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easing the transition to college and beyond 

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Is Boarding School the Right Choice for Your Child?

While boarding schools are less common in the Midwest, they remain a popular choice on the East and West Coast, in the UK, and around the world. Many of these prestigious schools date back hundreds of years and are known for their role in educating generations of royalty, political leaders, Nobel laureates, and even world-renowned artists. Benedict Cumberbatch, Charlize Theron, and Steve Carell all attended boarding school, as did Mark Zuckerberg.

Boarding schools aren’t the right fit for every child or every family, but they offer a few unique advantages that make them attractive to families around the world. Unfortunately, there are a few common misconceptions about boarding schools that can get in the way, so we’d love to take the opportunity to address some of the most common myths.

Top 5 Boarding School FAQs

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Every boarding school is different, and it’s understandable that many families have assumptions about them based on how they’re depicted in films and television. If any of these questions are in the back of your mind, you’re not alone!

1. Aren’t Boarding Schools for Kids Who Get Into Trouble?

There are some boarding schools in the US that serve this purpose. However, that’s not why we’re here! Our boarding school students often have more opportunities to take part in more activities, make lasting friendships, and gain independent living skills. And while our 7-day boarding students join us from many different parts of the world, we also offer 5-day boarding opportunities for families in Greater Minnesota. 

2. Are Boarding Schools Overly Strict?

As a prep school, we do expect a lot from our students in terms of their academic performance and their conduct. We are guided by our Benedictine Values, both inside and outside of the classroom. Bullying is not tolerated, nor is behavior that persistently disrupts the learning experience of other students. Our students are also given a great deal of freedom in how they spend their time and the path they’d like their education to take. Our Dean of Student Life and Director of Residential Life, Manon Kuzara, sums up our approach to boarding like this:

“Our vision within the SJP Residential Life program is to foster an environment that allows students to grow into their best selves, learn to live in community peacefully, and prepare for life after high school. This environment incorporates logical procedures and expectations that have a clear ‘why’ that can be understood by students. The life skills taught in the dorm setting are skills that our students will take into their lives after SJP. We think of it as an extension of the classroom — a place where students can learn and grow. It is a safe place to make mistakes and be guided by the caring adults who work and live in the dorms.”

3. Is it Difficult To Maintain Family Relationships?

It’s natural to worry that your child will occasionally miss living at home, especially at first. But we find that family connections often grow stronger when teenagers are given a bit more independence within a safe and nurturing environment. 

That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s common for parents of children in upper school to have more conflicts around making sure homework is completed, getting to school on time, and maintaining focus. Our boarding school parents are allowed to let go of the “enforcer” role and, instead, they can start to shift some of those responsibilities to our team of qualified adult boarding staff, counselors, and educators. Parents can focus more of their time and attention on their child, and spend less time worrying about their child’s homework.

In fact, one Prep parent recently said, “I noticed my child appreciating more, and not taking our relationship for granted.”

4. Do Students Have To Wear Uniforms?

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Some boarding schools require uniforms. We don’t at Saint John’s Prep, and many first-time visitors to our campus are surprised to see the variety of ways our students feel comfortable to express themselves.

We feel it’s especially important during this transitional time to let our students explore who they are as people and what they’re passionate about. We’re delighted to see them start to make their own choices about how they present themselves to the world!

5. Are Boarding Schools Only for Wealthy Families?

Some boarding schools can be quite expensive, and others are completely free. At Saint John’s Prep, we are committed to providing a quality education that is affordable to all qualified students and their families. No Prep family pays the full cost of their student’s education, but we do believe that all of our families should join us in investing in it.

We frequently hear from Prep families that we’ve hit the right balance. “The opportunities boarding school has provided makes everything worthwhile,” one Prep parent recently commented. “We were pleasantly surprised at the variable tuition that SJP offers, and our award far exceeded our expectations.”

What Is Boarding School Like?

No two boarding schools will feel or look the same. Our boarding school students live in Saint Michael Hall — a newly renovated facility that features a community lounge, indoor recreational space, study areas, flat-screen TVs and computers, washers and dryers, and multiple areas to prepare food. Full-time adult staff are responsible for maintaining a safe, nurturing environment while helping students gain independent living skills. 

Boarding school at Prep is anything but boring! During breaks in our academic calendar, our boarding students can remain at Saint Michael Hall, connect with a host family, or travel. We also offer a variety of trips throughout the year, including sporting events, concerts, skiing, camping, ethnic restaurants, professional theatre, and shopping.

The Benefits of Boarding School

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Living primarily on campus throughout the school year offers a few unique benefits that make it a very attractive option for our local and international families.

Students Can Participate in More Activities

It’s often easier for our students to take part in more activities when they’re already here, and their schedules don’t put additional strain on busy families. We always encourage our students to try new things and participate in co-curricular activities — including the performing and visual arts, athletics, and much more — regardless of where their natural abilities lie, and consider it an important component of our holistic approach to education

While we build in additional time during our daily schedule for some of these activities to take place, many will take place during evenings and weekends. 

It’s Easier To Gain Independent Living Skills

Our boarding students always have access to adult guidance and mentorship while they’re on our campus, while they start practicing the skills they will need to live independently, like managing their time, preparing meals, and keeping up with laundry and other chores. 

Our resident staff are highly experienced with young people and understand how to gently guide them when needed while allowing them to discover strategies that work best for them.

Boarding Students Experience a Smoother Transition TO COLLEGE

In many ways, our school offers a more natural way for our students — boarding and day — to start experiencing what life at college will be like. Our students can take college-level courses and use many facilities at our partner institutions — the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University. Not surprisingly, our alumni frequently tell us that they felt better prepared than their peers in a few key areas, like navigating a larger campus, feeling comfortable talking with their professors and asking for help, and handling more challenging coursework. 

Our boarding school students, however, have also already experienced living with a roommate. When they ultimately go on to college, it isn’t their first time living away from home or living with people who act and think differently than they do. They also already understand what they need to do to manage their time, so they can get off to a great start, which is especially helpful for those students interested in graduate or medical school.

Preparing Students for Success in College and Beyond

Our university partnerships are part of the reason that our students who apply have a 100% college acceptance rate. However, we believe that the biggest reason our students succeed at some of the most prestigious universities and colleges around the world is that they have all of the fundamentals they need to be successful, including resilience, emotional maturity, and strong relationship skills. Our college counselors also work with each student and their family to identify schools that will be a great fit, so students are more engaged in the application process.

By the time they’re ready to take their next steps, they know themselves very well and understand how their choice of major and school will ultimately affect their ability to pursue meaningful and rewarding careers. 

At Prep, it is our greatest honor to watch our students grow into the leaders, thinkers, artists, and innovators they were born to be. And if our school proves to be a good fit, we would be honored to help your child do the same. If you’re interested in learning more about our boarding opportunities, click the button below!