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Is a boarding school right for your child?

Exploring the potential fit of a boarding school for several different types of kids


In finding the right school, you’ll need to look at both the school and your child. Here, we look at the fit of eight different child types in boarding schools. Note: our aim isn’t to tell you whether a boarding school is right or wrong for any type of child, but to highlight some vital child-specific factors you should consider when making your decision.

To learn about how to choose the right school in general, read the Our Kids step-by-step advice guide and questions to ask private schools. To get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traits, create a child profile through your user account


How several different types of kids fit in boarding schools

On this page:

Extroverted

At a boarding school, your extroverted child will likely enjoy seeking out and interacting with peer groups from different backgrounds, away from home. In fact, studying and living with other kids for an extended period of time, as many alumni tell us, provides the unique opportunity to form close relationships that can last well beyond the school years. Many boarding schools also have large student populations and more extracurriculars—including activities like student council, team sports, and arts programs—which will give your outgoing child a broader scope of opportunities to feed off the energy of others, and possibly even become a leader, in a dynamic environment.

Keep in mind, though, “Being an extrovert can be a catalyst for getting involved in lots of activities, which can sometimes be hard to manage,” says Joanne Foster, Toronto-based education consultant and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. “For instance, a particularly extroverted child may try to end up juggling too many people and activities. While they still may thrive at a boarding school, it helps to know your child and how much social interaction they can handle comfortably.”

To access our report on the fit of extroverted kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Introverted

At a boarding school, your introverted child will be more motivated (and virtually compelled) to seek out and interact with different peer groups. Away from home and in a new environment, they’re more likely to take the initiative to form close friendships, which can boost their independence and confidence, and help them develop critical social skills.

"Consider, though, whether your child will be comfortable and confident while living away from home, and while having to navigate the various, and sometimes unforeseen social-emotional experiences, alongside the academic challenges,” says Joanne Foster, education expert and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. Finally, ensure support systems are in place to promote their social and emotional development, and that your child is willing and prepared to take advantage of them. Your child will often need to advocate for themselves at a boarding school, and they’ll need confidence and perseverance to do so.

To access our report on the fit of introverted kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Highly focused

Many focused kids find the diverse and vibrant student community of boarding schools stimulating. Working and interacting with a group of kids away from home and in a new environment can open up new learning and social pathways. Just make sure to inquire about a school’s teaching and learning approach. For instance, ask how much independent learning and individualized support a school offers, as many focused kids find this beneficial. Also, ask about class sizes, as smaller classes with low student-to-teacher ratios can help ensure your child won’t get lost in the shuffle.

To access our report on the fit of highly focused kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Distractible

Many distractible kids enjoy the vibrant student community of boarding schools. Interacting and working with kids away from home and in a new environment can open up new learning and social pathways, which can be stimulating and can cultivate sustained concentration.

Just make sure a school’s teaching and learning approach is suitable for your child. “For instance, your child may benefit from extra individualized attention and one-on-one support,” say Ann and Karen Wolff of Wolff Educational Services. “If so, you’ll want to make sure a school provides these things, and implements whatever other educational practices suit their academic profile and personality.”

To access our report on the fit of distractible kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Very physically active

At a boarding school, your physically active child will enjoy interacting with different peer groups drawn from a large student body. Through a wider range of supplementals—such as sports, hiking, and nature clubs—they’ll have the opportunity to feed off the energy of others in a dynamic and active environment.

Keep in mind, though, “Being active and social can be a catalyst for getting involved in lots of physical activities, which can sometimes be hard to manage,” says Joanne Foster, Toronto-based education consultant and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids. “For instance, a particularly energetic child may try to end up juggling too many activities. While they still may thrive at a boarding school, it helps to know your child and how much physical activity they can handle comfortably.”

To access our report on the fit of very physically active kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Less physically active

If your child is looking to get more physically active, they’ll benefit from the wide range of extracurriculars at these schools—such as sports and nature walks. This can improve their physical and mental health. It can also help them broaden their horizons and come out of their shell. Your child may join one or more of the many non-physical supplementals these schools offer, such as an after-school robotics or book club.

