Specialized vs. Traditional Boarding Schools – which is right for you?
A specialized school’s design provides a transformational experience both academically and personally.
Just last week we had a student visiting our admission office whose list of prospective schools included two highly competitive traditional boarding schools in addition to Eagle Hill, which is considered a specialized boarding school. The conversation with the family at one point centered on the question: what makes a specialized boarding school unique?
A specialized boarding school will offer the same classes as a more traditional boarding school, but the specialized school will do so by offering more support, as well as more flexibility in scheduling classes for students. For example, at Eagle Hill School, no two students ever have the same academic class schedule, and it would not be unusual for a student to take a writing class that offers support while simultaneously taking a Pre-Calculus class. It also would not be unusual for a student in tenth grade to take Algebra 1 and at the same time take advanced literature and writing courses. The academic experience is truly individualized.
Creating a challenging and unique course schedule requires input from the student, the student’s parents, the student’s academic advisor, and the teachers with whom the student is currently working. At Eagle Hill, curriculum means more than a standard menu of options based on age or grade. The very classes in which a student studies are often created collaboratively by students and teachers, and a student’s individual goals and needs provide the direction. Our unique nine-term academic schedule provides nearly infinite possibilities for students to customize their educational experiences.
The benefits of a specialized boarding school don’t end with the class day.
The benefits of a specialized boarding school don’t end with the class day. The experience of attending a boarding school also offers additional opportunities for growth and development. At Eagle Hill, we employ a student life faculty (dorm counselors) who work each day from 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm and then again in the morning from 7:00 to 8:00. A student’s ability to independently manage life outside of the classroom is critical. Recognizing this, we value our full-time dorm counselors as much as we value our classroom teachers. Their primary responsibility is to promote the personal development of students and students realize tremendous growth and college readiness as a result.
One of the critical differences between a traditional and specialized boarding school experience for students with diverse learning profiles is specialized boarding schools offer wrap-around services making it unnecessary for a student to be taken out of class for a special class such as reading tutorial or a learning support class to work on organization, study skills, or other executive function skills. At a school like Eagle Hill, the curriculum is specifically designed to address these skills. In addition, at the heart of the dorm counselor’s responsibility is the emphasis on integrating executive function skills into daily life.
Additionally, specialized boarding schools often schedule a structured study hall each night. At Eagle Hill, study hall runs from Sunday to Thursday, and initially dorm counselors and teachers work closely with students to offer strategies and support for homework completion. As students become more proficient in this area, they demonstrate their new skills by completing homework independently. Some students work independently within a couple of weeks, while others may take six months or longer. It varies depending on the student and that is perfectly fine!
Those who think specialized schools don’t offer the same level of education or academic challenge as a mainstream school are mistaken.
Those who think specialized schools don’t offer the same level of education or academic challenge as a mainstream school are mistaken. Specialized schools prepare students for college and for life as much if not more than mainstream schools. Students who are getting ready for their first year at a school like Eagle Hill should understand that a specialized school can provide academic challenge with small classes and can offer wonderful supports in areas of need. Students and their families can feel confident that the academics are challenging, that the academic assistance the students need is built into the school day, that executive function skills will be taught and strengthened, that homework procedures will be taught and internalized, and that students will be able to engage in extra-curriculars such as sports, clubs, and the arts including theatre. Overall, students should come prepared, knowing that they are about to embark on a transformational experience.