Today, there are many different types of boarding schools that cater to a wide range of students. Traditional college preparatory boarding schools are tasked with the primary goal of preparing students for the academic rigors of college. These boarding schools are for motivated students who wish to excel in the classroom and in extracurricular activities, and who are intellectually curious and desirous of exploring new and challenging opportunities. Prep schools in the United States typically enroll students of middle school and high school ages. International prep schools accept students as young as elementary school age.
College-prep boarding schools are further divided into the following categories:
• Single-sex: These are all-boys or all-girls boarding schools. Some families prefer these institutions because they eliminate the distractions often caused by girls and boys coexisting on the same campus. Single-sex schools often remain segregated during the school week, but on weekends, the schools join together in sharing social and other extracurricular activities, so that girls and boys can develop social skills to help them interact with the opposite sex.
• Military: These boarding schools cater to those students who wish to pursue a military college and/or career. These institutions are highly structured and include military-type activities and discipline. In the past, military schools were known for reforming students with behavioral challenges. However, today, with the increase in therapeutic programs that support troubled youth, many military schools have moved away from accepting students with behavioral and mental health challenges in an effort to focus on those students who are serious about pursuing a future in the military.
• Religious/faith-based: These boarding schools focus on a particular religion or faith, and oftentimes include religious studies in the curriculum. Students may be required to attend religious services, volunteer with religious organizations, and demonstrate commitment to their faith via participation in faith-based extracurricular activities. The most common types of faith-based boarding schools are Anglican, Catholic, Christian, Episcopalian, Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Roman Catholic.
• Nurturing/therapeutic: These programs accommodate students who struggle in a traditional school setting. Many of these schools are college-preparatory, but also focus on students with behavioral and emotional issues, substance use disorder, and learning challenges. Some of the specific struggles these students face include anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, authority defiance, dyslexia, attention deficit disorders, executive function disorders, and drug use or abuse.
• Pre-professional arts: These institutions train students to become proficient in the arts, including music, dance, theatre, visual arts, and creative writing. These students then attend traditional colleges or specialty conservatory schools, such as Juilliard School.
For those troubled teens who struggle in a traditional school setting, alternatives to boarding school include wilderness therapy programs, ranch rehabilitative programs, inpatient psychiatric programs, addiction treatment centers, and residential treatment centers that combine mental health treatment with academics.
There are non-college preparatory boarding schools that support students with specific conditions, such as severe sensory impairment, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), intellectual disabilities, and severe physical challenges that affect learning.