For most people boarding schools conjure up thoughts of young men in navy blue
blazers with white shirts and a tie going to a beautiful school with ivy covered
walls and the game of polo being played in the distance.
Oh, and don't forget
thoughts of parents with fat wallets and a family trust fund.
This is what Gordon
Vink, the director of admissions at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, calls the
"Holden Caufield-Catcher in the Rye syndrome"(Parker 111), a book about the
troubles a boy faces at his prep boarding school.
To an extent the image holds true.
Prep schools offer collegiate type
atmospheres, have strict rules, and often teach generations of students from the
The simplest definition of a boarding school is a place that
parents pay for a stodent to live and go to school.
The school's teachers,
coaches, and administrators live in dormitories with boarders and act as their
family enforcing the strict rules, making disciplinary decisions, and overseeing
behavior and academic performance.
Boarding schools can be one or all of the following:
academic boot camp, a
place for parents to put kids they don't want around or don't have the time for, a
haven from deteriorating public schools, a necessary credential for children of the
rich and famous, or a training ground for tomorrow's leaders.
These schools range
from small unknown institutions which will accept anyone, to the elite schools,
which are very selective and are a pipeline to Ivy-league schools and success.
Boarding schools are superior to public day schools.
Proponents of boarding
prep schools claim the schools offer unparalled discipline, a stronger curriculum,
exellent facilities, a way to get in to better colleges, a superior learning
environment, staggering extra-curricular options, and allow students to attain a
higher level of performance.
Opponents argue that the astronomical cost, anywhere
from $8000 to $25,000 per year for the most elite, is too expensive.
claim the rules are too extreme and suffocating, and that students experience an
abundance of stress.
The biggest argument against boarding schools is cost.
With an average cost
of $8000 to $25,000 (Topolnicki 100), many parents ask:
Are private boarding
schools worth the expense?
The extra attention and frills don't come cheap.
like buying stock or a new house," says private school consultant Georgia Irvin.
"It's a major investment." (Parker 111)
But many boarding schools have been
working hard to increase their financial aid and to structure new methods of
Pricey prep schools are more likely to give scholarships. Sixteen percent
of students who attend get financial aid, which averages $5,400 a year.
( Topolnicki 101)