If you’re considering boarding school for your child, there is no better way to get an authentic feel for a program than to hear from the students themselves. Whether you want to learn about dorm life or the food in the dining hall, you can always count on students to share the real spirit of a school.
Here’s what actual former Fessenden boarding students are saying about their experiences.
Five-Day Boarding Options
Some junior boarding schools provide options that enable students to have the best of both worlds. For example, Fessenden has a five-day boarding program that allows students to live on campus Monday–Friday and spend the weekends at home. Former Fessenden student Nathaniel D. says he enjoyed having a mix of home and dorm life before heading off to secondary school to become a full-time boarder. “I get my work done a lot better at school because there are a lot more distractions at home. Being at school with set study hall time, you really excel in academics because you develop a work ethic, which will benefit me for the rest of my life.”
Living in an Academic Environment
Boarding school students are immersed in a learning environment at all times, which enables them to focus their attention and work with faculty within a structured and supportive setting. For one former Fessenden student, this environment made an impact on his study habits and academic drive and success. He shares, “My proudest accomplishment is probably making a 360 degree turnaround in my academic life. Prior to coming to Fessy I was not the greatest student, and I didn’t want to work as much. For some reason, Fessy just makes you want to work. Maybe it’s the faculty being such great role models and teachers; you really don’t want to disappoint anyone, so you work extra hard to get the best grades you can—and on the sports field as well.”
A Lesson in Independence
Students at junior boarding school feel that the campus is a second home. They are surrounded by supportive adults and form strong bonds with their peers. An added benefit of boarding school life is the individual growth students undergo as they learn to take care of themselves and begin to practice agency and independence. Felix, a native of Bermuda, described this individual growth during his time at Fessy. “Having a home here was an opportunity to take care of yourself, a place where you don’t rely on other people or listen to other people to tell you what to do. Living here is like telling yourself what to do; to make the right choices, to make good decisions—not bad ones. Overall it is a great experience.”
In a junior boarding school, students look after each other. There is a sense that they are connected beyond friendship; they begin to feel like family. At Fessenden, it’s often called a “Band of Brothers.” Charlie S., a former Fessenden boarding student, shares, “If you talk to any boarder, you’ll learn that it’s not always easy to live in a dorm with 13 to sometimes even 17 other boys. When you have that experience for an entire year, that dorm becomes your family—they’re your friends, they’re your classmates, they’re everything to you. I think that’s a really special trait to be able to get along with people like that and talk to them and just share your experiences with them.”
In this environment, it is important that students are offered opportunities to lead their peers. At Fessenden, this comes in the form of proctorships. As part of the ninth grade experience, students apply for proctor roles which means they are given the opportunity to assist the dorm parent in keeping an orderly, clean, and positive dorm environment. Sal A. described the proctor role at Fessenden. “As a proctor, you’re located in a specific dorm on campus and you help look after the younger students by setting a good example, and making sure that they’re all doing well. If they ever need some advice, you’re always there for them. Basically, you’re like an older brother who’s also like a teacher, but more suitable for them to talk to about their everyday problems.”
Weekends at Fessy
Students considering boarding school often worry about what the weekends might be like in a structured environment away from home. Perhaps they envision having to stay on campus all weekend with limited activities and free time. At Fessenden, however, this is far from reality. Students look forward to the weekend, which are organized with fun-filled trips that take students all over the region. This can include day trips to Boston, which is a quick 15-minute drive away, and occasional overnight trips to Maine, Vermont, Martha’s Vineyard, or New Hampshire. “I love the weekends here,” remarks one Fessy boarder, “Actually, I’m looking at high schools right now and of all the high schools I’ve looked at, there isn’t a place like Fessenden which offers the same weekend activities. Some of my favorites are going to the movies, mall, and go-karting. There’s an endless variety of trips, and we really have so many different options.”
Fessenden’s boarding program also makes ample use of the city of Boston, which is located only a few miles to the east. One local boarder described the experience of visiting Boston with his roommate who was from out of town. “We walked around with my roommate last year who was not from this area and had never been to Boston before. He saw the skyline and was amazed. He was wowed. I thought it was so cool, I like to share that feeling with him. This is so special. I kind of take it for granted that we have such a beautiful city so close to us.”
What will you miss?
For many students, what it usually comes down to is the people and the community. At the end of the school year we often hear things like, “I think I’ll miss the faculty, the community, and the overall environment the most. I’ve made some of my closest friends here at Fessy, and some of my biggest role models in my life are my teachers and the administrators here.”