What I wish I Knew Before Entering Boarding School 2022 version

I notice a lot of “even some of the rich kids are nice, wow, so surprising!” on this thread and am going to point out that full pay families are human too.

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I came into boarding school expecting a lot of legacy but I was shocked by how much there was. And not just one parent. Both parents. And not just legacy, high donors who have already spoken to someone about their kids application. Yes there are kids who get into ivys without the legacy status but it’s a pretty small proportion from what I’ve seen. Outside of actual Ivy League schools I’d agree with you. Other top20 or nescac schools seem to still love the really smart bs kids.

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Agree with this. If NE boarding schools are anything like NYC private schools, then yeah. Bulk of Ivy matriculations are children of legacies. Everyone has good grades and ECs too.

Here’s another thing I learned from experience and also that Kiddo’s experience as a 4-year tour guide:

For some students, the living arrangements matter and for others it does not matter at all. Be honest about your expectations and what will make you feel comfortable and be prepared to live differently. I think kids who have been to a non-posh sleep away camp have a better adjustment than kids who have never bunked in or used a filthy bathroom.

  • The tour guides will most likely show you a good dorm and/or a good room. Even the marketing videos are a set up - the recent DA video of “a day in a life of” has someone’s nice dorm but another student is using it in the video (chosen for attractiveness - both).

  • Ask to see a Freshman dorm and a Freshman room.

  • Look inside bathrooms in dorms (“Oh, I need to use the rest room real quick”)

  • Some schools release dorm and roommate assignments before you get to school, others tell you when you show up that move-in day. There are pro’s and con’s to these policies.

  • Realize that many kids start following each other and DM’ing on social media before school starts.

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This reminds me to add to my What I Wish I Knew List…I wish I knew how filthy the showers/bathrooms would be. Or maybe ignorance is bliss. Needless to say, I was pretty horrified by the filth in Kiddo1’s showers on move out day. Shower shoes are a must.

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We’re glad we didn’t know most of the stuff mentioned in this thread.

It’s been a mostly fun journey so far for our kids - the joys, adventures, character development, and challenges so often stem from life’s many uncertainties and surprises.

None of the things described herein would have been BS dealbreakers, so it really wouldn’t have mattered if we had known beforehand.

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To add on, how much your experience can differ depending on the culture of your dorm and the way the Heads of House (or equivalent) operate. The difference in cleanliness between my freshman and sophomore/junior Houses is astounding, and I credit it to our Head of House really emphasizing the importance of taking care of the spaces around us—I’ve frequently hung out in other boys’ Houses, and they’re not nearly as nice.

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If we knew then what we know now……

Kiddo would have gone to Hotchkiss, SPS, or ugh….can’t say it…so it would have been H or S :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

I won’t spill the rancid tea publicly more than I have…
But you can DM me for my honest insights. I am not alone, either. I am just not afraid to say it.

Go Choate!

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I read your posts with interest as a non-BS parent or alum, but as the non-super-rich full pay alum of fancy private school and non-super-rich full pay parent of fancy private school kids.

I would say so many things are common to your BS experience but of course without the BS “can’t leave”, “no parent” intensity.

The difference between today and decades ago (in no order):

  1. families (parents and kids) flex their $$$ more. They dial up their inner Karens.
  2. drinking and weed feels more intense and binge-y now even among my middle aged friends
  3. related to #1 - our generation of college educated parents are more intense in our parental style. And willing to spend, spend, spend.

The point you brought up about teacher’s favorites is so true.

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@nyc10023 , I agree that the difference is often the wealth distribution of families. And we all know wealthy families who fully expect their money to talk. I have wealthy friends who have flexed their wallet muscle by pulling all kinds of strings, whether it’s requesting certain teachers, haggling over grades, etc.

My kid went to a BS that was quite different than that – in fact was very much the opposite! – but culturally, was a bit of an outlier. Kids went out of their way not to flaunt wealth or privilege-- but tbh, many families are not looking for that. It takes a lot of effort to provide kids with the privilege of this kind of education without making them feel entitled.

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That is an excellent observation. Those parents who are able to do that are appreciated. We tell our daughter every day how lucky she is to be given this opportunity, thanks to the generosity of alumni donors, without them there would not be financial aid for regular families.

