More and more families and students have become interested in applying to boarding school. In fact, there has been a 20% increase in boarding school applications to the US since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents look to boarding schools to provide their children with different kinds of experiences and opportunities that might not be available here in Hong Kong. Aside from that, parents also hope that the fully immersive nature of going to boarding school can allow for their children to be more independent. Whether you have already started looking for schools or just exploring your options, there are 3 main things you must consider before applying to boarding school.
1) What are your motivations?
The first question you should consider is why you are applying to boarding school. Three common reasons we hear from parents are firstly, for exposure! For their children to see the world and get some perspective and to meet different kinds of people with different backgrounds. Boarding school also allows students to learn in a different environment and learn to be independent from their parents. Secondly, many parents also mention that education and schooling in Hong Kong can be very stressful and too competitive, so they are browsing for alternative options for their children. Lastly, and usually one parents tend to mention last, is university admissions. University is the next step after secondary education, and many parents are thinking about boarding schools as a kind of strategy when approaching university admissions. Whether your motivations are similar to these or not at all, something we encourage parents to do is to communicate with the children and find out what they think as well. It is important to involve the child in the decision-making process because after all, it is the child that will be receiving the education.
2) Is boarding school right for you?
Whether going to boarding school is the appropriate choice for a student is a question many people forget to ask. Let’s think about this question in terms of some of the more common reasons why families want their children to go boarding school. Firstly, exposure. What does that actually mean for students? While it’s most definitely meeting new people from different places, it is also a student’s first taste of independence and of living alone away from parents! While there are a few “urban” boarding schools like Milton Academy, not all of them are close to cities. With that being said, Milton is still around 20 minutes by car to downtown Boston. Many people underestimate how big the United States actually is! Being from Hong Kong, the convenience of public transport and proximity to urban areas is something that we take for granted. The transition from Hong Kong to the US might be an uncomfortable one for some students. However, going to a boarding school in a less urban area might offer you different kinds of experiences and resources that are not accessible to you here! So our advice is to not only think about what you might gain, but also think about what you are willing to give up.
Besides a change in scenery, some families are also looking for a change in education systems and curriculums. We have come across many students who felt like the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) was not the right curriculum for them. Some other students found the HKDSE not challenging enough! Going to a US boarding school can offer the student a chance to study different disciplines outside of the standard Chinese, English, Math, and Sciences. This can be a form of exposure as well. With that being said, not all boarding schools are created equal. Boarding schools in the US have different kinds of curriculums, whether that be the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) or Advanced Placements (AP). Some schools even have their own independent curriculum that offer preparatory courses for AP or A-Level exams. Each one of these curriculums are different in their own ways, knowing which one is right for you will require some guidance and an understanding of each.
Another reason why some families are considering boarding schools is for a new start. Some students may have some trouble in their existing Hong Kong school and are looking for a chance to start over elsewhere. That is completely alright! In this kind of situation, what we would want to do as consultants is help students and families find schools that will best suit the specific needs of the student.
3) Is it worth it?
Whether going to boarding school is worth it is heavily dependent on whether boarding school is right for you. If the reason for going to boarding school is genuinely for exposure or for a different kind of education, sure! You will probably achieve both of those things! But if the main purpose is for the sake of university, I urge you to reconsider. Not only are the applications for boarding schools just as time consuming and workload heavy, if not more so, than applying to universities, but the cost of boarding schools is also comparable to university. The average tuition at a private US boarding school ranges from $50,000 to $60,000USD a year. To put into perspective, Columbia University, situated in the heart of New York City, costs around $75,000USD a year. While the statistics of students admitted to high-ranking US universities from the top boarding schools seem to suggest that a student’s chances are better there, the student body at these boarding schools are often self-selecting. In reality, the students that are accepted to these top universities are most likely legacy students, recruits, or American. Moreover, top US boarding schools have acceptance rates as low as the Ivy Leagues themselves! Schools like Phillips Academy – Andover only accept 1 to 2 students from Hong Kong a year, numbers comparable to those accepted into Harvard and Stanford. So the question we must ask is whether going to boarding school was necessary for these students to have gotten into those schools. The answer to that is not necessarily! Going to a boarding school should not be thought of as a means to an end. It is crucial that the school is a good fit for both the student and what they hope to get out of attending the school. As a result, boarding schools are not for everyone, and they are not always the better option! Make sure that if you do choose to apply to boarding schools, you are doing it for the right reasons.
Quantum Prep is an education consultancy that focuses on placing their students at the best colleges or universities. We boast of diverse results. In addition to the traditional rap sheet of prestigious university acceptances, our consultants like to highlight the different paths they have sent students on. All of our students are different; we are proud of our one-on-one tailored approach towards university counselling. Contact us for a complimentary 30-minute initial meeting, where you can get tailored individualized advice on how to put your best foot forward. Read our reviews to see what our clients think of us.
By Sabrina Ma, Admissions Consultant