Often families of gifted and 2E children have schooled in numerous fashions over the years including homeschooling, public and charter schooling, online schooling, un-schooling, independent day schooling and many nuanced other formats. For some families, boarding school can prove to be the option that requires the biggest leap but generates the most growth for their children.
Why boarding school for the Gifted Student?
Many gifted and 2E children want to dive deep into areas of study, have frequent and long conversations with adults over a hot mug of tea, and find specialists in their areas of interest -- all of which can be difficult to achieve at home day in and day out when there are multiple family demands. Some have spent many years homeschooling and begin to yearn in the teenage years to socialize with a larger pool of students they can live with 24/7. Twice-exceptional students may find their days include seeing a series of specialists after school and long hours of homework at the expense of being involved in extracurricular activities. Many students are ready to experience the independence and self-discovery that comes with living away from home. Many students seek friends. Last, families of gifted students choose boarding school to expose their children to an array of activities they would never be exposed to at home. Gifted and 2E children can focus narrowly in an area of interest leading to less exposure to other domains. Boarding schools can widen a student’s world and broaden her mind to consider new and exciting areas of interest while continuing to develop her long-standing passions.
Boarding schools can offer tremendous resources across a wide range of interests. From progressive schools with farming to traditional academic institutions with training programs ranging from horseback riding to rowing, ballet and nautical navigation, there is a boarding school to suit almost every interest of a gifted student. There are also, of course, highly academic and competitive boarding schools for gifted students who thrive on constant academic challenge in a competitive environment.
Boarding schools are special "intentional living communities" where students, faculty, administration and staff come to live and learn together because they enjoy the close bonds and deep education that they experience in this environment. Traditionally, schools referred to as "Boarding" are independent (private), college preparatory, not-for profit, and governed by an independent board of trustees.
Affording boarding school
Boarding schools range from $55,000+ (most in New England are in this range) to under $30,000. Geography is the biggest determinant of cost. Some schools have substantial merit aid. You can search for merit scholarships on the boarding school websites below. There are schools offering full ride and partial scholarships for students demonstrating academic accomplishment, leadership ability, character and accomplishment in a field of interest to the school. Caroline D. Bradley and the Malone Foundation, are two good sources for learning about merit scholarships for gifted students. Financial Aid is the most common approach to affording boarding school based on need.
The process of considering boarding school
Spring of year before applying:
Late summer of year applying:
Fall of year applying:
Winter of year applying:
Spring of year applying
How to create a list and evaluate schools
Make a list of:
Keep the list very specific and important to your family. Here are some examples. “Musts” might include: exceptional jazz music program, a head of school who knows each student personally, non-competitive student body. “Likes” might include: co-ed, secular, high boarding to day student ratio. “Don’ts” may be: IB curriculum, 3-season competitive sports requirement.
Research schools using the online tools listed in resources below such as TABS (The Association of Boarding Schools) and Boarding School Review. Scour the school websites. Google the school and key terms in order to find online articles, including “lawsuit,” so that you are fully informed and can follow up with questions and clarifications. If you live in a major urban area attend a boarding school fair in the fall and get to meet the admission representatives. Consider hiring an educational consultant member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) who can advise you on boarding schools across the country. Read and learn as much as you can about the many types of boarding schools and the programs they offer using the websites listed below and connecting with boarding school parents via gifted list serves.
When you are on campus pay attention to how you are feeling. Schedule with admission in advance to talk to as many people as you can – do not limit your conversations to your admission contacts although they are your allies. Read the school newspaper. You will begin to get an impression of the school fit. Be honest with the admission officer you meet. Share your hopes and expectations as well as your concerns about your student. Ask how the school might respond to a scenario you suggest. Feel comfortable asking how a school might meet the needs for your specific child.
Finding a good fit boarding school will be a result of your investment in the process of researching and learning about this very special intentional living community option. Making a poor-fit choice can result in a negative social, emotional and academic experience that, especially because the student is away from home, can have serious consequences for your gifted child’s development. Academic fit alone will not make an “elite” boarding school a good place for your child to grow if it isn’t an environment in which he feels joy. Gifted children often have a strong sense of justice and fairness and will thrive at a school run by attentive adults who have time to focus on their personal development. Great benefits of a good-fit school are the lifelong relationships your child will develop over the years and the opportunities to grow and self-actualize as a young person. Trust your gut and do your homework to make sure you commit to a school that matches your values.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
The appearance of any information in the Davidson Institute's Database does not imply an endorsement by, or any affiliation with, the Davidson Institute. All information presented is for informational purposes only and is solely the opinion of and the responsibility of the author. Although reasonable effort is made to present accurate information, the Davidson Institute makes no guarantees of any kind, including as to accuracy or completeness. Use of such information is at the sole risk of the reader.