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The Qualities of Top Boarding Schools


Everyone always asks which schools are considered the top boarding schools, but do you know WHY certain schools are considered the best?

Top boarding schools have strong academics.

Top boarding schools offer an academic experience that is unparalleled. From small classes and teachers who are accessible outside of normal school day hours to specialized academic support programs and advanced courses, students have everything they need to succeed. These schools often offer a variety of AP courses, and some even offer a unique opportunity to earn two degrees thanks to the International Baccalaureate® (IB) Diploma Programme.

Cheshire Academy is one of the schools that offers the IB program, and is the ONLY private school in Connecticut that is accredited as an IB World School. That means that students have the opportunity to take a special curriculum of study that will allow them to potentially graduate with both a Cheshire Academy diploma and an IB diploma. Students who enroll as full IB students, meaning they take a full course load of IB classes during the junior and senior years and complete the required assessments, are able to apply for the IB diploma. According to the IB website, IB courses are designed to ensure that students:

  • have excellent breadth and depth of knowledge
  • flourish physically, intellectually, emotionally and ethically
  • study at least two languages
  • excel in traditional academic subjects
  • explore the nature of knowledge through the programme’s unique theory of knowledge course.

IB diploma candidates are known for excelling in college, and many attend some of the top colleges and universities in the world. These students typically develop strong time management skills, are able to think strategically and solve complex programs, and are prepared to be citizens of an increasingly global and rapidly changing world.

Not every student needs to enroll in the full IB program at Cheshire Academy, either. Students who want to explore IB courses but not complete all the requirements of the diploma are welcomed, and even encouraged, to enroll in one or more IB courses. That’s just one more way students can achieve the level of academic excellence that is common at top boarding schools.

Top boarding schools develop well-rounded students.

Most boarding schools are structured to ensure that students receive a well-rounded education aimed at not just preparing students for college, but for life. From languages and academic exploration to arts and athletics, students are introduced to a variety of courses and activities designed to enhance the learning and living experience at boarding school.

Students also develop crucial life skills, like time management, independence, responsibility, and accountability. From ensuring that they wake up on time to get breakfast and arrive to class before it starts (without the help of parents) to making sure they have clean laundry, are well dressed and have neat rooms, boarding school students have the opportunity to learn how to live on their own in a supportive and nurturing environment. This is college, and life, preparation at its best.5

Boarding schools are diverse communities, with many enrolling students from all over the world. From dorm life and academics to sports teams and meals in the dining hall, living and learning in a global community means students are introduced to people from a wide range of geographic areas, cultural practices, and economic backgrounds. How many students can say they have friends from nearly every continent on the planet? At some schools, international students can benefit from a special mentoring program before they arrive on campus that is designed to help prepare them for boarding school life.

Students also get the chance to explore the world thanks to robust travel opportunities. From local trips to major cities to global excursions to Europe and South America, students have ample opportunities to experience life outside of their school campus. Students at Cheshire Academy have travel opportunities that let them choose from trips like community service projects in Costa Rica, spring training for varsity sports in Florida, and even exploring Machu Piccu as part of a spring break trip to Peru.

Top boarding schools train competitive athletes.

Athletic offerings are robust at boarding schools, as playing sports is typically a requirement for both the competitive and recreational athletes. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete looking to play at the college, amateur, or even professional level or a novice athlete trying to test out a new sport and master new skills, there’s a team for you.

From varsity and JV teams to even thirds or fourths teams, there is a place for everyone. Students who play on the lower level teams will focus more on building skills and learning the dynamics of the game, and equitable playing time during games is common. This helps students build confidence in their abilities and hone their skills in friendly competition.

Competitive athletes looking to up their game will also benefit from playing sports at boarding school. Most of the top boarding schools have varsity teams that regularly make the playoffs and bring home league titles. These schools often have intense practice and game schedules, strong coaches, dedicated athletic trainers, and even special facilities for strength and conditioning. Varsity athletes have unique needs to stay at the top of their game, and offering the right equipment is crucial to their success.


Cheshire Academy recently announced the unveiling of two new fitness facilities that meet the needs of the entire community. The Strength & Conditioning Center is dedicated for varsity athletes to work with coaches and athletic trainers to develop strength and agility. Four custom power racks from Legend Fitness allow a number of students to work simultaneously in the room, while a turf-covered area gives athletes room to warm-up, stretch, and conduct drills. The second facility, the Fitness Center, is designed to accommodate the casual exerciser and developing student athletes. It is comprised of two connected rooms that offer a wide range of equipment including TRX suspension trainers, Cybex machines, a motion cage, yoga facilities and other top of the line equipment. Learn more about Cheshire Academy’s new Fitness Center online.

Athletic preparedness at top boarding schools also includes support in preparing for collegiate athletic careers. Coaches and college counselors work closely with students to introduce them to college coaches and recruiters, ensuring that they get attention of some of the top schools in the country. Students are also aided in finding the right colleges that will help them advance as athletes and continue their involvement in sports.

Top boarding schools foster creativity through the arts.

While some public schools have seen budget cuts that eliminate arts offerings, boarding schools typically build these courses into the school day. Many boarding schools even have arts courses as part of graduation requirements. Creativity is a necessary skill in the workforce, and fostering exploration of arts is one way students can develop and hone their creative thinking abilities. If you're not sure if your school's art program is good enough, you can read some things to look out for here.

Many of the top boarding schools also offer special arts courses designed to elevate the studies of serious artists looking to move on to art school and careers in creative fields. Cheshire Academy is one of those schools, offering the Art Major program. Seniors, and occasionally juniors, who are looking to continue their study of art in college are invited to enroll in this year-long course. Art Majors are given dedicated studio space in the arts building and highly qualified arts teachers help students build strong art portfolios to submit during college admission processes. Later in the year, these students work on in depth projects that are displayed in the Kohn-Joseloff Gallery for a special art show that takes place at the end of the academic year.

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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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