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The 10 Types of Boarding Schools

The Association of Boarding Schools lists 221 independent, college-preparatory, not-for-profit boarding schools in the United States, Canada, and abroad. According to the advertising-based Boarding School Review website, there are 300 boarding schools. Whatever the exact number, there are ten types of boarding school, and not every one of these is right for everyone. These ten types of boarding schools groups differ in associations (The Boarding School Association, or part of other associations like the Small Boarding School Association), and some have larger percentages of boarders vs. day students. Like everything in an AllKindsofTherapy list, it is not intended to be neat and tidy but is intended to provide you an understanding of the scope of boarding schools you or your child needs/wants.

1. College preparatory school.

When you think of a college prep boarding school this is what Hollywood focuses on – the traditional co-ed boarding school. These may include traditional and predominantly day schools that also have a small number of boarding students. The school may or may not have a uniform. They will generally have AP classes, an IB program, require students to participate in sports or after-school activities, and the end goal is college. Depending on the school it may have a summer school for international students or SAT test prep or classes for all students. What can be vastly different in this group is the ratio of boarders to day students or day students to boarders. These boarding schools are generally non-profit in nature and are governed by a board of trustees.

2.  Junior boarding school.

Generally serving middle school-aged students with a boarding component for 7th-9th grade, some of these schools can have boarders who are even younger aged students. Junior boarding schools are unique because they hyper-focus on the middle school-aged students, with boys-only junior boarding schools or co-ed. Junior boarding schools focus on middle childhood aka “tween years” to develop organization skills and communication. They are safe communities that have sports, the arts, and education that is developmentally appropriate.

<A couple of the boarding schools listing their facts are Junior boarding schools.>

3.  Emotional Growth school.

This school model is out of date and luckily for children, this “therapeutic” model has been put out of business. If you hear a boarding school defining itself as an emotional growth school, walk away.

4.  Military school.

Most military schools consider themselves college prep and maybe co-ed or single-sex, have AP classes available, and can not guarantee admission into the service academies. Some are religiously affiliated and others are not. The number one myth about Military School is that it is for troubled teens. They are not. Yes, there is structure, consistency, Junior ROTC, rigorous academics, small classes, diverse student bodies – all of which can help students find and build structure and discipline into their own lives. However, if your child is having significant struggles at home with the structure and consistency, he/she will likely struggle at military school, and you are likely to be on the hook to pay the tuition for the entire year, even if your child is there for only the first few months.

5.  Sports Academies.

There are boarding programs all around the country that specialize in particular sport or sports. They are training elite athletes. If it is a ski or snowboarding school, the classes might be less rigorous in the winter in order to accommodate travel nationally or internationally. This is the same thing for tennis, golf, soccer, or whichever sport is the primary focus. These schools can be non-profit or for profit. The goal is not always academics, so if you have a child who is hyper-focused on a sport and academics has not been as much of a priority, it might be a fit. Morning, noon, and night the focus is on sports, training from all angles, and performance.

6.  Performing arts school or Fine Arts boarding schools.

These schools prepare young artists for careers or higher education in the arts. There are summer programs that assist with vetting out if this is a path a student wants to pursue. Like the Sports Academies, the key to understanding these types of schools is that they can be intense and competitive, and are often designed to weed out the students who are not ready for such a high level of focus or commitment.

7.  Religious boarding schools.

There are many different types of religious boarding schools, including Anglican, Baptist, Christian, non-denominational, Quaker, Catholic, Episcopalian – and while all boarding schools allow for all religions to be practiced, some schools do put a specific focus on a particular faith or style of worship. These schools are generally traditional schools, and the degree to which there is a religious overlay can vary widely between schools.

8.  Therapeutic Boarding schools.  

Are a type of residential treatment program with an integrated school component. The school generally holds a separate academic accreditation from the treatment program. Although not every state licenses therapeutic boarding schools, where they are licensed, they are also accredited. There are varying levels of structure and therapy based on the license in the state and the treatment model. The average length of stay varies based on the school and the level of freedom varies widely.  Many “therapeutic boarding schools” hold additional accreditation from Joint Commission, CARF, COA, or NIPSA even if the state does give licenses.  Many people believe that a “boarding school” is a therapeutic boarding school.  There are Boarding Schools that will accept students who have successfully completed a TBS.

9.  Single-sex school.

Gender-specific education, which may or may not also overlap with any of the above categories.

10.  Semester Long/Short-Term Boarding Schools.

There are just 9 semester-long boarding schools registered in the United States, and they operate courses in and outside the US. These schools often choose to focus on a particular age, e.g, 10th, 11th, or 12th graders, and they generally have a specific focus, e.g. experiential adventure programming, the arts, international travel, etc. Classes and grades are designed to transfer back to home schools and/or colleges, and this unique opportunity allows for students to live in varying types of boarding environments, learn, travel, create a community with an intimate group of students.

All of the 10 different boarding schools have varying levels of intensity within the specialty or focus. As a parent researching information, be sure to research how the boarding school is operated. Be sure that there is oversight to the school you are choosing, be that a Board of Directors, licensure (state), and/or accreditation. If it is a non-profit, then it may be a member of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) or The Boarding School Association (TABS), a regional association, and the state may require a license, as well. If it is a for-profit boarding school, as a therapeutic boarding school, and if the state issues licenses, confirm the licensing agency has no significant complaints and then see if they have national accreditation like CARF, Joint Commission, or COA does not mean it is perfect, what it does mean is that there is more than state oversight.  Always review the oversight to the school you are choosing.

About the Author

Jenney Wilder M.S.Ed launched All Kinds of Therapy in 2015, as the only independent online directory for the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry. With an impressive case of ADHD and her starter career in the ’90s in Silicon Valley, the dream for creating a website with features like side-by-side comparison and an integrated newsletter was born. Jenney stopped counting treatment centers and all types of schools that she has visited when she hit 500 many years ago. She was the sponsoring author of the only Economic Impact Study of the Family Choice Behavioral Healthcare Industry, which revealed the only true financial figures about this industry (in Utah). Jenney has a Masters in Special Education from Bank Street College (NY) and a Bachelors of Arts focused on History from Wheaton College (MA).

<This website contains facts about treatment to transition programs, boarding schools, & professionals/Experts as advertisers.  As a consumer of web content, verify.>