The first year of boarding school is a mind-blowing event for students. Students arrive at boarding school with many preconceived notions and misunderstandings of what the year holds in store. Interviews with students reveal these seven surprises and answer the age-old question: what is boarding school like?
1. Teachers become your friends.
When you live and work with your teachers you build a different type of relationship with them. John, a 10th grader from Connecticut attending Oliverian School said, “It’s normal to have movie nights at your teacher’s home or go hiking on the weekend with your instructor and his dogs.” You learn about your teacher’s hobbies and they learn about you. Don’t be surprised if a teacher takes extra time to help you with a difficult assignment or extra credit or if they celebrate your birthday with you. Many teachers at boarding schools have several roles: coach, teacher and dorm parent - a staff involvement structure known as the triple threat. Teachers who choose to work at a boarding school are a different type of worker. They are there to be a part of a community, not just get a paycheck.
2. Dorm mates become your family.
Late-night popcorn and early morning caffeine builds relationships between you and your dorm mates. Dorm mates become the people you rely on to help you in difficult times and celebrate your successes. Formal activities are planned to help you build friendships, but the real relationships are built during the informal, quiet times when you really get to know each other. Additionally, dorm staff are trained in mediating concerns, and you learn how to manage conflicts with peers just like you do with your own siblings.
3. Small classes are totally built for your needs.
Boarding school classes are designed to be small in order to address each student's individual learning needs and interests. Universal design allows for all students to learn at their own speed, and develop the best strategies for learning for every member in the classroom. Sarah, a student at a boarding school in California shares, “Teachers really care about your success. Classes and assignments are individualized to suit my needs. My final project this year was on K-Pop, because that’s what I chose to study.” Group work is also encouraged in your small classes, and you actually get to do fun activities with your classmates.
4. After school time is your time.
At traditional schools, a student’s time is filled with classes, extracurriculars, work, and family responsibilities. At boarding school, you make your own schedule and manage your own time. Gone are the days of starting your homework at 9:00 pm after a long day of activities. Living on campus allows you to take your free time to manage your schedule as you see fit. With all your free time you’ll find that work gets done easier and faster and you have more time for yourself.
5. Independence is great.
The thought of having to do your own laundry or buy your own food might seem daunting, but you will find that there are countless things that you are capable of. It is liberating to finally be in a place where you can make your own decisions without your parents leading the way. Elijah, a student from Massachusetts, shared about his Vermont boarding school, “The first time I did my laundry, I didn’t know that I had to measure the detergent. There were bubbles all over the laundry room, and it took us a day to clean it up. Now we laugh about it, and I’m a laundry expert.” Everyday problem solving helps develop resiliency and maturity. You’ll be surprised how much you grow during your first year at boarding school.
6. Homesickness is fleeting.
“The first few days of boarding school can be very lonely and scary, and you may miss your home. But, one day you’re sitting in the common area with your classmates, and all of the sudden you just feel like you are home” says Sadie from Maryland. Everything is new and scary, and not having the comforts of home can feel very foreign. But, soon enough boarding school begins to feel like home and you don’t miss things as much any longer.
7. By the end of the year you can’t wait to return.
Your first year of boarding school can be the best year of your life. It’s full of new friends, adventures and experiences. Before long you can’t imagine being anywhere else and you can’t wait to come back.
The idea of leaving family and friends can be a big concern for many students considering boarding school. But, it is important to remember that the cadence of life at a boarding school quickly takes over, with busy days and nights. Boarding schools want their students involved in all facets of the community because the campus has it all, and it is all included. Students who attend schools at home take hours shuffling between activities and then back home for dinner - while boarding school students simply walk across campus! The opportunity to attend a boarding school is the opportunity to be in an all-inclusive and holistic environment which includes academics, athletics, arts, extracurriculars - and a great social environment. Before dismissing the idea of boarding school, consider all of the advantages it has to offer.
About the Author
Julie Gaffey, Marketing and Admissions Coordinator/Registrar joined the Oliverian School team in 2007. With a background in corporate marketing and direct care with struggling teens, she was able to combine her marketing skills with her passion for working with young people at Oliverian. Julie loves that her family is able to open their lives to the Oliverian students and share their family. Julie shares, “I remember clearly how it was to be an anxious, depressed, and unsure of the future teenager. Now that I have found peace and fulfillment in life, I love to share with our students what brought me to this successful point in my life.”