Is Boarding School Right for My Child? - Point Avenue

Is Boarding School Right for My Child?

Ahhh the halcyon days of childhood! Days are long and summers are short, filled with scraped knees and candy dreams. I am certainly grateful for the happy childhood that my parents were able to provide me, and no doubt you parent readers are doing the same.

Yet times have changed and the world is an increasingly competitive place, and you know that while time is long to a child, you know that there is always less time than you think there is. When I was a kid growing up in California, I went to public school and never even considered boarding school. Thankfully, my experiences and support were still enough to help me get into UCLA. However, college admission has become exponentially more competitive since my days, and parents are always looking for ways to best elevate their children’s chances of getting into good universities. For many families in Asia, they consider the best platform to be boarding schools.

Parents often come to Point Avenue asking about boarding school options for their children, even ones as young as 8-years-old, and how that will shape their future. And we always tell them, boarding school considerations are even more multifaceted and complicated than university considerations. Boarding schools are amazing for some, but maybe not a good fit for others. So how can you know if boarding school is right for your child and family?

1. Is your family ready for the cost of boarding schools?

Boarding school is an expensive investment, usually even more than college itself! The average cost is anywhere from $60,000 - $75,000 USD PER YEAR! And often even higher when you start factoring in incidental costs for special programs and other miscellaneous expenses.

And as an international student, it’s very difficult to receive financial aid at well-known institutions! The reality is that international students are a source of money for boarding schools and their aid is reserved for domestic students. Of course, we are aware of a few boarding schools that give out significant amounts of scholarships and aid to attract students. While I can’t comment on the quality of all institutions, I would urge you to find all information you can about their course offerings, extracurricular opportunities offered, student life, and matriculation results--the universities their students attend after graduation.

It’s a shocking cost and if you’re wondering whether to spend your money on boarding school or university, save your money for university. Once a university sees that you are spending that much for a high school education, they will also expect you to pay that for the university as well.

2. Who is making this decision?

This is always a question I must get answered when talking to families about boarding school. It’s not unusual to have students and families come to me and the student has no idea why they are meeting a stranger who is asking them dozens of questions about themselves and their future.

When it comes to boarding school, the most important thing to consultants and the schools themselves is that it’s the student that wants to apply and attend boarding school. The boarding school application process is very complicated and stressful for the entire family, and if the student isn’t internally motivated to apply, it’s going to be downright painful.

This isn’t just a decision for your child, it should be a decision made with your child.

3. “Why do you want to go to a boarding school?”

This is a question asked by almost every single boarding school, whether in an essay prompt or in an interview.

Not only is it important for the child and family to be in agreement, it’s also important to be able to articulate why you want to go to boarding school at all.

If the only reasons to go to a boarding school are to get away from parents or have a better chance at a “top” university, I don’t consider that a great reason to go to boarding school, however true that may be.

If your reasons include meeting a diverse group of students and adults, taking advantage of unique course offerings and special programs, smaller and immersive communities, accessibility to teachers and mentors, and living independently–boarding school might be right for you!

4. Is your child ready for boarding school?

Related to being independent, here’s another important consideration: is my child mature enough to live independently in a foreign country and school?

Of course, a big reason to go to boarding school in the first place is to become more independent, but also consider that not all students are ready for the truly big shock that a change like this can bring.

In most cases, boarding school applicants are 13-14 years old. They will be away from friends and family, plunged into a new academic environment, manage their calendar and activities on their own, etc.Boarding schools do their best to provide their students with attention and support, but there’s also a limit to what they can do. Be realistic and honest about your child. And just because they may not be ready for boarding school doesn’t mean anything is wrong, we are all individuals that move at our own pace and needs.

This is a big reason why boarding schools prefer students who repeat 9th grade, as in they apply in 9th grade and then start boarding school in 9th grade again. The majority of international, especially Asian, students are all repeaters. This means they are more developed in academics and extracurricular activities, as well as being more mentally, emotionally and physically mature. In the past, we have had top boarding schools communicate that while students applying from grade 8 to grade 9 are certainly welcomed, the schools will evaluate their maturity level extra carefully in the interviews to make sure they can keep up with the older peers.

Additionally, is your child ready academically? Boarding schools are known for their rigorous and extensive curriculum, where students are expected to challenge themselves, deep dive into current interests, as well as explore new ones. This is why boarding school students are reported as more academically prepared for colleges than the average student. How ready is your child to tackle these subjects in 100% English? Do they know to proactively seek help from teachers and peers when they struggle? Do they have good study habits, or do you have to monitor them every night so they will finish their homework?

5. So, how can you help prepare your child for boarding school?

If you’ve made it this far and feel reassured that boarding school is the right option, that’s wonderful! There are a few different ways to prepare your child for the process up ahead.

1/ Build a strong foundation in Mathematics and English: With strong academics, your child will feel prepared to take on any required standardized tests that come their way, whether that’s the SSAT, TOEFL/IELTS or any placement exam designed by the schools themselves. Additionally, most boarding schools require a letter of recommendation from the student’s English and Math teachers, where they will rate the applicant's academic aptitude and readiness.

2/ Explore extracurricular activities: It’s no secret that boarding schools love students that can contribute to their community. Encourage your child to develop their interests, whether that’s in the arts, athletics, academics, etc. so that they will actually be able to produce outcomes, such as medals won at athletic conferences, an art portfolio, musical performances, coding projects, etc. Boarding schools highly value students who are committed to developing their craft.

3/ Apply to and attend a summer camp hosted by a reputable boarding school: Most top boarding schools in the US host boarding summer camps lasting from 2-6 weeks, such as Andover, Exeter, Choate, Lawrenceville, etc. This is a great opportunity to get a taste of boarding school life: students will stay in the dorms, eat at dining halls, study with boarding school teachers and often, other future boarding school applicants.

If you have any questions about the boarding school process, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (+84)24 3201 1841 (Vietnam), +66 2 105 3380 (Thailand) or send an email to