The Truth About Boarding School

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The Truth About Boarding School
A Comparative Study of Secondary School Education

Forward
Foreword
Boarding schools today are much different than they used to be, and poles apart from
stereotypical Hollywood images, such as havens for children of privilege or refuges for troubled
teens. New research proves that contemporary boarding schools serve a diverse body of
motivated and well-rounded students who study and live in supportive, inclusive academic
communities where they learn about independence and responsibility—traditional values
that help them achieve success at higher rates than private day and public schools students—
in the classroom and beyond.
To gain a more comprehensive understanding of modern-day boarding schools and the
relative value of the boarding school experience, The Association of Boarding Schools
(TABS), the non-profit membership organization for independent, college-preparatory
boarding schools, commissioned Art & Science Group, a market research and consulting
firm based in Baltimore, to study the subject. The results of their detailed assessment debunk
many of the misperceptions about boarding schools and offer new insight into the strengths—
and advantages—of boarding schools today.

Introduction
This report summarizes the main findings of the research, providing a picture of boarding
school education and how it differs from a private day or public school experience.
Interviews with current boarding school students reveal why young men and women choose
to apply to boarding school, what they learn once enrolled, and how boarders spend their
time as compared to students who attend private day or public schools.
Interviews with boarding school alumni across generations reveal the long-term, life-
changing effects of attending school in a residential setting, and how the lessons and values
learned at boarding school influence and shape college experiences and professional success.
2
Research Methodology: Art & Science Group interviewed more than 2,700 high school
students and adults over the course of 16 months. The total sample comprised approximately
1,000 students and alumni from boarding schools, 1,100 from public schools, and 600
from private day schools (including independent and parochial schools).
Interviewees included high school seniors, post-college graduates (25- and 26-year-olds),
as well as mid- and late-career-level professionals (38- and 39-year-olds and 58- and 59-
year-olds, respectively). Findings from boarding school students and graduates were
compared with corresponding populations from public and private day schools.
To isolate the effects of the boarding experience, samples were drawn and weighted to match
public and private day populations based on socioeconomic status, college graduation rates,
and gender.

100
91%
90
80
70%
70
60
50%
50
40
30
20
10
0
Public
Private Day
Boarding
PERCENT OF STUDENTS WHO REPORT THEIR SCHOOL IS ACADEMICALLY CHALLENGING
Chart 1

8 hours
9 hours
17 hours
20
19
18
17
16
15
14
13
12
11
10
9
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
0
Public
Private Day
Boarding
HOURS SPENT PER WEEK ON HOMEWORK
Chart 2

Boarding school students and alumni are
overwhelmingly satisfied with their academic experiences
For most teenagers—and their parents—it is the high-quality academics that motivate them
to apply to boarding schools. About 60% of students enroll in these institutions primarily
because of the promise of better education. Those surveyed reported significant enthusiasm
for the classroom instruction they received.
“A
t boarding school, I rediscovered my love of learning. The classes
were high-level and challenging. The teachers communicated the
joy of learning.”
—Mid-career boarding school graduate
• 95% say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their academic experience,
compared to 86% of private day or public school students
5
• 91% report that their schools are academically challenging, compared to 70% of
private day and 50% of public school students (Chart 1)
• 90% report having high-quality teachers, compared to 62% of private day and
51% of public school students
• Boarding school students spend about 17 hours per week on homework, com-
pared to approximately 9 hours by private day students and 8 hours by public
school students (Chart 2)
• 75% of boarding school students report being surrounded by motivated peers,
compared to 71% of private day and 49% of public school students (Chart 3)
• 90% of mid-career and 80% of late-career boarding school graduates say they
would repeat the boarding experience

100
90
80
75%
71%
70
60
49%
50
40
30
20
10
0
Public
Private Day
Boarding
PERCENT OF STUDENTS WHO REPORT BEING AROUND MOTIVATED PEERS
Chart 3

Boarding school students use their time more
productively than private day and public school students
In addition to enjoying the benefits of serious education and dedicating significantly more
time to their studies, boarding school students participate more in extracurricular activities
than other students.
• 12 hours per week are dedicated to exercising or playing sports in boarding
schools, compared to about 9 hours in private day and public schools
• Boarding school students spend about 6 hours per week on creative endeavors
like performing music and painting, compared to 4 hours by private day and 5
7
hours by public school students
• 35% of current boarding school students spend 7-14 hours per week on non-
athletic extracurricular activities like student government and clubs, compared
to 27% of other students
• Boarding school students spend considerably less time watching television—
about 3 hours per week, compared to 7 hours among private day and public
school students—a pattern that continues throughout life

100
90
77%
80
70
60%
60
52%
50
40
30
20
10
0
Public
Private Day
Boarding
PERCENT OF STUDENTS WHO SAY THEIR SCHOOLS
PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEADERSHIP
Chart 4

Boarding schools encourage
positive personal development
The study indicates that boarding schools play a direct and influential role in shaping the
personal values and ethics of their students, fostering a wide array of desirable traits in a
supportive and motivating environment. Boarding schools place as much importance on
character development and growth as they do on academic success.
• About 70% of boarding school students say that boarding school helped them
develop self-discipline, maturity, independence, and the ability to think critically
• 77% of boarding school students say that their schools provide opportunities for
leadership, compared to 60% of private day and 52% of public school students
9
(Chart 4)
• About 75% of boarding school students say that their schools provide a supportive
environment, compared to about 70% of private day students and 50% of public
school students
• Boarding school students enjoy more time with teachers, coaches, and staff
members outside class than private day and public school students—about 9
hours per week compared to 4 hours
• About 26% of boarding school students say there is “some” cheating at school,
compared to 60% of private day and 54% of public school students