Parents -how has boarding school shaped your kid's college search?

Seems like just yesterday we were looking at secondary schools and now was are creating college visit lists.

I feel like Lizardkid will go into his college visits with a very different perspective than the majority of kids as he’s already lived away from home for 4 years. Now that he’s lived in a dorm, lived with other students, had relationships with teachers, experienced living on a campus and its relationship to the nearby town I feel like he will be able to factor these things into the general “feel” of his visits.

Has anyone that has already done tours felt that boarding school really helped your student hone into what they want?

It’s funny because older Lizardkid (non-boarding school) knew exactly what she was studying and wanted to say instate, so the decision was between 3 schools (due to her major). So easy. Current Lizardkid is all over the place, so I’m hoping the visits will focus him.

Interesting question. Kiddo has done a little bit of touring, not a lot yet.

I think he (a) wants to expand his horizons and feels ready to do it, so big schools and cities are more on the table than they would have been without boarding school, (b) he is completely unconcerned with how residential life will be, like he has btdt, and any ol’ dorm arrangement will be fine going forward, and (c) diversity is a front and center consideration.

Other than that, I think he is having a hard time focusing on the task of picking schools and drafting essays. His ideas have evolved in the past 6 months. But my guess is that is the same for a lot of rising seniors, no matter what school they attend. He feels a lot of pressure about it because prep school students and adults are intense about college, and it is all they are talking about right now. There is no escaping it.

My son wanted a contained campus with nearby college town or retail (just a street’s worth was fine) and strong school spirit, he didn’t like urban campuses with cars driving through etc. He ended up choosing ND because of the strong academics and campus culture and I think it’s a perfect fit for him.


My kid felt, based on BS, that a tight knit community and classroom engagement were really important. In his words “it works for me and I have the rest of my life to live in an overpriced city.” He did want to try a somewhat different part of the country. So he was a kid whose search focused on LACs.

I’ll note that several of his friends couldn’t wait to get out of a small community and to have some anonymity, so their BS experience drove them in the opposite direction.


In kid’s view, boarding school campus = liberal arts college atmosphere. Can’t do another 4 years at a LAC = boarding school campus.


That is an interesting comment, and what I would have expected.

What were some of the differences between an LAC and a non-LAC that your student focused on to make this comparison? For example, was it physical size, student body size, etc?

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This!! 100%.


Mix of wanting bigger city, STEM focus heading into college (for my kid).

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Similar experience / thoughts as @UltimaCroix & @familyrock that LACs seemed to be too similar of an experience to 4 years of boarding school.


Agree with others…for example, Kiddo does not want Boarding School 2.0 - which would be the case at a couple of schools within 45 minutes of our campus. Some students, however, actually DO WANT that same vibe/setting/size. One thing that GolfKiddo wants is a strong sense of community - not so much a size thing - and that is something that was embedded into the BS culture.

Most of the students we know who attend boarding school are already experienced with living away from home. Do you think going to BS makes students more open to going to college in different regions? My student has told me that the school community and culture is more important than size or location.

Personally (please don’t attack me for saying this), I believe the BS experience has made us (parents & student) more discerning about how to choose a college than we would have been without this experience. I believe we know better questions now than if we had not gone to BS to ask @ certain aspects of academic life, as well as social life, to look for in a best fit college.


The “knowing what questions to ask” is an interesting thing. I feel like we have fewer questions overall. Kiddo knows what it is like to live in a dorm, just not one where there isn’t a dorm parent right there. I gravitate towards schools that have a residential college set up, because it is familiar, but kiddo doesn’t care. I know what it is like to live in an unsupervised, co-ed, drunken party den, but he doesn’t. He says he doesn’t care. So that doesn’t leave a lot of questions for the residential life part of the tour.

For the academic component- He likes small, discussion-based classes and projects more than tests. But he would probably have reached the same conclusion no matter where he went to high school, and you can easily find info on class size on websites and in books.

What he needs to know is how long it takes to get to class, are his people easy to find, how comfortable does the campus feel, does he like the food options, how stressed and competitive are the students, are the profs accessible, and do the academic programs have the depth and breadth he wants. That’s all pretty normal stuff.

