4 Benefits of Attending a Boarding School

Boarding school provides students with unique opportunities for structure, community and independence. An expert from St. John’s Northwestern Academies explains.

While day schools have many merits, the benefits of attending boarding school are numerous in terms of accountability and personal growth. Students in a boarding school environment have to make sure their homework is completed, their clothes are clean and their behavior is acceptable – all without a parent looking over their shoulder.

“Boarding school students are presented with different advantages over their peers who live at home, simply due to the fact that they become responsible for themselves at an earlier age,” says Robert Fine, President of St. John’s Northwestern Academies in Delafield, Wisconsin. “Our boarding school students develop skills that will carry them through life.”

Boarding students at SJNA in the residential dorms.
Photo courtesy of St. John’s Northwestern Academies

Character development through residential living

Boarding school students at SJNA learn how to live with fellow students and roommates who may be quite different from them, either through location, culture or perspective.

“We have students from all over the United States plus 19 other countries,” says Fine. “Most kids attending a traditional day school attend school with other kids from either one ZIP code or just a few. They may only interact with people of similar backgrounds. Our population is diverse, which prepares our students for living in a global society.”

The unique educational system at SJNA, which features both military and prefect academies, also enhances personal growth and independence, says Fine.

“In both of our academies, our boarding students need to maintain their rooms and living environments, wear uniforms and follow their student chain of command. For our military students, that might mean following company rules. For the prefect students, they are under the guidance of peer leaders. When students are held to high standards in their living environments, they gain independence as well as confidence.”

The structured environment boosts academic achievement

Besides maintaining an orderly living space, the boarding school environment at SJNA comes with a structure for students’ academic lives.

Students also get a balance between sports, extracurricular activities and academics at SJNA. This helps boost performance among all three.

“As a boarder, all your activities are going to be right here on campus,” Fine says. “Day school parents ferry their kids around constantly. Here, your student’s time is spent more efficiently and there is no guesswork about how your student is going to get somewhere. They get to focus on what they need to do.”

St. John's Northwestern Academies boarding school students in the cafeteria
Photo courtesy of St. John’s Northwestern Academies

A community that supports your student

Fine feels that the environment at SJNA creates “positive peer pressure” for students. “At SJNA you will be living with friends who are modeling the behavior of being successful and who have big aspirations for their futures. Our students raise up their peers.”

Living with goal-oriented peers creates an aspirational atmosphere for the younger students. Older students act as role models and leaders and younger kids get exposed to that mentality from an early age. College acceptances are just one example of this role modeling.

“As our kids start to get accepted to colleges, we recognize them over the PA and there is also a board filled with college acceptance letters. Our younger students witness that from the time they get here and it makes them think that yes, they can do that too,” Fine says.

Of course, not every student is going to be perfect every day and that’s a benefit of being a boarder, too, says Fine.

“When you’re given more responsibility by living away from home, you might fail at something, you might fall down. It’s better for students to fail here because we give them a safety net to land in. We can help them get back on track and they will also gain the resilience they need.”

Preparedness for college and beyond

“Ask any college president. The reason college students may not do well is more about lack of time management and perseverance than it is about lack of academic preparedness,” says Fine.

Because boarding students are away from home, they have to learn time management and how to prioritize or it will affect them down the line.

Boarding students at SJNA get a chance to discover their own thresholds for personal and academic time management. For example, older students with a high GPA can go off campus to have free time in the evening instead of study hall. However, this freedom comes with consequences if a student takes too much free time and neglects their studies.

“I’d rather have one of our students find out they can’t go hang out with friends three nights in a row and see it affect a test score here than when they are in college,” Fine says. “Here they learn that the choices they make, good and bad, will have an effect.”

In a world where parents often feel pressure to micromanage their kids, the benefits of a boarding school education are more evident than ever.

“Our SJNA boarding school students gain not only academic excellence, they gain life skills,” says Fine. “They leave here with poise, confidence, respect for others and a sense of positive purpose in their lives.”

For more information about SJNA, visit sjna.org.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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