Boarding School: The Upside to Being a “Captive Audience”

Boarding school students report a greater sense of independence and say they are surrounded by motivated peers. Most importantly, after four years away the students are often better prepared for tackling college dorm and academic life. But be forewarned: costs can average $69,000 a year but some of the cost can be defrayed with financial aid.

| 14 Sep 2023 | 01:21

    While public or private day schools are considered the go-to by many parents and students moving ahead into middle and high school, statistics show boarding schools are worth looking into as well. Self-discipline, maturity, and a sense of independence are all examples of how living at school adds to a student’s academic journey.

    According to, when compared to their private and public school peers boarding school students report more academically challenging coursework, being surrounded by more motivated peers, and being provided with more leadership opportunities. A higher percentage of those who have practiced in loco parentis learning report being very well prepared for college.

    “Boarding schools are truly college prep programs,” says Jackie Sirgo, MA, Lead Boarding School Consultant at Smart City Kids (SCK), a New York City-based educational consultancy that has guided families from preschool through higher education for over two decades.

    Sirgo continues: “[Boarding schools] provide dormitory life and the learning that happens outside of the classroom during evening and weekend activities. Quality of life is returned to your child because they’ll go to class, afterward head to the field, go to dinner, and then do homework. It cuts down on commuting time and coordinating schedules because all the resources are right there.” She also stresses that “faculty live on campus, and after school as well as on weekends they have a responsibility to the children to be involved.”

    When deciding if a student is right for being educated away from home, the veteran consultant says the first success marker is that the child actually wants to go. Then the student needs to articulate why, and it’s usually because of a passion: sports, music, etc. Sirgo says, “It’s their passion that pulls them.” Boarding schools are known for their robust extracurricular programs.

    Once your student is enrolled, you of course want them to thrive. Sirgo points out that those who do are self-starters, motivated to, for example, take themselves to the learning center to get going on a project. Boarding school is also a place for outgoing children but can help those who are not, namely because of 24/7 opportunities to facilitate friendships and build like-minded communities.

    Although children can enter boarding school at any time from 6th to 12th grade, Sirgo says the usual entry is 9th grade, and that class size is comparable to private school.

    Because homesickness is inevitable, Sirgo emphasizes that “the support and attention they give to mental health is very impressive at these schools.” There are on-campus wellness centers, and aside from parents/family weekends, holiday vacations are for longer periods than day schools—all without homework so families can reconnect.

    She wants to clarify, though, that whether the educational facility is private, public, boarding, or a homeschool situation, learning and positive results are attainable as long as the student and school are the appropriate fit.

    Sirgo often refers to boarding school students as a “captive audience” because they live amidst academics, extracurriculars, social interactions, and support. For the right child, that could be a very liberating experience.

    Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of three novels, the latest titled THE LAST SINGLE WOMAN IN NEW YORK CITY.