Day School vs Boarding School

Hi - I am looking at private schools for my son. We will be applying in September. Originally, we were looking at Delbarton, Pingry, Newark Academy and Morristown Beard. Starting to get a feel for all (except Newark Academy. Need to be able to visit soon). Thinking that we should potentially consider boarding school. I was always very anti-boarding school but would possibly consider if close and we can visit whenever we want during the week or weekends.I know zero about boarding schools. Blair? Lawrenceville? Any thoughts? Experience? Very doubtful we will go in this direction. Just wondering more. Trying to be well informed on options.

Do you have weekday boarding school? We have a few in Boston. This is the best of both worlds.

BTW – Have you run the idea of semi-frequent visits by your child? My children would kill if I did that. They barely can handle a drop off at the corner a block away

I honestly do not know. Will have to look in to weekday boarding schools. I like that concept. Thanks!

These are really two very different beasts!

First and foremost, a boarding school is a living community – a home – where you child will be 24/7. A day school is an academic community where you child will be 6/5 when he’s not at home. They are really different propositions.

Because students live at BS, they can come from anywhere, so the community can be much more diverse – in terms of SES, nationality, race, religion – than the community in which they are located. Many BS – especially if they think that community is an important part of what they offer – discourage (or even don’t allow) “weekday boarding”. This doesn’t mean that your kids can’t ever go home on weekends, but the school doesn’t want it happening regularly.

Because students live there, BS can offer opportunities at all times of day and on weekends. This generally means that rather than deciding whether to play a sport or work on the newspaper after school, a BS student can play a sport after classes end and then work on the newspaper after dinner. Academics at both day and BS can be excellent. Mentoring at BS tends to be stronger because they know that kids don’t have their parents around. All of those activities and all of that adult supervision tend to cost more. BS is much more expensive – although most have FA – but you’ll want to think about that as well.

There are lots of kids who are up for the academic rigors of a good BS or day school. There are fewer who are ready to be as independent as they need to be to manage life (not just academics) at BS, so you should think about this upfront. With that said, most BS do a pretty good job of setting up a schedule for incoming freshmen so that they are spending enough time studying, etc. If your child in involved in a sport at a very high level (or one that involves a lot of travel or one that a BS doesn’t offer – gymnastics, riding, etc. ), you will probably find day schools more accommodating, in part because they weren’t expecting the student to be around 24/7 in the first place. BS expect the kids to be gainfully occupied most of the time, so it’s a great fit for a kid who likes to be involved.

As a parent, you also need to think about whether you’re comfortable with this. You’ll have longer vacations with your child during the year but your child won’t be around every day. How do you feel about that trade? They’ll be making decisions without you and doing brilliant things that you may not get to witness. On the other hand, BS is a very gentle on-ramp to the kind of independence that they’ll need for college rather than the 0 to 60 home to dorm model. For your part, you will not have to drive to and from school every day and work your schedule around lessons, practices, meetings, and classes. Your child WILL be able to do a lot more because he won’t be a hostage to your schedule and won’t be spending time commuting every day.

Which ones to look at really depend on how far you’re willing to drive. In NJ, you could consider Blair, Peddie, L’ville, Hun (and George, in PA, which is only 20 minutes further.) Hun, with a small boarding community, would probably make weekday boarding a possibility but this is at the cost of a richer boarding experience. Those would all be within about an hour, I think. I know that both George and Hun do open houses in the fall, so you could visit those just to poke around then if you are curious but not yet committed enough to schedule a tour and interview. On the other hand, if another school was a little further but a better fit, would you consider it?

BS can offer a really rich experience at a great point in a young person’s life, but it has to be something that both you and your child feel enthusiastic about. And more than for a day school, fit will really matter because it’s about where home will be for 4 years. I would guess that if you visited those schools above, at least one or two would feel terribly wrong and a few would be very exciting. They are pretty different places.

There’s nothing wrong with applying to day and BS and seeing how your child is feeling about it as the year goes on (and you find out what your options are.) The only thing I would NOT do is set the expectation that BS is an option for your child if it is not. Quite a few kids visit a BS and fall in love with the idea of living in a community of peers.

Thank you so much for taking the time and offering a well thought out and insightful response. You have provided me with much information and so much to think about. We will discuss as a family before any decisions are made whether or not a BS is the appropriate direction for our son before applications are submiited. You have been most helpful! I thought we were all set on day schools but just recently thought of BS. Apparently we really need to take a step back and consider all options and do proper research. Thank you again.

@gardenstategal You are really good at answering this question!

@gardenstategal is always incredibly thoughtful and helpful

Aww… you guys are so nice!

Also Pennington in NJ.

Do you have any boarding schools within 30m driving distance? Being a day student at boarding school is the best of both worlds

Mine is at a school under an hour away (well, except for holiday weekend highway traffic!). He is what they call a local boarding student. He comes home occasionally, and we see him sometimes during the school year. But it is super easy to run up and do an extra trip of stuff to/from school, take him luggage before the school spring break trip, go to games/concerts/etc. His grandparents live near us too, so they go up once or twice a year to take him out to lunch. He is able to come home for some special occasions.

One thing to consider (especially if this is your oldest) is that kids change a lot from 7-9th grade. And more from 9-12th.

Good luck with your search.

I would definitely be interested in something that was closer. My son is currently in 7th so we will be applying in September for 9th. I will keep you posted! Thank you all.

B in BS is why my daughter eagerly went to a high school. She wanted the experience. Academics, EC, and sports were less important than boarding experience. She would have continued homeschooling rather than trying a local highschool, public or private.

I suggest you learn more about Blair and perhaps visit.

Thank you. We have been thinking and talking about it between ourselves and our son. I think we are going to stay with the day school route for now, at least for 9th grade. May look in to BS a little later. Thank you all for all of your insight. You have provided us with so much to think about and it was very helpful!