Applying to boarding school can be a tricky thing, but as a former admission officer, I’m here to offer advice to prospective students. In my previous blog, I talked about some initial questions to ask yourself about why you’re applying to boarding school, and what you personally need from your experience. Now, I'll help you take the criteria outline you created last time and prioritize those elements in order to begin your search.
Start a spreadsheet. This first step will help you create a working list of schools, and their potential match value. Set this up so that you can list your schools down the first column, and place headers in the first row of programs you value most in your search. You may want to implement a rating system of 1-5, allowing you to rate the schools in your spreadsheet in order to determine the strengths of their academic programs, location, sports teams, arts offerings, and other criteria from your priority list. Hopefully, this sheet, along with the following tips, will help you narrow down your list of schools to a manageable number. Check out my sample spreadsheet.
Prioritize your needs. By now, you have already outlined what you want and need out of your boarding school experience. Let’s take the next step by prioritizing that list. Everyone will have different preferences, but think about what is most important to you and rearrange your list accordingly. Some things to consider as you prioritize might include:
- Location: Do you need to be close to home? Is there a particular state or region you want to live in during your boarding school years?
- Academics: Do you struggle academically and need academic support programs to aid your classroom success? Are you looking for an IB program or AP classes? Do you want a specialized academic program that focuses on the sciences or humanities? Do you need a wide variety of classes to aid you in discovering your passions? Do you want Saturday classes? Do you need a PG year?
- Athletics: Is your ultimate goal to play college athletics? If so, you may want to look for schools with proven track records of performance, and a strong record of assisting students go on to play in college athletics programs.
- Arts: A passion for the arts may warrant a school with a strong arts program, or even a school that specializes in the arts. As an artist, you may want to look for schools with ample space and offerings that allow you the opportunity to grow and develop your art portfolio for college.
- School size: Is a small school where you will know everyone essential to your success? A large school with a university-like feel?
- Personal attention: You may want to find a school with a low student-to-teacher ratio and an advisor program, meaning you’re more likely to find help outside of formal class time from teachers and mentors to help you succeed.
- Community dynamics: Don’t just think about size, also think about diversity, and whether you would do best in a single-sex or coed school. Is religious affiliation important to you?
- Something else? Make sure you prioritize according to what is most important to you.
Narrow down your search. Next, use this priority list to start narrowing down your search for a boarding school. Sites like The Association of Boarding Schools or Boarding School Review offer search tools that can help you find schools that meet some of your top criteria. You’ll likely need to still do some research and digging for details, but these tools can be a great way to start, helping you go from more than 300 schools to hopefully a more manageable 20 or so.
Search online for programs. In addition to using the search tools mentioned above, you may simply want to search online for the program you want. Not all search tools will allow you to search for specialty programs. For example, if you’re looking for a school in Connecticut with an IB program, you might search for: boarding school "IB program" connecticut. This may help you find schools that offer exactly what you need.
Inquire. Most schools have online inquiry forms that allow you to request additional information, and also list your programs of interest.
Next time, I’ll go over what to do after you inquire. We’ll discuss reviewing materials and visiting schools. Don’t want to wait until the next blog? Get started now by checking out some of our other blogs on making the most of your boarding school tour and decoding your boarding school interview.
Did you miss the first blog from this series? Check it out now: Advice for Applying to Boarding Schools - Part 1: Knowing what you want.