Oversimplifying, but my guess is that boarding school crystallizes for kids who thrive in very specific conditions what those deal-breakers are. That is super important to know what fits before you buy four years of college. For others, they have a better sense of how adaptable they can be, which makes the search for fit harder. I think kiddo would have a much narrower school list without boarding school, because he would have had what he thinks are deal breakers that aren’t anymore. For example, he would have assumed he needed a small LAC in the boondocks before, but now he is all in for city living.


Agree, my son went to an international school in Asia through middle school. A lot of his classmates went to BS in the US for high school, and they are ALL now in large big-city colleges, whereas my son is in a Midwest LAC, getting HIS taste of rural, small school life.

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Wow @CateCAParent - would have loved to have known you in college!

My college experience was lonely and boring. Guess I will make up for it when I retire to The Villages :golf:


Oh, freshman year was quite the culture shock for this Catholic school girl!

For example, I had never heard of either grain alcohol or Jaegermeister. And that was just orientation week.

I learned so much.


I recently spoke to 4 college students at a golf tournament - they had attended Salisbury, Deerfield, Avon, and L’Ville. We talked about the transition from boarding school to college. They all said that they had even more of an appreciation for the facilities and intimacy of the classes available to them during boarding school. Yes - those heated towel racks at DA will spoil you! They all shared the “let down” of being back in a double-room first year of college. They all said they were well prepared, academically. One young man explained that he was less impressed by the show of some colleges he toured and more impressed by things that can’t be encased by brick & mortar.

I can see that.

Probably very similar to families going through boarding school applications. Families who have btdt aren’t as taken in by the slick marketing and old school prestige. The more experience in knowing yourself and knowing what to loom for, the better your decisions.

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My older kid very much wanted a sense of close community, similar to his BS. We also knew from his time spent at BS that he would benefit from a smaller school, one with academic support, and the opportunity to build close relationships with teachers. He was admitted to several that fit that bill. Unfortunately for us, we did not listen to our better instincts and were, we now fully admit, wooed by a school that in retrospect did not fit those criteria, but which was a reach school and was also in-state. That taught us a valuable lesson about fit over name (and to some extent, cost). He is transferring to one of the original better-fit schools this fall. It has been traumatic for all of us.

For current BS kiddo, we are letting her drive the train. She is highly motivated and knows what she wants, and that is a LARGER school than BS, in a not as isolated area. She is looking literally all over the country, and that is fine with us. Had she stayed at home, it would be likely that she would be applying to one of our state flagship schools. She is more “wordly” now, and is not afraid to explore and try new things. As we discovered with her brother, fit is truly what is most important, and thus we are following her lead as to what she is looking for.


BS has shaped it in ways we could have anticipated, like the aversion to a rural, isolated campus, but it’s also provided an incredible framework for the university search that none of us expected.

D is also a tour guide at BS, so this has helped her formulate some very good questions on her own tours and info sessions - really specific questions about student and faculty diversity, peer support for minorities, staff/faculty support for student issues, etc. The way she phrases these questions is very intentional and she’s good at analyzing the responses; some answers have sent her searching for the backstory online. And those scripted, memorized responses often DO have a backstory!

Today, as we near the end of the college search, she has a very specific university future anticipated - one that is probably not in the US, is in a larger town or small city, has high international diversity, guarantees freshman housing (but not further), includes options for roommates, is at least 5000 undergraduates, and has student support services available for those who seek them (a given in the US, not so much overseas). She is more interested in big cities than we ever expected, and more ready to live independently (rented flat, cook for herself) than we would have asked of her.

Most interestingly, she is not impressed by the handholding she hears about in the US college info sessions. She is ready to take on the world, and she doesn’t approve of the parental involvement expected by most of the US schools.

She has engaged with her college search to an incredible degree, evaluating well over 100 schools through info sessions, virtural and live tours, ask-a-student events, emails, website reviews, social media searches, and more. She understands the nuances of university applications in 5 countries, and has drafted different types of essays for the different systems. In other words, she’s done her homework, and it certainly has been akin to a whole extra class (fortunately a summer class for her).

It’s a very different college search than we could have anticipated - and it’s been SO much fun to see her get excited about different programs and opportunities. Her college experience will be quite different from her parents and we’re very happy for her!


Touring colleges, listening to the intro-to-college or transition to college talks….

Amateur Hour :rofl:

Has made kiddo even more appreciative for what BS has offered in every way. Realized how important the intangible things are….


So… I’ll feel as out of place as I did at the “Kindergarten Parents Boo-Hoo Breakfast” when my kid started elementary school?

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