What are the best boarding schools in the world? It depends who you ask ...
We’ve all seen ranking lists of boarding schools appear on the internet, often several lists that all have drastically different rankings. How are they decided, and are the boarding school rankings legit? Let’s dig a little deeper.
What are the qualifications for the rankings?
Each ranking is slightly different in how it calculates the order of ranking. Some organizations use just one indicator while others use several indicators. Some of the most common qualifications include:
How are the qualifications used? Are they reliable indicators of success?
Surveys & reviews are subjective representations of schools from community members, and may not always be reliable indicators of a school’s status. These surveys may combine current feedback with more outdated information, making it difficult to get a true picture of a school. Surveys are subjective methods of assessment; they can tell you a lot about a school, but a school with only a few reviews likely isn’t going to be well represented.
Standardized testing is one of the more widely accepted way to rank students’ success, with this information being truly quantifiable and standard between schools. However, there is much debate over whether this type of testing provides an adequate representation of a student’s ability or potential for success.
Endowment & finances are another example of quantifiable data. The general assumption is typically, the better the financial situation of an institution, the better quality of student life. However, these two statements are not direct correlations of each other. A school may have an incredible endowment, but low quality of student life; the reverse could also be said in that a school may have a small endowment, but have strong academics and a high quality of life for students.
Admission statistics are debatable in how accurate they are in determining a school’s elite status. Rate of acceptance is one factor that many rankings rely on to see how competitive a school is for admission. However, this statistic can be misleading. As an admission officer, I worked closely with families throughout the admission process. If I knew that a student was not going to be a good fit for us, I would often counsel the family out before they would complete a full application. This meant that we accepted a large percentage of our applicants because only strong contenders would complete the full admission process.
College acceptances can be an indicator of success, but keep in mind that some schools pride themselves on enrolling students at the most elite colleges while others pride themselves on enrolling students at the colleges where they will be most successful. Schools who work with students with learning challenges are likely going to have fewer ivy league colleges on their matriculation lists, but in reality, could be among the best boarding schools for you.
Do boarding schools support rankings?
Each boarding school may have its own stance on rankings, but the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), which is the governing body of most independent schools, has taken a stance on rankings. Essentially, NAIS says, due to the vast differences between all the boarding schools and independent schools in the country, they do not support rankings. Read the statement from NAIS on rankings here.
Can boarding schools pay to be in rankings?
It's rare, but yes, it's possible. There are certain ranking systems that ask schools to pay to participate. If you don't pay, you don't get ranked or you get ranked lower on the list. You won't always know if a ranking is a paid advertisement, either. In the end, another major reason to be cautious of any ranking you come across, especially online.
If rankings aren't reliable, how can you find the best boarding schools in the world?
The best way for you to rank boarding schools is to visit them and decide for yourself what makes a boarding school the best boarding school in the country or even the best boarding school in the world. Only you can decide what school can help you accomplish your goals as a boarding school student and make you happy and successful. No ranking in the world can tell you that!