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What is a Boarding School

A boarding school is an academic setting that includes education, room, and board,  for at least some students. There may also be day students, who travel to and from the campus on a daily basis, as well as the students who board at the school.

Boarding schools in the United States have become more diverse in recent times, both in terms of the socioeconomic status of students as well as with regard to their ethnic/cultural background and place of origin. In average, about 11% of students at a US boarding school are international students, and about 15% are people of color.

Boarding School Classifications

Boarding schools can be classified in several ways. 

  • International Boarding Schools and United States Boarding Schools

There are 1,500 boarding schools in the world, with 370 of those being in the United States. 

One way to classify boarding schools is by the age/grade of the students they serve. Junior boarding schools serve students in grades one through eight or nine, but some boarding schools include both a junior boarding school and a facility for older students. 

  • Academic Boarding Schools, Specialty Boarding Schools, and Therapeutic Boarding Schools

While some boarding schools focus on preparing students for higher education, others have a dual purpose, with the second function besides academics falling into different categories, depending on the school. 

  • There are schools that focus on the some area of the performing arts, such as the St. Thomas Choir School which provides schooling for the members of the Choir of Men and Boys of the Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NYC who are in grades 4-8. Such schools provide pre-professional training and performance opportunities, as well as an academic program. 
  • There are military academies that combine an academic program with military discipline. Though some people think of military academies as places to cure behavior problems, schools that deal specifically with behavioral issues are another class of schools, often referred to as “therapeutic boarding schools.” 
  • There are all-boys boarding schools and all-girls schools, that focus on the particular needs of children of each gender as they deliver their curriculum. This classification may be combined with any other grouping. 
  • Sectarian boarding schools - those supported by a religious community, whether a Yeshiva or a Catholic school or a Quaker or Muslim school - teach academics in the context of religious values. 
  • Sports boarding schools prepare students in a wide variety of sports, including whitewater rapids, winter sports, and tennis, while maintaining students’ academic work. 
  • Specialty schools may also serve students with a specific disability such as Austine School for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing in Vermont and Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. Although the admissions process is different, some hospitals, like the Shriners Hospitals for Children at Galveston Burn Hospital, that specialize in long-term care have an educational staff so that academics can be combined with the rest of the treatment program. 
  • And there are therapeutic boarding schools that focus on both delivering an academic curriculum and addressing specific issues, often behavioral issues or teens who are troubled or struggling. Examination of the directory provided by the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) shows categories such as “Emotional Growth School,” “Therapeutic Boarding School,” and “Boarding School and Wilderness Program.”

What is a Boarding School Sources:

  • The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) [online]
  • Austine School for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing [online]
  • Perkins School for the Blind [online]
  • Shriners Hospitals for Children Galveston Burn Hospital [online]
  • Junior Boarding School Association (JBSA): St. Thomas Choir School [online]
  • Boarding School Review: Types of Boarding Schools [online]
  • My Boarding School [online]
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