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What is private school?

 Cheshire Academy is one of the oldest boarding schools in the country.

It’s not uncommon to hear people ask, “What is private school?” In essence, a private school is an educational institution that is not supported by the government. Instead, most private schools are considered non-profit organizations. There are several types of private schools, often also referred to as independent schools, and knowing the different types can you find the right one for you to attend.  

Boarding Schools

Boarding schools have students that live right on campus, and offer a structured environment where students can learn responsibility and gain independence. Teachers also live on campus, and typically serve as dorm parents, which means they take on a parental role in the lives of students, helping to make sure rooms are clean and that all responsibilities are met. Boarding schools often have evening and weekend commitments for students, as well as weekend activities. Long weekends and extended vacations offer students ample time to go home to visit friends and family throughout the academic year. Students who attend boarding school often find it easier to adjust to college life since they have experienced living away from home already. Some boarding schools also have small populations of day students.

Day Schools

Students attending day schools come for classes and team sports, but sleep at home. Typically, students live within 20-30 miles of campus, but can commute from farther away if they wish. There are usually fewer evening and weekend commitments at day schools, compared to boarding schools.

College Prep Schools

A college preparatory school is exactly what it seems: a school that is preparing you for college. Not every student who attends private school has a goal of attending college, but those who do will likely attend college prep schools.

Single Gender Schools

For many students, attending a single gender school is an opportunity to grow without the distractions of a coed classroom, especially in the teenage years when dating becomes popular. The single sex environment can be empowering; a shy student might feel more comfortable speaking up in a single gender classroom and take more risks. An outgoing and active student focused on gaining the attention of the opposite gender might find that he or she is more prone to study and focus on academics in this type of environment. Most offer opportunities to interact with students from other schools, which means you’ll meet and hang out with students of the opposite gender periodically.

Art Schools

Students who wish to pursue a particular creative discipline in college or as a career might benefit from a private school focused on the arts. These creative schools give aspiring artists more opportunities to focus on their skills and delve into deeper studies within their chosen disciplines, be it visual art, dance, drama, music, or digital photography. These students still take core classes, but arts are a major focus of the studies.

Sports Schools

Serious athletes wishing to pursue amateur and professional athletic careers, including Olympic hopefuls, might benefit from attending a sports-focused school. Typically these are boarding schools that offer intense training in only one sport, whereas most boarding and day schools encourage students to play multiple sports. These schools still place strong emphasis on academics, but include specialized athletic training as a priority.

Religious Schools

If your faith is a large part of your life, you might consider attending a school with a religious affiliation. For example, attending a Christian school might mean that you participate in Bible study as well as the traditional academics. Some schools might restrict admission to only those affiliated with the religion, while other religious schools might focus on one religion but accept students of all faiths and backgrounds.  

Junior Schools

These schools are for students in lower grades which can range from pre-kindergarten to grades 8 or even 9, and are designed to meet the needs of students in elementary or middle school. Typically junior boarding schools are restricted to just middle school students, but there are some that accept younger boarding students.

Military Schools

Military schools have been around for years, and have trained many students to pursue military careers. Students wishing to attend a military college, like West Point, will most likely benefit from attending a private military school. These schools usually have strict rules, regimented schedules, rigorous academics, and high standards of appearance and behaviors. A common misconception is that military schools are just for troubled teens. While there are some military schools that work with troubled teens, there are also many military schools that have competitive admission, and only accept the best and brightest who often go on to serve as leaders within our nation’s armed forces.  

Therapeutic Schools

Therapeutic schools can range greatly in terms of the support they provide. From behavioral and emotional support to health and wellness, students attending therapeutic schools often have needs that go beyond what a typical private school can offer. Attending a therapeutic school can be an intermediate step to prepare for a traditional boarding school, as many students leave therapeutic schools ready to assimilate into a mainstream classroom.


Stacy Jagodowski

Written by Stacy Jagodowski

Ms. Jago joined the Cheshire Academy community in August 2013 as the director of strategic marketing and communications. Prior to coming to Cheshire Academy, she spent six years working in communications offices at both colleges and private school, as well as five years in admission at both boarding schools and day schools.

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