Complete newbie, seeking advice about USBS from Asian int'l school (selection, admissions, etc)

TL,DR: Hoping to get our 9th grader out of the pressure cooker east Asian private school world. Want advice about which USBS might be a good fit and how to apply.

We are US citizens living in East Asia with a son in the 9th grade in a “tier one” IB program school. We are concerned that the east Asian approach to education is not a good fit for him. (Although his school is “international,” it is more like a private school for local wealthy kids, who shuttle from school to intensive after-school programs and/or private tutoring, all with the express goal of getting into an elite college.)

We’re not that interested in our son going to an elite university. We just want high school to prepare him for college level work. We would also like him to have fun with school friends and have a sense of community—things that are not emphasized in our current country.

We are contemplating the idea of USBS, but don’t know what would be a good fit. He is a kind-hearted, empathetic, and sensitive kid, but his academics are middle of the road (not bad, but nothing that will wow anyone). He is working with a private math tutor, but his other skills, especially writing and critical thinking, seem behind. He is a strong cross country runner, and he enjoys dance and theater. But it’s all really just for fun, which is fine by us. He’s also a bit immature and disorganized—closer to 13 years of age in mindset than to 15. In short, he seems like a pretty average young teenager. I do feel like the school here has not been as rigorous as we had hoped. Therefore, if we were to send him to a boarding school, we’d probably have him apply as a 9th grader.

Here are my questions:
*Can you just apply to the 9th grade, even if you’ve already taken it?

*Would you recommend USBS for someone in our situation, and if so which schools? We have no investment in him going to a “top” boarding school, but we probably are only interested in fairly conventional programs. We’d like a school that helps inspire students to learn and that provides some individualized attention to help them improve time management, develop study skills, and find their academic interests. It would be great if he could keep running and performing, but just as opportunities for exploration and expression. I’m particularly interested in a Quaker/Friends school or another program that emphasizes responsibility, ethics, etc.

*I had never really considered boarding school, perhaps because as an American it had always seemed to be either for the very rich or for those seeking a very strict, intense kind of environment. But we’ve come to learn that many other international parents here send their kids back home for high school. It’s increasingly seeming like our son isn’t learning all that much in school and also isn’t really finding his place socially. I worry that the situation will continue to erode and that we are being a bit naive in hoping it will all work out. Still, we don’t really know what it’s like to go to USBS. I’d love to hear about some positive social/cultural aspects of boarding school from parents or students.

*What would you recommend for us to do in the next few weeks in terms of prepping an application, trying to select schools, etc—especially from abroad?

Thanks for any advice.

You may want to look at the Westtown school.

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Check out George School, another Friends school in PA.


This looks like what we are looking for. Thank you so much.

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I was under the impression that George School was fairly difficult to get into. I’m not sure my son’s application will be very strong at this point. Is that accurate?

Not necessarily so. It depends on which “bucket” you fall into. As a US citizen, you are not in the same pool as the locals where you live. In this case, I think it’d be easier for you.


How if you try these schools? These are very good schools that don’t get enough attention here. We visited all these schools and we were very impressed. Masters school, Berkshire, Cushing, Tabor Academy and Pennington school.


Just another school for you to explore


Brentwood and Shawnigan Lake - both on Vancouver, Island in Canada. SL has excellent academic support. Mix of Canadian, US and Int kids. Easier vs east coast from SE Asia for transport too.

With you starting from scratch, a highly qualified US based BS consultant would be of value, as they are really the experts. So many amazing BS programs out there not frequently discussed on CC.


Look at the Cambridge School of Weston.

One of my concerns is that boarding school requires a certain level of independence, some more so than others.

You might look at Chapel Hill Chauncey Hall, and their Skills and Academic Strategies Program.

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This to me is less of a concern for BS overall but does speak to a need to find schools that provide the scaffolding your son needs. There are schools that give students lots of freedom and others that mandate they they sit in supervised study halls. Some have great resource centers but expect students to have the initiative to show up for them while others charge added fees for them and require attendance. And there’s everything in between!

Giving some serious thought to what he needs to succeed will put you on the right path.


He definitely needs scaffolding. He’s motivated, but is a people pleaser. The country we currently live in does not encourage independence in academics. So, while he is independent when it comes to certain things (travel, public transit, talking to adults, etc), he is extrinsically motivated when it comes to academics. He would definitely not do well in an environment more like a large or competitive university–“sink or swim, we don’t care.” But my hope is that a boarding school would cultivate his independence and intrinsic motivation–at least more so than he is currently getting.

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This is a great suggestion. Do you know how I can learn about/vet them? I’ve intersected with the college admissions industry, and it has admittedly made me wary of such services, though I can see how a good consultant could be of tremendous help and value. I’m sorry if this question seems hopelessly naive. I feel like I am really in the dark about this whole universe!

We used a consultant and she was great at helping us find the right school for our daughter (also a US student studying overseas at an internationally-known IB school prior to going to boarding school in the US). I will send you the name of the US-based consultant we used throughout the process. She not only helped us (completely new to boarding school) figure out what schools to research based on what my daughter wanted, but also has strong connections with many schools and was able to get us tours when the schools weren’t technically open, was able to talk to schools on my daughter’s behalf behind the scenes, etc. My daughter ended up applying to six schools and was accepted to all six. I just dropped her off at Proctor Academy this morning - you might check that one out as well!


I really don’t know - but guessing there are professional organizations. For sure there is IECA with a list of professional consultants and there should be others. Sorry I am not of more assistance. I would just suggest you would want someone that has been in the business for a bit, maybe even on the school end at one time before moving to consulting, travels to different schools and fits with your child’s profile.

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I was going to suggest you ask @RoonilWazlib99 who they used. Their final list was very thoughtful. Definitely take them up on that offer!

If you would like other names, there is someone I can ask.


OP, another thing to consider is whether the curricular schedule matters to you.

For example, Cambridge School of Weston and George School-- both mentioned above – use a different type of schedule that can be great for some kids and is distasteful for others. Check that out!


Another school I would strongly urge you to consider is the Millbrook School. It is smaller, around 300 students, and a very tight community – no one falls through the cracks. My son, who graduated in 2018 had several friends who lost parents in 9/11 (so the school is used to providing support). In my son’s case, he needed a LOT of scaffolding due to his adhd, and I credit the school with allowing him to blossom. His self confidence improvesd dramatically. I know you aren’t focused on college, but he got into a T20 university, and was well prepared for it.

Millbrook is the only school with an accredited zoo, which is very cool even if that’s not your son’s passion. Every student does community service, and rotates through the zoo as part of that.

I really couldn’t recommend the school more highly!


Millbrook is a great place and one my daughter also seriously considered. We also got the feeling that there was no way for a kid to “go unnoticed” or have an issue that wasn’t addressed very quickly. I think they said the staff get together at least once a week to discuss all the students and what is happening in class, in the dorms, on teams, etc so all adults know what kids are dealing with and can support them.


I also was going to page @RoonilWazlib99 for a consultant rec!
My mind immediately went to George (for the Friends element) and Mercersburg (for the scaffolding).
I have 3 kids at Mercersburg; all who chose it for very different reasons, including one who transferred there after starting at another boarding school, and another one who applied to BS for the first time for 10th grade. Happy to connect about it.
I also thought of Berkshire, Millbrook, and Tabor. Williston maybe? Schools we considered, but honestly I don’t know much about them as they didn’t make our final lists.
I’m trying to get my arms around the academic piece happening now – it’s super pressure cooker, but also: not rigorous – am I understanding that dynamic correctly?