When Should I Start Researching a Junior Boarding School for My Son?

imagesIf you’ve never sent a child to a junior boarding school, you might be wondering about the amount of time you should allow your family to research, visit, and apply to schools.

Many of the families considering  The Fessenden School in West Newton, MA, are in the same boat as you, so we thought it would be helpful to answer some of the most commonly asked questions we hear about the junior boarding school search and application process.

At What Grade Does Junior Boarding School Begin?

Typically, when we talk about “junior boarding school,” we are referring to a boarding school that serves students from fifth grade through ninth. That’s the grade range of the boarding students at Fessenden, and it’s the range we’ll focus on for the rest of this article.

Is the Junior Boarding School Application Process Similar to that of Secondary Boarding Schools?

Not usually. While most secondary boarding schools have hard deadlines (applications are due in January and decisions go out in March), most junior boarding schools use what’s called a “rolling” admissions process. This just means the junior boarding schools accept applications at any point all the way up through the beginning of the school year for which the student is applying.

Of course, by September, many schools are fully enrolled. However, occasionally there are openings right up until the first day of school, so never hesitate to inquire.

When Should We Start Searching for a Junior Boarding School?

WR - Boarding BoysAnother difference between junior boarding schools and secondary boarding schools is that there are fewer of them. While there are hundreds of secondary boarding schools in the U.S., the Junior Boarding School Association, for example, only has 10 members, including The Fessenden School. You can whittle down this list of 10 even further depending on the kind of experience you’re seeking for your son: all-boys vs. co-ed, for example.

Given the relatively small number of schools from which to choose, one year is usually sufficient to find and apply to a private junior boarding school.

To give yourself just a bit more time, we usually advise families to start searching for a junior boarding school in the spring before the year you intend your son to start school. (So if your son is starting fifth grade in 2017, begin looking for a junior boarding school in the spring of 2016.) But, if the spring has already passed, don’t worry. Starting your search in the fall is perfectly fine.

Why a Year?

We feel that a year is an adequate amount of time to conduct the research and apply to a junior boarding school:

  •         Visit websites and collect information online.
  •         Visit schools.
  •         Meet with admission teams for school tours and interviews.
  •         Submit transcripts and recommendations.

That last point, the transcripts and recommendations, is an important one. At Fessenden, we prefer that families wait to complete the application process – which includes teacher recommendations, grades and transcripts – until the new year to ensure that teachers have an opportunity to really get to know the applicant as a student and as a person before they submit the teacher evaluation. Asking a teacher to submit recommendations in September, when he/she has only had the boy in the class for about a month, limits the teacher’s ability to speak to the boy’s strengths or potential opportunities for growth.

Still Have Questions?

We understand that finding the right school for your son can be challenging. If you have questions about researching and applying to junior boarding schools, please feel free to contact our Admissions team at admissions@fessenden.org or call us at 617-630-2300. We would be delighted to help guide you through the process.

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One Response to “When Should I Start Researching a Junior Boarding School for My Son?”

  1. Braden Bills

    I’m thinking that a boarding school would be beneficial for my son. It makes sense that finding one early would be important! I’ll be sure to do plenty of research ahead of time so I know what to expect.


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