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Most students enter boarding school in their middle school or high school years. Some students attend boarding school as early as elementary school, but there are very few boarding schools for this population in the United States. Therefore, most of the placements for this age group occur at international boarding schools.

High school students typically enter boarding school in the ninth or tenth grade; however, it is possible to matriculate during junior and senior years. And for those high school seniors who wish to attend an additional year of high school in order to improve their grades and increase their chances of attending a good college or university, a post-graduate year is recommended.

Ideally, families should begin the boarding school search more than a year in advance of the intended enrollment period. This allows enough time to thoroughly research the schools and arrive at well-informed decisions about where to apply. This also ensures that there is enough time to create a thoughtful application. Below is a sample timeline to help keep you on track.

Keep in mind that most boarding schools that have a defined application period require that applications be submitted in January or February of the year in which the student plans to attend. For example, if your child plans to attend boarding school in the fall of 2021, then the applications are due in January and February of 2021.

Most top-ranked boarding schools have a defined application period when applications are not accepted after a certain date. Conversely, many of the schools that are not top-ranked accept students on a rolling basis throughout the school year, and thus do not limit the application period. This is particularly true of nurturing and therapeutic boarding schools.

If you have missed the application period, it is to your benefit to contact an educational consultant to provide you with guidance about how to approach the situation.

Sample Application Timeline


Determine the academic, athletic, and extracurricular opportunities most important to your student.
• Determine which schools best fit your student’s college and career goals.
• Research a wide-range of boarding schools that meet your family’s criteria and determine how these schools compare to your local school options (public and private day schools).

• Create a list of 15 to 25 boarding schools that meet your family’s criteria.
• Use the School List Template found in this book to help organize your school list.
• Divide the school list into safety schools (those where your student meets all, or most, of the admissions criteria) and reach schools (those where your student may not meet all of the academic admissions criteria, but where your student has an alternative skillset to offer the school).
• Visit the schools’ websites, complete the inquiry forms, request marketing materials (brochures and catalogs), and take virtual tours of the campuses (if applicable).
• If this process is too overwhelming, contact an educational consultant to assist with the process.

July and August
• Narrow the list to 10 to 12 schools for top-ranked boarding schools, and eight to 10 schools for good or solid boarding schools.
• Ensure that the majority of the list includes safety schools with two to three reach schools.
• Further reduce the list to roughly five or six top-choice schools that you plan to visit.
• The best way to determine if a school is the best fit for your student is to tour the campus, meet the students and faculty, and interview with the admissions staff.
• Register for the standardized entrance exams: SSAT or ISEE.
• All international students must take the TOEFL exam and should register for the exam at this time.
• Arrange for standardized exam preparation (test prep courses or self-study manuals), if applicable.

September and October
• Tour and interview at five to six of your top- choice schools.
• Allow three hours per campus visit. Allow for travel time between campuses.
• Visit the online application platforms or school websites to review the application requirements.
• Complete the student and parent profiles, and background information, on the application platforms or school websites.
• Request teacher, guidance counselor, and personal recommendations per the online platforms or school websites.
• Request transcripts from the student’s previous schools, if applicable.

• Take the standardized exam(s).
• Complete the school tours and interviews.
• Have the student write the essays. Parents complete the parent statements.
• Request a copy of a graded Language Arts paper from your child’s English teacher (if applicable).
• Create media (videos, art work, recordings of artistic performances) for the applications, as desired.

• Request an official transcript from the student’s current school.
• Complete the financial aid forms, if applicable.
• Complete the remaining application components.
• Write thank-you notes or emails to the individuals who completed recommendations. Giving these supporters a small gift, such as a gift card, is a thoughtful gesture.

January and February
• Pay the application fees, and submit the applications and financial aid forms (if applicable).

• Receive school decisions.
• Finalize your school choice.

• Notify the schools of the student’s decision to attend or not attend.
• Complete the school contract and pay the deposit.

May to July
• Complete the required student physical examination provided by your local healthcare professional.
• Provide proof of the student’s health insurance to the school.
• Pay the next required financial installment or balance of the tuition.
• Begin gathering clothing, toiletries, athletic equipment, and school supplies.
• Pack belongings and arrange for travel to the school.
• Receive roommate assignment. Contact roommate’s family to introduce self.

Late August to Early September
• Arrive on campus for move-in and orientation.
• Begin classes and extracurricular activities.

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