We are considering boarding schools. Do you know or can you recommend a school that could help and may be able to work with me concerning finances? My financial situation does not allow me to apply for loans or credit cards. Thank you.
Here are some important considerations when looking at the boarding school option:
You can eliminate some of the hundreds of choices by determining the factors that are most important to you and your child. Your child should be an integral part of this decision making process. Some of those factors are:
· Climate and environment? Just must have a beach? Horses? Skiing? Summer year around? Four seasons? A place of solitude or urban sites and sounds?
· Co-ed or single sex?
· Cost? Your allowance may not cover all the expenses. Most expenses will be paid if you are eligible for an away from post (boarding) education allowance, however, if the school of choice exceeds the average boarding school, or the school has many additional expenses not included in the basic cost, you may find yourself with lots of out of pocket expenses. Distance from the post may also add airfare costs if further than the distances priced. (See FAQ's for more information on how the allowance is calculated.) You can find the current away from post education allowance in the table of allowances (section 920).
· How many of the students are international? You will discover that the child who grew up in an international environment will often seek out contact with other children who feel not entirely comfortable with the American culture. Whether they are American children brought up overseas or not even American at all; these TCKs (Third Culture Kids) are a unique culture. Not quite American, not quite anything else!
· Level of support for boarders? How accessible are counselors and staff? How does the communication system work to parents? Who notices that a student needs assistance?
· Level of technology provided? Many boarding schools are very much a part of the technology age and wired for computers and email. Others are not.
· Mostly a day school or mostly boarding? It can make a difference to a child if most of the students are day students or five-day boarders and leave for most weekends. Full-time boarders could be left with few activities and no where to go. If you will not have relatives or friends committed to being available for weekends, be sure you choose a school with lots of weekend activities. Some schools have Saturday morning classes and few weekends or holidays on which they are closed. Some schools have few boarders while others are 100 percent boarding.
· Range of academics? Every type of school is available, from the most competitive college prep to the more average or supportive environments.
· Size? Some schools are intimate, less than 100 students, while others can be 500-1,000, or more.
· Special offerings for the arts? Performance or enjoyment level?
· Specialties? Military? Religious preference? Special needs?
· Sports available? Somewhere, everything is available but the level of play will vary. Are you hoping for an athletic scholarship to a college or pure enjoyment of a lifetime sport?
· Uniforms or special codes of conduct? Dress codes, honor codes, drug testing. Under which guidelines will you and your child be comfortable?
· When to make the move? There are a few schools in the U.S. which offer junior boarding (eighth grade and lower) but that is more common in the UK or Europe. Schools in the northeastern U.S. often have the largest influx of students at tenth grade (children attend private day schools through grade nine) while others generally have most students entering at ninth grade. Some schools do not admit seniors. Some schools will accept new mid-year students at any level. One can always ask.
· Where? Though it is always important to be near a source of support, either close friends or relatives, consideration should also be given to connections to airports. Many boarding schools will help with transportation to and from the airport. Do you want your child to be in the U.S. or in Europe or some other location in closer proximity to where you are?
The Application Process— The application process for a boarding school can be similar to college. There are forms to fill out, fees to pay, tests to take, transcripts to send, and letters of references required. An interview may not be required or you may be able to do it over the phone. A visit to the school is certainly recommended so you know if the school is a good fit.
The SSAT, an SAT for secondary school admission, is often required. You can receive information from their web site: http://www.ssat.org. Flexible (flex) test sites and times can be arranged, if necessary, in addition to the regularly scheduled dates and locations. Ask your CLO or the FLO for more information on this.
Many schools will offer some level of financial aid but this too must be competed for at an early point in the application process. Most schools have limited funds for tuition assistance. If you find your circumstances have changed, such as if you no longer qualify for an education allowance when you return to the States for an assignment but would like your teen to continue at the boarding school, let the school know. They might be able to assist with more financial aid.
Ask the schools or FLO for student referrals at a particular boarding school so your child can begin an email communication with someone there to ask those questions that the admissions people might not answer as easily.
The same advice holds true for boarding school visits as you might have for colleges, if you know a boarding school is in the future try to visit a few. The visits will give you a baseline to compare others. It will help you prioritize the various factors and choices that are important to you and to your child. You can see if that dorm room or cafeteria or mountaintop setting will be as important a factor as it seemed at first.
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