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Basic Things to Know about U.S. Boarding Schools

What you need to know about U.S. High School System.
By GPA Admin

Basic Things to Know about U.S. Boarding Schools

The Basics

The U.S. high school system runs on a system with 4 years or grades 9-12 of high school. The different grades are called freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. There are two main categories of high schools in the USA:

  • Private High Schools (Day schools and boarding schools)
  •  Public High Schools

How Do Private Schools Differ from Public Schools

  • Private schools are usually smaller in size and have less students in each class
  • Private schools are usually a small tight knit community.
  • Private schools usually have higher academic standards and better educated teachers
  • Private schools give more individual attention to each student
  • Private schools offer a broader range of extracurricular activities in sports, arts, academics and community service
  • Students graduating from private boarding schools are usually better prepared for college and university studies
  • Students who wish to attend a private boarding school can choose school/location (as opposed to Public Exchange Programs)
  • Students live on campus with their friends and teachers like a big family

Key Things to Know about Boarding Schools

  • A good private school gives guidance and caring from committed school staff
  • A good private schooloffers high quality instruction and academic excellence
  • A good private school provides specialised programs and individual support when needed
  • Studying at a good boarding school is the best way to ensure you are prepared for college
  • You will find excellent facilities, sports and extracurricular options
  • Almost all private schools have smaller classes, which provide more individual attention to students.
  • Most private schools offer optional English classes (ESL) support if needed
  • Most international students stay for more than one year in U.S. boarding schools because they can sponsor an F1 visa
  • Students stay in residential accommodation in school dormitories and houses on campus
  • Some schools also offer a host family option, in which students pay the host families
  • Students obtain the F-1 visa when studying at a U.S. boarding school   

Admission Requirements

  • Students must be between the ages of 14 and 19 years (12-13 years for the Junior Boarding program)
  • Students must obtain a required SLEP test score set up by each school. The required score usually ranges between 45-55, but some schools will accept lower and some require a higher score. For students with lower SLEP scores many schools offer ESL programs before starting in the academic programs. 
  • Students must complete the full school application. Students must also submit health records, recent teacher recommendations, school transcripts, and a personal essay
  • For the top-ranked schools, students must have a TOEFL and SSAT score and an average school grades above 90
  • Students must have a flexible, socially mature approach to live in a foreign country
  • Skills in sports, music, arts or any other interest areas are a big plus

Costs of Attendance

In 2012 there were approximately 450 boarding schools. Tuition at these schools ranges from free (very rare for international student) to over $50,000 per year.

Length of Attendance

If you are considering entering a U.S. university or college after having graduated from your boarding school, we strongly recommend you to spend at least two years at a U.S. high school level to ensure successful university/college studies. It is best to start earlier, at Grade 9 or 10, because that will give you time to integrate into the student community and prepare yourself well to succeed in college.


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