In adolescence, personal exploration and growth becomes inextricably linked to one’s study of the world around them. It is when children begin to make conscious decisions about their future, and it is a feat that requires both strength of character and a long-term vision. It is why the best American boarding schools with a legacy of excellence frame a student’s success beyond academic standards. As Latin writer Publilius Syrus said, “It matters not what you are taught to be, but what you are.”
There are three key pillars to fostering well-rounded student development in boarding and preparatory schools: character development, community spirit, and providing a college and career pathways. They build the foundation for self-driven individuals seeking improvement well beyond their high school years. While success may favour those who carve their own path, by placing a teenager in the right environment, parents can give them the headstart they need to conquer the journey ahead. These four well-reputed US boarding schools can provide just that space for your son or daughter.
Blue Ridge School (BRS) is an all-boarding institution where boys become men of character. Its campus, at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, welcomes young men from 23 states and 17 countries, between grades 9 to 12. At BRS, integrity and character education lay the foundation for growth based on the school’s Code of Conduct, where respect and a sense of responsibility are nurtured in every student.
How is this done? By training boys to be punctual and to collaborate, by teaching them to serve and to take accountability for their actions through everyday lessons and activities. This boosts their sense of value, encouraging students to better themselves in both academic and social settings.
With a small student body of under 200 and 5:1 student-to-faculty ratio, the BRS community is a home away from home. The boys live on campus with teachers and their families, creating a supportive community that becomes a second home for them. This is how the young men of BRS forge brotherhoods that last a lifetime, giving them confidence, interpersonal skills, and drive for healthy competition as they go out into the world.
Students are equipped for the next stage of their education with college counselling throughout the high school journey — a preparatory effort that has contributed towards BRS’s 100% college acceptance rate. Counsellors work with parents, coaches, and teachers to help students steer their ship towards a fulfilling future. This includes guiding the boys as they research colleges, preparing them for standardised tests, and helping them in their admissions process. Find out more about BRS here. Financial aid is available for international students.
Nestled near the Green Mountains in Saxtons River, Vermont Academy gives 200 boys and girls an “education for life” — one that is student-focused, growth-oriented, and active. In the words of head of school Dr Jennifer Zaccara, “Students thrive in opportunities that enable them to express the complexity and sophistication of their inner selves and inner lives.”
Here, young men and women are recognised as multifaceted beings with varying interests and abilities. That’s why they are encouraged to connect with both their artistic and athletic sides. They participate in writing retreats and perform on stage, and they also hike, ski, camp and play many other sports on the school’s vast, green grounds.
The community is diverse and welcoming at this US boarding school, comprising 25% international students from around the globe. Students are taught to understand and respect other cultures, and are also instilled with the belief that each individual is valuable; every voice is worth listening to.
In their signature MAPS Customized Advising programme, teachers empower students to set their own goals, and are on hand to coach them as they work towards each feat. This invites students to assess their strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to continuously improve when following their roadmap. College counselling is another major element of guidance at the academy. Counsellors work closely with students to determine what passions they want to pursue and align these interests to their college search and application process.
Curiosity, community, and purpose are celebrated at this coed prep school in Duluth, Minnesota. Its mission? To shape global citizens that approach complex issues with compassionate thought and critical action. Just over 200 students attend the upper school for grades 9 to 12; they hail from 5 states and 10 countries, from families of diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds.
These students explore history, literature, arts, religion, sciences, and the environment in the context of service and progress. They develop self-discipline in pursuing their intellectual curiosity. They form diverse relationships that teach them the value of trust, respect, and teamwork. They even learn the value of compassion and humanity through school initiatives like the Marshall School Community Fund, which offers emergency tuition assistance for families affected by the pandemic.
Beyond career counselling and teacher mentors, Marshall School also offers a wide selection of college preparatory courses, over 30 honours courses, and more than 20 Advances Placement courses. After graduating, the class of 2020 earned a collective $10 million in scholarships — a testament that a holistic college-prep experience gives you a leg up in the next phase of education.
Known for its majestic mountain-top location, St. Andrews-Sewanee’s campus can be found on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. There’s even a farm for practical agriculture lessons. Here, Upper School focuses on active learning, beckoning young adults to view their education in the context of larger trends and theories.
Faith guides all pursuits and exploration here, owing to the school’s rich Anglican heritage. The school, therefore, honours the diversity of languages, cultures, and traditions, and has a dedicated campus pastor. Students attend chapel services, and seniors even take a course on Abrahamic religions. Ultimately, educators want students to find joy in community engagement, whether it is through bonding with classmates or uplifting the less-privileged.
Faculty members are greatly involved in student life outside the classroom; they cheer on teams, attend concerts and plays, and enjoy meals in the dining hall. This facilitates deep, honest relationships between teacher and student, which is why students can confidently rely on them for advice and mentorship.
Since the school is known for its arts programmes, all Upper School students complete an art course and are encouraged to pursue musical studies privately. As for college preparation, juniors and seniors get to take college credit courses at the nearby University of the South. Junior students also get to join a college counselling with their parents, after which they will have access to over 50 admission representatives of higher learning institutes.