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Tips for an Easier Boarding School Search

Posted by Laura Burgess on Sep 8, 2017 4:29:58 PM

Scenics - 3977284.jpgThe irony of the boarding school search process is that the busiest and most ambitious kids often are the ones seeking these opportunities, but the process of getting there is quite involved, making them even busier. We know we are asking a great deal of kids and families with already-busy lives, and we are always grateful for the work that goes into selecting the best fit boarding school for you!

Here in Tabor admissions, we know all about this. Four of us went to boarding school (two of us at Tabor!), we have a combined total of over 100 years of boarding school experience, and we have fifteen kids between us! We know all about juggling schedules, appointments, practices, rehearsals, meals, homework, and family time. Add in campus visits, the SSAT, requesting recommendations, and filling out paperwork, and we know that the application season will be a bit of a blur for most of our prospective families. But putting in the time and energy is well worth it. Diving deep into school websites, viewbooks, social media, blogs, and correspondence will be an informative experience.  

This process might feel overwhelming at first. With so many schools and so many questions, some families might opt for the easiest process as opposed to the most thorough and ultimately the best. Not starting the process at all because it feels overwhelming is guaranteed to leave you with “what-ifs” on the first day of the school next year if you have gotten as far as reading this blog in the first place.

 The school search process can be made easier in a few different ways and we offer them here to help. 

  1. Consider the Source

Use credible sources to research schools. Word of mouth is a valuable addition to the process, but in the end your family’s own instincts, your own research, and your own process should be your guide in selecting a school. Visiting schools, taking tours, and getting to know people are the best ways to select the best school for you. There are also many credible resources online to help in identifying which schools you might consider. Here are a few that we recommend:

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS)The Association of Boarding Schools is a professional association covering all aspects of boarding school life for students and faculty. You can read about the concept of boarding schools, research schools, learn about the application process, and read news and events from around the industry. The most important thing to know about TABS is that they don’t rank schools. Each individual student seeking a boarding school education is different, and therefore, there are infinite “best” schools.

Boarding School ReviewOn this website, you can research schools based on your criteria and the school’s location. You can also read detailed alumni reviews of each school which makes this resource unique.

State or Regional Independent School AssociationsThe Association of Independent Schools in New England (of which Tabor is a member) is an = accrediting body for many independent schools. They offer professional development and resources for schools in addition to a directory by state with information about a wide variety of schools. This type of website will tell you a great deal about the kinds of independent schools in your area and how they stay up to date with current trends in education, train staff, and offer the best experience for students across the different realms of school life. Search for a regional or state independent school association near you.

Local Knowledge: You may live near a boarding school, which may or may not be a good fit for your family. However, looking at their website to see which boarding school events or fairs are in your area may allow you to learn more about them to see for sure, and it may even allow you to learn about other schools that meet your criteria.

Independent Educational Consultants: Independent Educational Consultants (for a directory, visit www.iecaonline.com) are trained and accredited to help families identify best-fit schools. Many serve as a resource for families well into their child’s boarding school experience. This option may not be a possibility for every family, as there is often added cost to hiring a consultant.

Be Wary of Ranked Lists: Ranked lists of boarding schools have become popular with the rise of social media and blogs such as Buzzfeed, designed for quick scrolling, right along with ranked lists of movies, celebrities, restaurants, and more. These lists are not always accurate, they are not always curated by an education-based resource, and they may not reflect what is best for your family.

The Association of Boarding Schools has written a statement about why they do not rank boarding schools, and it is more than worth a read.

Read more: Why TABS Doesn't Rank Schools


  1. Prioritize

Decide what criteria are important to you in a school and what you should look for to evaluate whether or not each school meets these criteria. For example: Are you looking for a strong arts or athletics program in addition to academics? In your mind, what will indicate that a school measures up? The indicators may differ from family to family. Identifying priorities will help focus your search and make the best use of your time spent visiting schools and reviewing literature.

Visiting boarding schools in person is the best way to evaluate based upon your chosen criteria to see if the school will be a good fit. Most school visits will last about two hours. If a school visit includes a class observation experience along with a tour and interview, the visit will be longer. Typically, a family could visit 2 schools per day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) without feeling rushed. Most schools offer set appointment times in the mornings and afternoons beginning with a campus tour. Typically, these “start times” correspond with the start of class period blocks. (The student guide gives up their free period to take you on a tour. Talk about busy!). If you have special circumstances or a particular request for your visit, this should be discussed individually with the visit or appointment coordinator at each school. Please know that many schools can’t accommodate every request. At the conclusion of your visit, ask for a recommendation for lunch or dinner in the local area to continue your research into the potential new surroundings. These factor into a student’s experience more than you may imagine. At Tabor, our appointment times are:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 8:30 a.m., 10:25 a.m., 12:20 p.m., 2:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday: 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.

Schedule an appointment now, or consider our fall Open House!


   3. Paperwork everywhere! 


We use the Standard Application Online (SAO) by SSAT for one simple reason: most of our peer schools do, and it simplifies the process for prospective paperwork (read: one application for a group of schools vs. a lot of paperwork. We hope that this facilitates a more streamlined process for everyone! Inquire at your other schools if they, too, will accept the SAO if you do not see it listed on their website. We are also implementing a seamless online management tool for our application process so you can stay up to date and view the progress of your application.


   4.The Interviewer 

Your family’s interviewer can (and should) be a tremendous resource for you. This person is your first line of contact to any school to which you have applied, visited, or inquired. You should be able to communicate any questions about the school or the admissions process to this person. Our job is to communicate with you, so don’t be shy! There are no silly questions when it comes to making such an important decision.

Meet Tabor’s admission staff!

The surprising thing about the boarding school search process is that no two schools really are alike. Boarding schools are working harder than ever to be at the forefront of educational models, distinguish themselves, and offer tremendous value-added for the effort families put in and the sacrifices they make for their child’s education. Education is, after all, the most important gift a parent can give their child. A love of learning to last a lifetime is one of Tabor’s core values, and there is nothing better or more worthwhile. 


Start your search: Receive Tabor's Admissions Viewbook 

Topics: Admissions