular activities is also allocated.

Apart from this, dorm parents are also responsible for taking care of the child’s day-to-day needs, such as the dietary requirements, mental and physical health.

Understanding the school’s policies will make the parents more secure about sending their children to that boarding school.

7. Strength of the faculty

Considering the school’s student-teacher ratio, as well as the background of the key faculty is a strong indication of the school’s ability to positively influence your child's academic and emotional growth.

8. Extracurricular offerings

It is important to understand the resources that each boarding school offers. For students who play competitive sports, the boarding school should have a qualified coach as well as a programme for the student to develop that particular skill.

Remember, there is no such thing as the best boarding school. There is, however, the best-fit boarding school for the child and family.

In addition to considering the points above, visiting the campus and connecting with alumni and faculty, will help parents make the right decision.

Namita Mehta, president, The Red Pen holds a masters degree in molecular and cellular biochemistry from Oxford University and is an alumni of Charterhouse Boarding School UK. At The Red Pen, she specialises in training applicants for Oxford and Cambridge interview processes.

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