Ensure, though, that the school will give your child ample downtime to rest and replenish the energy they expend. “Consider, too, whether your child will be comfortable and confident while living away from home, and while having to navigate the various, and sometimes unforeseen social-emotional experiences, alongside the academic challenges,” says Joanne Foster, education expert and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

To access our report on the fit of less physically active kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Intensively academically-focused

Many boarding schools have a broad scope of specialist courses for your child to choose from, to pursue their interests and develop new ones. They also tend to have a lot of academic diversity in the classroom, where your child will find many opportunities to challenge themselves with other kids who enjoy school and have high academic aspirations.

Just make sure to inquire about a school’s teaching and learning approach. For instance, ask what kinds of independent learning and enrichment opportunities a school offers, as many academically-focused kids benefit from these. Also, ask about class sizes, as smaller classes with low student-to-teacher ratios can help ensure your child won’t get lost in the shuffle.

Finally, since they’ll be living away from home, ensure support systems are in place to promote their social and emotional development, and that your child is willing and prepared to take advantage of them. Your child will often need to advocate for themselves at a boarding school, and they’ll need confidence and perseverance to do so.

To access our report on the fit of intensively academically-focused kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Less academically-focused

Many less academically-focused kids enjoy the vibrant community of boarding schools. They’ll be able to interact with a large and diverse student body and participate in a wide range of extracurricular activities, which can help them become more well-rounded.

Just make sure a school’s teaching and learning approach is suitable for your child. “For instance, say your child can benefit from extra individualized attention and one-on-one support,” say Ann and Karen Wolff of Wolff Educational Services. “You’ll want to make sure a school provides these things, and implements whatever other in-class practices suit their academic abilities and learning needs.”

To access our report on the fit of less academically-focused kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Arts-oriented

If you’re considering a boarding school for your arts-oriented child, make sure it offers them plenty of opportunities to explore their creative passions and refine their artistic skills. Often, small- to medium-sized classes with plenty of individualized learning work well, since they give your child the freedom to pursue their interests and carve out a fulfilling developmental path. Ask any prospective school about its class sizes, teaching approach, and arts curriculum, to ensure it’s the right fit.

With larger student populations, boarding schools often have more arts programs, classes, productions, and staff. They also tend to offer a wider range of extracurriculars for your child to scratch their creative itch. Ask what opportunities are available, focusing especially on your child’s interests and needs: for instance, if they love art history, find out whether the school offers such a class and when.

To access our report on the fit of arts-oriented kids in several different school types, read our guide.


STEM-oriented

With large student populations, boarding schools often have more STEM-oriented programs, classes, and specialized staff. They also tend to offer a wider range of extracurriculars for your child to explore their passion for STEM.

Ask what opportunities are available, in class and out, focusing especially on your child’s interests. For instance, if they’re interested in engineering, find out whether the school offers such a class and when. Also, inquire about a school’s class sizes and teaching approach. Often, small- to medium-sized classes with plenty of individualized learning work well, since they give your child the freedom to pursue their interest in STEM with close supervision.

To access our report on the fit of stem-oriented kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Gifted

Many boarding schools provide learning environments that directly address gifted students’ learning needs, such as dedicated gifted classes, withdrawal classes, in-class adaptations, etc. They also often have a wide range of extracurricular programs to challenge and stimulate gifted learners and enable them to pursue areas of interests. For instance, they might have an after-school Spanish discussion or reading group for students with a special interest in or talent for language and literature.

“Consider, though, whether your child will be comfortable and confident while living away from home, and while having to navigate the various, and sometimes unforeseen, social-emotional experiences, alongside the many academic challenges,” says Joanne Foster, gifted education expert and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

To access our report on the fit of gifted kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Special needs

Some boarding schools provide learning environments that directly address special needs, including dedicated classes, integrated classes, and part-time withdrawal classes. Many also provide a range of resources to cultivate your child’s overall development, such as academic and psychological counselling, social workers, faculty advisors, and tutors.

