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From the Quad

Expand Options by Considering Schools Farther Afield

When families begin exploring possibilities for boarding school, it is natural to consider schools within a few hours drive of home: Proximity offers the obvious benefit of convenient travel. Increasingly, however, families with whom we work at TBG are allowing their children to look everywhere in search of the best fit. This trend absolutely delights me because it expands horizons and leads to life-changing opportunities.

Exploring a wide geographic range expands options for every kind of candidate. Families seeking specialized programs—such as rigorous academics that coincide with high-level equestrian programs or ski coaching—may be only looking at a few schools nationwide. Candidates ready to transition from therapeutic or wilderness programs to traditional boarding school settings benefit from casting a wide net. And for many traditional students, attending school in an entirely new geographic environment reinforces the sense of adventure, independence, and awakening of the spirit they seek at boarding school.

Some parents hesitate to look farther afield because distance reinforces their worries about having a premature empty nest. What many families discover, however, is that they become closer with their boarding school student than they ever anticipated. Long gone are the days of an entire dorm using one telephone to call home once a week. Today’s boarding school families take advantage of modern technology to talk, text, and chat face-to-face frequently. Plus, the focus of the 7-day-a-week educational environment makes it possible for boarding schools to build in ample time for families to stay connected. Students have barely gotten settled into classes each fall when parents come back for Parents’ Weekends, which are followed by time off for students. Holiday breaks tend to be longer than those of day schools, and the period when students are home is truly quality time because they are not also juggling school, sports, and other extra-curriculars at the same time. 

When our daughter went to school a five-hour drive from our home, the distance turned out to be a gift. Our daughter immediately invested herself in her school community and had a rich academic and residential experience. If the school had been closer, she likely would have come home more frequently on weekends, and we may have attended a few more athletic events. Instead our daughter thrived, partially because the distance allowed us to provide what she really needed—support for her emerging sense of independence. When she began the college application process, we realized how having been at the right-fit school allowed her more competitive college options.

Throughout North America, high-quality boarding schools are infused with the culture of the regions in which they are located. Many New England schools cultivate an appreciation of tradition. Schools in Colorado, California, and other western states integrate the surrounding natural resources into curriculum. Across the South and Midwest, boarding schools also have strong customs and traditions. Canadian schools reflect the educational philosophy and history of our neighbor to the north. It is truly remarkable how varied the ambiance of schools can be in different areas of the United States and Canada, and how distinct are the personalities of each individual school. 

Students who attend school outside the region where their families live gain important life experience and perspective. They are also valued among admissions officers, who are trying to assemble each year’s class to include excellent students from across the country and the world. What is most important, however, is that by looking past the limitations of geographic boundaries, students open themselves up to a whole world of opportunities to find a school where they will truly thrive on every level. 

Cammie Bertram, founder and president of The Bertram Group, is highly respected within the educational community for her dedication to helping families accomplish their educational goals. She has more than twenty years of assisting students through both traditional and therapeutic advising at junior, secondary school, and college levels. She can be reached at cammie@thebertramgroup.com