At What Age Should I Start Preparing My Son to Get Into a Top Boarding School?

Top boarding schools like Exeter, Andover, and Groton offer an excellent education with high-quality facilities and some of the world’s best high school educators. They enjoy sterling reputations and many of their graduates go on to first-rate colleges like Harvard, MIT, and Brown.

But, these top boarding schools don’t accept just anyone. Exeter, for example, turns away 81 percent of its applicants, according to Boarding School Review. In a 2013 press release, Andover accepted a record-low 13 percent of the 3,000 students who applied that year.

If you have your heart set on a highly-selective secondary boarding school, you may want to begin by asking yourself when you should start planning to maximize your son’s chances of acceptance.

According to Scott Duddy, Associate Director of Placement here at The Fessenden School, you should start planning as soon as you decide a top secondary boarding school might be a good fit for your family.

“I always encourage parents to explore the world of independent education as early as they are starting to wrestle with the question of, ‘Is my child being challenged, supported, and encouraged at his current school?’” Scott says.

This is not to say the goal of Fessenden’s educators is to get their students into a top secondary boarding school. They’re looking farther than that, Scott says.

“We’re priming our students for success to come. We’re giving them the foundational understanding, the creativity, and the confidence to navigate the world of secondary school and beyond,” he says. “For us, getting admitted is one thing, but then having a successful run and impacting an institution is really what we’re aiming for.”

What are the nation’s top boarding school’s looking for?

Elite boarding schools prefer applicants that meet high academic standards, with a demonstrated commitment to taking on tough challenges. They look for leaders and leadership potential. They hope to attract students who will contribute to their campus community through extracurricular activities, sports, and volunteering, and by helping them maintain their reputations as schools for the world’s best and brightest young people.

Exeter, for example, states, “We seek to enroll students who combine intellectual curiosity, proven academic ability, and a tenacious spirit with decency and good character; young people who welcome the challenges and opportunities provided by a rigorous academic program within a diverse community.”

This is why, if you want your son to get into a top secondary boarding school, one of the best things you can do to give him an edge is to enroll him in a high-quality junior boarding school. Junior boarding schools like The Fessenden School generally accept students starting in fifth grade, at age 10.

At a junior boarding school, your son will have the opportunity to develop the character, confidence, and leadership skills many secondary boarding schools seek.

Preparing for a Secondary Boarding School at a Junior Boarding School

“The boys that attend Fessenden know how to shake hands,” Scott says. “They know how to look people in the eye. They know how to have genuine conversations with adults in a way that many of their peers just don’t have experience with.”

A high-quality junior boarding school also fosters the academic curiosity and independence that catches the attention of top secondary boarding schools.

Boy's Saudi Arabia project“Our boys are learning how to be proactive in their own educational experiences,” Scott says. “Our project-based learning curriculum gives our boys the language and the skills to start to unpack their education in a way that not many students their age are doing. They’re starting to see the connective tissue between traditional subjects like history, English, science, and math.”

We’re available to answer any questions you might have in the comments section below.

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