Benefits go far beyond the obvious practical advantage of time saved on commuting to and from school.
Although the tradition of boarding school may not run as deep in the Pacific Northwest as it does in other regions of the U.S., it is an extraordinary option available right here in the Puget Sound area that should not go overlooked. The benefits of attending boarding school are significant and the return on investment unmatched. Just ask Jeff Barber, Residential Life Director at Annie Wright Schools, which offers five- and seven-day boarding to high school boys and girls.
Barber has served more than 25 years in boarding schools and knows well the impact the program has on students. “Boarding school provides a high level of life coaching that doesn’t happen in other environments,” says Barber. “As professionals, we help boarding students manage their life in a way that a lot of teenagers don’t get. We see the students’ life from a different and extremely holistic perspective with inside knowledge of their home life, school life and who they are as an individual.”
The more obvious and practical advantages of attending a boarding school include time saved on commuting to and from school and 24/7 access to resources — from teachers to facilities, including the library, art studio, gym and pool. Being surrounded by resources provides an opportunity to better focus on academics.
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Small class size, which tends to be the norm at boarding schools, is also a bonus, providing greater interaction between students and faculty and an opportunity for more individualized learning experiences.
Practical and habit-forming skill-building is baked into the boarding school experience. Boarding students learn patterns for responsible behavior through clean-room checks, living with a roommate and proctored study hours.
Then there are more personal advantages, starting with building independence, with teacher and dorm parent support. “I’ve seen students move on to college from the boarding program and make a seamless transition, while non-boarding students struggle with learning to get along with a roommate, how to do their own laundry, or balancing a new-found social life with academics,” Barber says. “For students who are focused on a positive college experience, self-sufficiency is an underrated but defining component of what is learned at boarding school.”
Boarding schools foster intention. Students not only agree and adhere to a high standard of behavior, but they commit to being an active member of the community. This helps boarding students throughout life as they navigate any community — their college dorm, the workplace — to be intentional about finding a place and role there. To that end, boarding students experience an elevated level of socialization because they are required to be a functional part of the community.
Boarding school is far different from living in a dorm at college, where students may have peer hall monitors. And while college dormers are encouraged to participate in dorm activities, it is not required. At boarding school, students are monitored more closely by professional adult dorm parents who are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the boarders’ life — dorm life, school life, socializing, and being an active participant throughout the community. It’s not easy to hide at boarding school, but it is easy to find something that piques your interest. There are a plethora of activities and ways to be involved at any level.
The subtle aspects of relationships cannot be overstated when it comes to advantages — deep, pivotal, permanent relationships. First, there’s a lesson in compromise. At home kids learn to get along with their sibling(s), but at boarding school, there may be 100 “siblings” and boarding students quickly realize that they are one of many. Being fair and practical is mandatory in these relationships. Boarding students have to get along with people, often people from all over the world, thus gaining cultural competence that one might not acquire at a school made up of everyone from their neighborhood.
There is a level of learning through these relationships that simply can’t be replicated. Take for instance Annie Wright Schools’ junior Simran Rakhra who recently won first place in a Chinese proficiency competition after only studying Chinese for three years, fewer years than most of the other contestants. What helped Simran place first? Living and speaking with native Chinese students at boarding school boosted her Chinese language proficiency outside the classroom.
Last, and certainly not least, lifelong friendships stem from these relationships and more often than not, boarding students remain best friends with the students with whom they attend boarding school.
Founded in 1884, Annie Wright Schools serve students from age 3 through high school. Annie Wright Lower and Middle Schools offer co-ed programs in preschool through grade 8. Separate Upper Schools for boys and girls offer day and boarding options in grades 9-12.