Starting boarding school, or any new school for that matter, can be a bit of an upheaval for teens. But being armed with information can be reassuring and assuage some of those nerves. The trick… is getting that information.
Open days are a great time to find out about a school. In most cases you and your teen will be shown around the school by a current student. They’ll be able to answer some of the questions and give insight into some of the things that your teen is worrying about. And you can get the ‘vibe’ of the school, meet some other students and parents, and ideally leave with a sense about whether or not the school will suit your teen. (The Boarding Schools Expo is also a fabulous resource where you can see a range of schooling options all under the one roof!)
As helpful as open days are, it also might be worth visiting the school on a ‘normal’ school day, as well. Open days are showcases for potential families, and they’re a great way to see all the options and opportunities a school might have. But they don’t necessarily give a fully accurate picture of what life will be like for your teen during the year. It pays to remember that they’ll be a student for six hours a day, but a boarder for an additional 18 hours a day. So, getting to know the school in that light is important.
Regardless of when you visit the school, you’ll want to be prepared with all the questions you and your teen might have. But what are the best questions to ask staff and students at boarding schools? What is it that you should know?
For Your Teen – 7 Questions to Ask Boarding Schools
Your teen’s school experience is going to be unique to them. And your teen is going to have different concerns and worries than you are. It’s important that they (with or without your help) get the information they need to make that experience the best that it can be. Whatever they are concerned about, or whatever they want to know about, those are the best questions to ask boarding schools. And your teen should be sure to ask them. The student guides during the open days and the staff otherwise are there to answer all those questions and make sure that students feel confident and comfortable before beginning school.
However, there are some questions that are important to almost all prospective students before they start at a new school. These might include:
- What is a typical day like for a student?
- What is the workload like?
- What kind of student fits in here?
- What is the social life like at a boarding school?
- What do you do on weekends?
- What kinds of sports/arts/service opportunities are there?
For the Parents – 3 Questions to Ask Boarding Schools
As parents, we’ll have our own worries and concerns when it comes to choosing a boarding school for our teen. Many of these will be around safety, communication and involvement – and they should all be addressed. Research shows that parents play an important role in a child’s education, from choosing schools to day-to-day help with homework. Since your teen will have more success when you’re involved in their education, it’s helpful if you can stay involved despite it being a boarding school.
Most parents also want to make sure that your child is safe at all times, being well looked after and able to communicate with you when they need to and want to. In the same vein, you’ll want to know that you can easily communicate with your teen, and with the boarding staff that’s looking after them.
So, in light of that, your own questions might be:
- How can I get involved at the school?
- How will my child be kept safe while on campus and what help is available if my child has a problem?
- How can I communicate with the boarding school and with my child?
What matters most?
It’s easy to get caught up in the resources a school provides, the results it promises, and the reputation it spruiks in its marketing pages. Experience shows that our children typically do better, particularly in a boarding school, when we put those three things to the side and, instead, focus on whether they have friends at the school, what the school’s philosophy is, and how it fits with your family, your student, and your values. Pick friends, fit, and philosophy every time over resources, results, and reputation.
Sometimes asking questions can be hard, particularly for teens. Helping them recognise what’s worrying them and focus on getting answers to those specific issues, is an excellent way to allay worries going forward.
Article by Dr Justin Coulson, Happy Families