Specialty Interests

Students with Specialty Interests: What Can Boarding School Offer Me?

Many students who apply to boarding schools have strong passions for specific subjects or areas, and may be highly advanced in them. For students with specialty interests, be they academic, athletic, or artistic, there may be many opportunities at a boarding school, but students must be very particular about the schools they apply to. Applicants should make note of the school’s focus, curriculum, extra-curricular requirements, and programs, and see how they align with their personal goals.

Academically, boarding schools have a range of focuses and the curriculum may be very different from standard public schools or typical private day schools. Some boarding schools may have a specific academic focus—common programs include curriculums based on science and math, the arts, or non-English classes and international studies. Many schools are dedicated to providing students with a traditional liberal arts education and consequently may have a wide range of requirements—such as mandatory music, art, theater, philosophy, and/or religious studies classes for all students. While most students benefit from such a curriculum, and may even discover a new passion, it can also prevent students from being able to take advanced classes in subjects that they want to. Even if a school has a liberal arts focus, students can often create their own curriculum each semester, as long as they meet the graduation requirements at the end of their four years. Students with advanced ability in certain subjects can petition department chairs to jump over prerequisites by showing their credentials or taking a placement test. Additionally, many schools offer opportunities for independent study, and students are able to work closely with a faculty advisor on a project of personal interest. Students should also consider the quality of teachers at boarding schools, who have profound teaching experience and passion, but likely also hold advanced degrees and non-academic professional experience in their subject areas.

Students with specific academic interests and/or objectives should look closely at a school’s curriculum and offerings. Some schools also have summer programs that build on classroom studies. Many schools have amazing opportunities that will help students advance their interest and skills in several academic realms—you just need to do your research!

Because schools want you to excel in and out of the classroom, many have fantastic athletic programs. Student athletes should look at a school’s past performance as well as reach out to the coach to better understand the program for their specific sport. Additionally, schools have different policies on students participating in athletics outside of the school. Joining a team not sponsored by the school may not be permitted. This may be because of simple logistics, or it may stem from concerns over compromising academics. However, because many serious athletes have one sport that they play throughout the year, not just during their ‘season,’ schools may be willing to work with students to find a solution. Students need to contact schools’ athletic departments to understand policies and explore options.

Similarly, artists should learn about what courses and extra curricular opportunities schools offer in the area of interest. Some schools have phenomenal performing arts programs to help students develop and showcase their talents. Like athletics, students must reach out to the school to learn of their policies on students participating in outside art programs. Schools want their students to succeed in their non-academic interests, and any limitations placed on a student in this regard is likely to safeguard their academic performance. Boarding schools are renown for their extra curricular opportunities that distinguish them from their day counterparts. Students have the chance to join amazing clubs that focus on everything from volunteering to politics/current events to language/culture studies. Students should look at school websites to see what types of activities a school offers. If you don’t see a club for one of your interests, find out what the school’s policy is on forming a club. This will ensure that you can continue to explore your passion, and meet others with similar interests!

For anyone with a special interest, be sure to ask questions when visiting, and/or get the contact information of someone who can correctly answer your concerns. Check out the school’s facilities, whether it’s their gym, performance hall, or science lab, ask if you can take a look! By being outspoken, not only are you showing the school your interests and passions, it also ensures that you’re getting the answers to important questions!