Boarding school was once used as a form of parental discipline: “You’d better behave yourself or I’ll send you to boarding school!” This outdated perception of boarding school as some kind of punishment often perpetuated in movies, couldn’t be further from today’s reality.
Yet myths about boarding school persist: The kids will never see their parents. There’s a lot of hazing. Access to drugs is prevalent.
Are these misconceptions grounded in fact? Or, like all myths, do they simply make good fodder for those who have no idea what boarding school is really like?
Let’s take a clear-eyed look at some common boarding school myths:
1. Children at boarding school only see their families on term break. False. Today’s boarding schools offer a flexible schedule to accommodate both their students and families. At Delphian School for example, students have the option of enrolling full-time on campus, or on a 5-day schedule that enables them to travel home for the weekend. And parents are encouraged to visit their child as often as they like. Many parents fly in for the weekend to visit or even during the week to meet with the child’s teacher or to watch events their child is participating in. Delphian School also offers a day school, where students return home each evening. These options are part of Delphian’s ethos of co-creating an educational curriculum that serves the students as unique individuals interested in charting their own path.
2. Boarding school is one big party. False. In any educational environment, there will always be some students who choose to become involved in unsavory activities. That’s human nature, and true in every generation. However, in boarding school, the teachers and other adults live right there on campus with the students, so there’s actually less impetus to become involved with drugs or alcohol than in a public school setting. Research reveals that 95 percent of boarding school students say their social lives are drug- and alcohol-free. Because most boarding schools attract highly motivated students, the kids are focused on their education and healthier pastimes.
3. There’s no downtime for students to just relax. False. Many boarding schools have a strong extracurricular program and actively encourage students to pursue activities that interest them. And there’s plenty of time for students to just be with their friends and spend their free time however they wish. Because they live on campus and are with their peers around the clock, getting to know them in a deeper way than day school students typically do, boarding school students often form friendships that last their entire lives.
4. All Boarding schools are for the wealthy. False. This used to be true, but today, approximately a third of boarding school students receive financial aid. There are merit awards and scholarships available, as well as grants and loans. This also means the demographic is much wider than in the past, both socioeconomically and ethnically. But the educational emphasis and strong commitment to students’ personal development remains.
5. All boarding schools enforce a rigorous dress code. False. Again, this used to be truer in the past, and may still apply in certain settings, such as religious boarding schools. A dress code may also be a campus tradition. However, today a lot of boarding schools allow students to dress as they would in any educational setting. There are likely standards, just as there are in public schools, that prohibit clothing considered inappropriate in a classroom setting. If what students wear is a critical factor in a boarding school decision, students and their parents would be wise to observe campus life and ask questions about attire prior to making a boarding school selection.
6. If a child has a problem at boarding school, there’s no one to help them resolve it. False. Most schools have full-time faculty devoted to student’s mental and emotional health, either a trained counselor or school psychologist. There are also the campus faculty, dorm parents, and student advisors, as well as off-campus counselors, willing and able to assist students in their time of need.
Boarding schools offer a wealth of opportunities for all types of students today, and that’s no myth!