Just make sure any prospective school has small enough classes to provide the structure, individualized learning, and one-on-one support your child will likely require. Also, since they’ll be living away from home, inquire what support systems are in place to keep them on the right track—academically and socially. For instance, if your child has an auditory processing disorder, ensure the school has an on-site specialist to provide them with the help they need.

To access our report on the fit of special needs kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Learning disabilities

Some boarding schools provide learning environments that explicitly support learning disabilities, including dedicated classes, integrated classes, and part-time pull-out classes. Many also provide a range of resources to promote your child’s academic, social, and emotional development, such as robust guidance departments, counsellors, psychologists, social workers, and faculty advisors

Just make sure any boarding school has small enough classes to provide the structure, individualized learning, and one-on-one support your child will likely require. Also, ensure it has the resources and staff to address your child’s specific challenges. For instance, if they struggle with visual processing, ask whether properly trained staff are available to help them with reading, math, maps, charts, symbols, pictures, and the like.

Finally, “Ensure your child has a strong understanding of their learning challenges and what kind of support and accommodations they need,” says Stacey Jacobs, Director of Clear Path Educational Consulting. “At a boarding school, kids will need to advocate for themselves, and they’ll need the knowledge and confidence to do this.”

To access our report on the fit of learning disabilities kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Social/emotional issues

Some boarding schools provide learning environments that directly address social issues. For instance, some provide dedicated classes (or are dedicated schools) for "troubled teens," who may struggle with alcohol or drug addiction or who may suffer from an anxiety or eating disorder. 

“Many parents feel that a boarding school is the best environment for their child with behavioural challenges,” say Ann and Karen Wolff of Wolff Educational Consulting. “For one thing, they may believe it’s in the best interest of their child to be away from their community and possibly those who might be a ‘bad influence.’”

Just make sure a school has small enough classes to provide the structure, individualized learning, and one-on-one guidance your child will likely need. Also, since they’ll be living away from home, ensure support systems are in place to keep them on the right track and that your child is willing and prepared to take advantage of them. Your child will often need to advocate for themselves at a boarding school and they’ll need confidence and perseverance to do so.

To access our report on the fit of social/emotional issues kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Conventional learner

Boarding schools can be a nice fit for conventional learners, who tend to prefer whole-class lectures, direct instruction, textbook-based learning, and graded work. While some boarding schools offer more alternative approaches—e.g., student-centred, inquiry-based, and individualized learning—these are more the exception than the rule. Asked detailed questions about a school’s teaching approach to ensure your child’s academic needs will be met, bearing in mind that learning preferences vary even among conventional learners. 

To access our report on the fit of conventional learner kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Unconventional learner

If you’re considering a boarding school for an unconventional learner, make sure it offers them plenty of opportunities to pursue their interests. Often, small- to medium-sized classes with lots of individualized learning work well, since this gives your child the freedom to carve out a fulfilling academic niche. Ask a school about its class sizes, teaching approach, and amount of individualized learning, to confirm whether it’s the right fit.

With larger student populations, boarding schools often have more extracurriculars for your child to explore their passions outside of class. Ask what opportunities are available, focusing especially on your child’s interests and needs: for instance, if they love computer programming, inquire whether the school offers an after-school or lunch program to boost their coding skills.

To access our report on the fit of unconventional learner kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Independent learner

If you’re considering a boarding school for your independent learner, make sure they’ll have ample opportunity to explore their passions. Often, small- to medium-sized classes with plenty of individualized learning work well, since they give your child the freedom to pursue unique learning pathways. Ask a school about its class sizes, teaching approach, and curriculum, to ensure it’s the right fit.

With larger student populations, boarding schools often have more extracurriculars and supplemental learning options. Find out what’s available, focusing especially on your child’s areas of interest: for instance, if they love robotics, ask whether the school offers such a program. 

Also, “If your independent learner is a competitive student who likes to measure themselves against their peers, they’re more likely to find this in a boarding school,” says Janyce Lastman, Director of The Tutor Group. ““Since they have diverse student bodies, it will be easier for your child to find academically-focused peers to compete with.”