Along the line of “Things I am glad I didn’t know before BS”. While we never expected it to be easy, and her grades did drop, she still earned honors and high honors all 3 trimesters. Her academic advisor wrote in their end of year letter that in their 20+ years advising, they have never had a repeat junior do that. And it was such a lovely and personal letter. You don’t get that at Public School! But If we’d known that little statistical anecdote, we may not have applied :joy:

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You may be comparing the inside nitty-gritty of Deerfield with the superficial outsides of these other schools. All schools and many kids have issues, I’m sure. My kid had a very positive overall experience at Hotchkiss this past year but was fortunate to get the teachers and dorm he/she did, and even so there have been issues here and there. Some of my kid’s classmates were not as fortunate. I am satisfied Hotchkiss was a great choice for my child and is a fantastic school, but believe me (and him/her), no school is perfect!

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I am way late jumping back in after a CC break and just about everything has been said, but a few things that jump out as reactions. First, boarding school experience is very different if you live at home, live at the dorm but are local enough that parents are on campus every week for games and such and you can leave any weekend you feel like it, vs. the kids who have family far away and may not leave campus the entire term. And the breakdown of the student population along these lines has impact on the campus culture, too. Some people on here do not like schools with largish day student populations, but IME it is a good way for the schools to bring in regular UMC kids who break up the divide between the very rich and the FA kids discuss above, and bring in the normal UMC suburban component. At least that is the case at our school, and likely most other suburban ones, not so much the rural ones but they tend to have few non faculty day students to begin with. When reading all these comments, keep in mind that people posting run the gamut. Also, kids/families come to BS with different goals, while some kids immerse in the boarding experience, others treat it very much like day prep school, and are engaged in activities and have social life outside of campus. Having a solid view of what your goal in attending BS is, and having reasonable expectations coming in can come a long way to having a positive experience. Of course, there may be a major curveball or two along the way (hello, covid), and adjustments need to be made, but that is another story.

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Again way too late, but I did not see anyone mentioning it above, yes there is a lot of grade inflation and a ton of kids have very high GPAs. But colleges pair the GPA with transcript review and the rigor of classes you took is where you can tell who is a top student vs. who is getting As in ‘brick’ classes. At our school at least, they do not seem to like kids getting Bs, so you end up being dropped out of honors to regular class where you will get an A. But when your transcripts are compared it is clear who is the better student. I think it may matter less (or barely at all) for athletic recruits but if you are applying mainly on the strength of your academic record it matters a great deal.

And one more unrelated thing which I have not seen mentioned yet, for anyone who is considering boarding school largely for sports/hopes to be recruited to play in college. This is more common for boys, though to some degree relevant to girls too. When talking to the coach of the sport you play, and are amazed by how many kids were recruited to play at top colleges, ask or research how many of those student athletes actually spent 4 years at the boarding school. IME it has become extremely common for coaches to recruit HS juniors (and to lesser extend sophomores) to come and “re-class”, i.e repeat junior year in order to increase chances of top recruitment spot. Combined with PG recruits which a lot of teams also have there is often very little path for kids who started in 9th grade to play on varsity and get recruited. And if there is, it requires you to manage club play in the off season, finding a club team and dealing with all the logistics. Also check the ages of the kids playing, some of the boys have been redshirted once already for kindergarten and now again for BS so are a lot bigger and stronger. Which does not matter for all sports and positions, but for a lot it does and it is absolutely crushing for the kids to come to play a sport and then never see the field. Again, it is not true for all sports and all schools but it is becoming increasingly common so do your research and don’t rely just on what the coach says.

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@Altras….you are right!

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SPS couldn’t have been a serious option for your family…No golf team!

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Oh actually the one thing I wish I knew was how excruciatingly hard it was to play a club sport outside of school. We spoke to coaches, we spoke to parents, we spoke to the school staff, we spoke to kids. They pretty much all skirt the truth. It’s hard and I do not recommend it.

There are schools that will let you out of the sports/afternoon activity requirements but make sure you know this before you commit. The kids I’ve seen who have made this work are kids who are ok with an 85 average. Or kids who play for specialized club teams made to work around BS schedules or who were already such super stars that they can only play their club sport over the summer and the club coaches accept that.

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I agree completely and don’t feel that we got the full picture from coaches and administrators when we addressed this issue head on. We knew that there were several athletes who played for club teams in the same sport as DD1 but there are different levels of quality and commitment required amongst club teams. While we were upfront with the club coaches regarding only attending 1/2 of the fall practices and tournaments, it’s had a negative effect on the player/player and player/coach relationships. As mentioned, if she was an absolute superstar then this would be less of an issue.

Her grades were significantly better in the 2nd semester, without club play, but I think that’s more about her getting into the groove at school and recognizing the amount of effort she had to put in to get the grades that she wanted. Having said that, anyone who “grinds” for their As should think very hard about playing club during the school year and be prepared to accept lower grades.

DD2 plays club in a different sport which is only active during the school year and she had a hard decision to make regarding BS vs club sports … there is no realistic way for her to do both.

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