Boarding school for an international student

Hi, I am a parent of a middle school age son in China. I am considering sending my son to the US to attend boarding school starting freshman year. There’s not much good advice on boarding school and US admissions in China, just boarding school sales agents who offer feedback, so I much appreciate any advice and perspective from parents who have been through the process.

I would like to know if there are advantages or disadvantages to attending a top boarding school for US college admission compared to attending a public high school in the US. To narrow down this discussion from a large range of colleges, hypothetically I am aiming for my son to attend the 14th best ranked college according to US News. I am using such a specific goal only for hypothetical framing. Will attending a boarding school over a public high school improve the odds of gaining admission, not change the odds, or make things more challenging?

Does the answer change if my son were to attend boarding school starting junior year?

I’m confused. Are you based in China or US? How could he possibly attend a US public school if you are living in China? Are you planning on moving to the US?

There are plenty of threads on boarding vs public school debate. The short answer is it depends. If your child graduates at the top of the class from a boarding school, this can typically help. But if not then the advantage between boarding vs public diminishes rapidly.

I am in China. One possibility is to move to the US.

The mantra on this board is for students to attend the high school, public or private, where they have the best opportunity to become the best version of themselves. Colleges admit students, not high schools. The days of feeders to the Ivies and such is long gone.

You also need to understand that the student populations at boarding schools, especially the well-known New England boarding schools, are all cherry-picked groups of very high achievers. These are the kids who will do well in college admissions from whichever high school they attend, public or private. But, grouping stars into small pools makes it hard to stand out. There are many tales here of BS students/parents who are disappointed by college results that did not match their expectations when their goal was a particular college or group of colleges. The boarding schools are “selling” a stellar high school education that prepares each of their students to hit the ground running at whichever college they attend. They are not selling any particular college result.

In the U.S., both public and private high schools can deliver a great secondary education. You choose a high school based on the type of person and student your child is and where you think s/he will best thrive. College will take care of itself.

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So it sounds like your choices are as follows:

  1. Send child to boarding school in US, parents stay in China
  2. Move entire family to US, send child to public school

If you’re asking which of these two options is better for T10 college admissions, then its a difficult one to answer. There are lots of students from China attending college in the US. Those who attend a US boarding school tend to have an easier time adapting to US culture.

I’ve seen situations at smaller boarding schools where the Chinese students have difficulty integrating, and prefer to stay within their enclave of other chinese students. But at some other (larger) boarding schools the tendency to form cliques is much less.

If money is no issue, I would suggest the boarding school route over public school, as it gives the student a head start with regards to college readiness. If funds are an issue, then moving to one of many public school systems in the US will also help prepare.

Getting into T10 is no guarantee, either from boarding school or public school. As you’re probably well aware, as an ORM the hurdles are higher. This is true regardless of school type, probably even higher for boarding students.

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There are students from China (with parents in China) who entered boarding school before COVID. I don’t know what your situation is like now with that @ restrictions. When we did the Boarding School tour several years ago, we met a “consultant” from Hong Kong who was an alum of a HADES school whose business now was to help get students from China into Boarding Schools. He charged big prices. I know that there have been some students in the past who received scholarships.
That same guy had two kids in tow who were clearly not fluent enough in English to flourish at an American school.

There is an association or some type of international organization (I will not post here because it would be free advertising) that helps foreign students apply to US boarding schools. You should reach out to individual schools. A few schools used to have dedicated representatives in China, as well as a unique admissions platform.

There are a few church-affiliated boarding schools that have offered places to students from China in the past. Like St Johns Prep in the Midwest International Students - Saint John's Prep - College Preparatory School. In the past, there were several students from China at Stevenson.

Bon Chance!