The Best Boarding School Model Is One You’ve Never Heard Of
At a traditional boarding school, students live on campus full time, getting to know one another and their teachers over the course of the school year. For the right student, it’s a wonderful choice to learn to live independently in a structured academic environment with fewer distractions. Oftentimes in the U.S. however, these boarding schools are in remote, rural locations, and even when they are not, the program is often designed to provide the maximum amount of control over students’ environments. Daily life can feel more curated than authentic, especially for an international student looking for an immersive U.S. experience. And in today’s world where universities want to see a depth of diverse activities and demonstrated ability to take initiative, the traditional boarding school model may be ready for a refresh.
Enter the “day-boarding” school. A rare category among U.S. boarding options, the majority of students attend during the school day, going home to their families at night (day students). A smaller population lives on campus full-time (residential students). Day-boarding schools can offer significant advantages compared with traditional boarding schools. Residential students get to interact and cultivate friendships with the day students and are welcomed into day students’ homes on a regular basis for meals, celebrations, holidays, and the occasional overnight visit. The day-boarding school model offers residential life students access to many of the experiences that their day-student peers boast, including the ability to tap into families’ networks for in-person internships and mentoring opportunities during the school year.
Due to their isolated nature, students at traditional boarding schools sometimes don’t have as many opportunities to engage with the broader community in meaningful ways. It’s, therefore, no coincidence that the smattering of day-boarding schools is primarily located in thriving U.S. cities, such as Charlottesville, VA (St. Anne’s-Belfield School), Portland, Ore. (Oregon Episcopal School), and outside of Birmingham, Ala. (Indian Springs School). Being located in these robust areas, these schools often have longstanding ties to the local community, expanding the world and the experience of the boarders. Over the course of their high school years, students can build long-term relationships with local organizations as volunteers. They may complete externships in their intended field of study. Want to travel to a major city? It’s a simple weekend-day trip. Restaurants, shopping, concerts, and the major academic might of nearby universities are all within walking distance. A day-boarding model can provide a rich cultural experience along with academic opportunities that provide a competitive advantage come college application time.
In the case of St. Anne’s-Belfield located two hours south of Washington, D.C., boarding students have many opportunities to leave campus and explore the safe and charming city of Charlottesville. Central Virginia and the nearby Shenandoah Valley are some of the most beautiful and historically significant areas of the United States. Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, is rife with history, art galleries, museums, restaurants, and performance venues. Just over the mountain are Shenandoah National Park and the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests, which offer breathtaking outdoor activities.
The narrowed academic focus of a boarding program ... with the expanded community ties afforded to a day program.
Safety and structure ... but with abundant, teen-friendly entertainment in walking distance.
Learning to live independently ... surrounded by the warmth and welcome of day student families.
The diverse perspectives of residential life and day students from around the globe ... interacting in the classroom, in performance spaces, on athletic fields, and in group projects.
For many families considering boarding school for their students, the day-boarding model is the best choice for preparing them for lifelong success in the modern world.
St. Anne’s-Belfield School is a Pre-School through Grade 12 school in Charlottesville, Va., with a day-boarding program for Grades 9 – 12. To learn more, contact Associate Director of Upper School Admission Ann Bell (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.stab.org/apply/upper-school