Finally, “Boarding schools also promote self-reliance and resourcefulness since students live away from home, and these are valuable attributes for independent learners and other kids to have,” says Joanne Foster, education consultant and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

To access our report on the fit of independent learner kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Collaborative learner

Boarding schools have a wide range of learning environments. While some prioritize collaborative and group learning, others don’t. Of course, since they often have more classes and bigger student cohorts, they can normally accommodate a broad scope of learning styles, including both collaborative and independent learning.

Since boarding schools tend to have larger student populations, they often have more extracurriculars which involve group or collaborative learning, such as debate and student government. Also, “Due to their large numbers of students, they offer more opportunities to find a group of like-minded peers,” say Ann and Karen Wolff of Wolff Educational Services. This can give your child the opportunity to explore interesting and dynamic social learning opportunities, in and out of class.

To access our report on the fit of collaborative learner kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Anxious

Make sure any school you’re considering has small enough classes to provide the structure and one-on-one support your anxious child needs. Also, since they’ll be living away from home, ensure support systems are in place to keep your child on the right track, academically and emotionally, and that they’re willing and prepared to take advantage of them. For instance, if your child has a social or generalized anxiety disorder, weekly visits with an on-site psychologist may be in order. 

Also, “Consider whether your child will be comfortable and confident while living away from home, and while having to navigate the various, and sometimes unforeseen, social-emotional experiences, alongside the many academic challenges,” says Joanne Foster, education expert and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

Of course, boarding school can be a great way for some anxious kids, especially those with milder anxiety, to develop confidence, independence, and resilience. Having to manage schedules and routines and advocate for oneself can be emboldening.

To access our report on the fit of anxious kids in several different school types, read our guide.


ADHD

Make sure any boarding school has small enough classes to provide the structure, individualized learning, and one-on-one guidance kids with ADHD need. Also, since your child will be living away from home, ensure support systems are in place to keep them on the right track, and that they’re willing and prepared to take advantage of them. Your child will often need to advocate for themselves at a boarding school, and they’ll need the confidence and perseverance to do so.

Finally, “Evenings can be challenging for kids with ADHD,” says Stacey Jacobs, director of Clear Path Educational Consulting. “If your child is on medication, it may sometimes wear off at night, which can make completing homework and falling asleep challenging. Ensure boarding supervisors and dons are well-equipped with strategies to support kids with ADHD.”

To access our report on the fit of adhd kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Autistic

Make sure any boarding school has small enough classes to provide the structure, individualized learning, and one-on-one support kids with autism need. Also, since your child will be living away from home, ensure support systems are in place to keep them on the right track, academically and socially, and that they’re willing and prepared to take advantage of them. Your child will often need to advocate for themselves at a boarding school, and they’ll need the confidence and perseverance to do so.

Finally, “Consider whether your child will be comfortable and confident while living away from home, and while having to navigate the various, and sometimes unforeseen, social-emotional experiences, alongside the many academic challenges,” says Joanne Foster, education expert and author of ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.

To access our report on the fit of autistic kids in several different school types, read our guide.


Dyslexic

Make sure any boarding school has small enough classes to provide the structure, individualized learning, and one-on-one support your child needs. Also, confirm it has the resources and staff to support your child’s reading disorder. For instance, since they struggle with phonic decoding, ask whether a reading specialist is on staff. 

Finally, “Ensure your child has a strong understanding of their learning challenges and what kind of support and accommodations they need,” says Stacey Jacobs, director of Clear Path Educational Consulting. “At a boarding school, kids will need to advocate for themselves, and they’ll need the knowledge and confidence to do so.” 

Keep in mind that some boarding schools provide learning environments that explicitly support dyslexia, including dedicated classes and part-time pull-out classes. Many also provide a range of resources to promote your child’s academic, social, and emotional development, such as robust guidance departments, counsellors, psychologists, social workers, and faculty advisors.

To access our report on the fit of dyslexic kids in several different school types, read our guide.

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