If you’re heading off to boarding school, you may have mixed feelings.
You may be excited to make new friends, get out of the house, and spend time away from your parents. You may also be nervous to take on so much responsibility for yourself so far away from your home, family and friends. You may be wondering what boarding school is like and whether you will fit in.
Whether you’re ready to go or are dragging your feet, think of boarding school as an adventure. Most teenagers won’t experience this much independence until they go to college.
With smaller classes (typically 10 to 30 students) you’ll know your teachers and be able to interact with them in and out of the classroom. That’s much better than at larger schools where you’re just a number in the grade book. Boarding school will also do an excellent job preparing you for college.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you enjoy your time at boarding school, whether you’re headed to a big school like Northfield Mount Hermon, or a smaller one like Kimball Union Academy and get the most out of your time away from home.
What To Do Before You Arrive At Boarding School
Being away from home and the friends you knew from childhood can be a shock. And although it won’t be exactly the same as college, moving into a dorm will be different than living at home.
Be open to making new friends. Say hello to potential friends in the hall between classes, invite other students to dinner, and introduce your new friends to each other. This will help you build a tight-knit group that could remain together throughout all of your time at boarding school.
Above all, be nice to everyone. You’ll be living with all of these people everyday and remaining cordial with everyone, even if you’re not best friends, will make your time much more enjoyable. Don’t take part in any bullying, and try to stop it if you see it.
Learn about your international peers. Far and away one of the best aspects of boarding school is that you will be able to make friends from all over the globe. It’s not uncommon for students to come from places like France, Brazil and China. Ask them about their culture and learn a few words in their local language. It’s an incredible opportunity unavailable to most high school students and can be a lot of fun if you’re naturally inquisitive and curious.
Think about strategies for homesickness. If you’re feeling nervous on your first day at boarding school, it’s OK to call your mom and dad. But don’t become dependent on telephone conversation with parents and hometown friends in order to hold off homesickness. Go for a walk, shoot some baskets, grab a snack in the common room. Get out of your dorm.
Find a place to be quiet. If the lack of privacy is stressful for you, find a place like the library where you can be alone but still within earshot of the larger community. Writing about how you feel can also help. And remember, you’re not the only person feeling homesick.
How to Live in a Boarding School Dorm
Discuss ground rules about cleanliness with your roommates and your dorm parents. A messy roommate and a messy room can greatly diminish your ability to focus on schoolwork and enjoy boarding school. If you’re the messy one then you’re just giving everyone else permission to leave their smelly socks on the floor as well.
Make it a team effort. Get everyone to agree to pick up their dirty clothes, empty the trashcan regularly, and keep the floors clean. That goes double for the bathroom.
Don’t takeover the space. It’s a shared room, not yours alone. If you want to listen to music while your friend is studying, listen in your headphones. Schedule your time so that you’re not staying up until 2 a.m. while your roommate is trying to sleep. If you have early classes, find a way to get up on time without a loud alarm that wakes up everyone else in the room.
Sincerely try to get to know your roommates. Grab meals together. Play a sport together. If you have the same classes, study together!
Don’t be shy; ask your dorm parents if you need help. If you’re not getting along with your roommates, let the adults at the school know. They’ll see if there’s something they can do to, or if you can potentially change rooms. Think of your dorm parent as, well, a parent and ask for advice.
How to Make the Most of Boarding School
Get your work out of the way first, and then socialize. Boarding school can be hard and you don’t want to fall behind. If you need help, ask for it.
Ask your parents for care packages. If your school allows food from home, a package of cookies and snacks will be a nice surprise to enjoy and share with roommates.
Be smart about the rules. There will be plenty of temptations to get into trouble. But boarding schools usually have strict honor codes and rules and breaking them can get you suspended or expelled. You don’t want to make that phone call home.
Get know the adults in your boarding school community. Teachers, coaches, dorm parents, college counselors, tutors and even the office and maintenance staff want you to succeed and are there to help.
Take advantage of opportunities to explore off-campus. Schools offer activities to get you off campus, such as movies, outdoor adventures and community service projects. For an even bigger adventure ask if your school has any high school study-abroad programs.
Keep in touch. At the end of the year, make sure you’ve added your friends on social media and are able to contact them while you’re away. Remember, you’ll be seeing everyone again after the summer.