Sometimes going to boarding school doesn’t mean leaving home - or, at the least, going far away.
Many boarding schools welcome day students and/or allow local students to live on campus. (Some, like the Groton School in Groton, Mass., only occasionally let local students live in the dorms ).
So, if you want the advantages of private boarding school, but aren’t sure you want to be far from home, look at what’s offered within an easy commute. Then, decide if you want to stick to the comforts of home or pack up your belongings and move into the dorm.
It’s a difficult choice that you will have to talk over, debate, and settle with your parents (and maybe the little sister who’s hoping to take over your room). To help get your discussion going, we talked to boarders, admissions advisors, and educational experts to learn about the pros and cons of choosing dorm life over home when Mom's macaroni and cheese is only a 20-minute drive away.
Reasons to live in a dorm
- Big time bonding: When you board, you eat, learn, play, train, and just chill with your classmates all day, every day. “I’m living with my best friends,” says Kojo Edzie, a student at the Middlesex School in Concord, Mass., who chose to board even though he could have commuted. “I really just wanted to have the full experience.
- Improved chances of admission: Boarding schools generally have more spots open for students who plan to live on campus than they do for kids who want to commute. So the math says that it can be harder to score a day student spot than it is to get into your dream school as a boarder, says educational consultant Lori Day, of Newburyport, Mass.
- Intense immersion: You might have picked your schools for the extracurriculars they offer, the great teachers, or the diverse students. Boarding can help you get the most out of these benefits, says Kathy Smithwick, assistant director of admissions at the Middlesex School. “It is centered around the residential life,” she said.
- College warm-up: Living at a boarding school can be a good dress rehearsal for the challenges of college: getting up for class, living with new people, managing your own time, finding the dining hall, navigating bad behaviors. “Boarding school students can be more successful in college because they’ve had this practice,” says Allison Matlack, an educational consultant from Needham, Mass.
- Access to facilities: Need to finish up that sculpture for art class? Get in a practice run before your cross country meet? One of the best parts of being on campus is the easy access to music rooms, playing fields, and the gym, says Edzie.
- Forced focus: No YouTube, no Snapchat, no excuses. Most boarding schools have mandatory study sessions that make it easy for students to find the time to get their work done – and to do it well. “Boarding schools can provide more structure during the evening study hours,” Matlack says.
Reasons to live at home
- Considerable cost: The price tag for boarding can be a hefty one – generally $7,000 to $10,000 higher than the cost of being a day student, Day says. The gap at Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Mass., is more than $11,000. The good news? Scholarships and financial aid might cover some of the cost.
- Having a sanctuary: For Edzie, uninterrupted time with his classmates is a plus, but not everyone wants to be sociable all the time. Having your own bedroom at home as a refuge might be the way to go if you need time to yourself to regroup.
- Family time: Sure, siblings and parents can be deeply annoying, but they’re also pretty nice to have around. Before you get too far planning your dorm décor, think about how much you will miss chatting around the dinner table every night or goofing off in the backyard with your younger brother. “That wonderful family time is important,” Matlack says
- Rules and restrictions: Some schools have stricter policies than others when it comes to leaving the grounds, using cellphones phones, or how you spend your weekends. If you can’t stand the thought of being stuck on campus all weekend or having to study at a certain time and place, boarding school life may not be the best choice for you.