Source: Episcopal High School
A boarding school education goes beyond the classroom and focuses on character development, international student support, university preparation, and co-curricular activities. Source: Episcopal High School

A diverse school is a better school. Research has shown that it promotes the formation of cross-ethnic friendships. This, in turn, improves attitudes towards other ethnic groups and promotes mutual understanding among youth from different socioeconomic backgrounds. A UCLA project also found that relationships that cut across social class lead to greater academic achievement. 

 As preteens and teens become less dependent on their parents or move abroad alone, they rely more on friends. Having the right set of friends can make all the difference. From homework help to revision strategies and support, they are crucial during middle school and high school years. 

 The best boarding schools in the US know this. To spot them, look out for features such as international student support, tailored preparation for university, and co-curricular activities designed to help new students make friends — or consider our top picks below:

A boarding school is a transformative experience filled with self-discovery, camaraderie and lifelong friendships. Add a rigorous and collaborative pursuit of knowledge, spiritual growth and a diverse community, and young boarders evolve into future leaders with intellectual and moral courage.

Episcopal High School

Episcopal High School is that boarding school. Since 1839, it has been challenging students to evolve into young adults ready to lead lives of ethical leadership and service.

What sets Episcopal HS apart is its 100% boarding community and location. At its 130-acre residential campus, 440 students in grades nine to 12 and faculty live in a setting where they can discover passions, interests, and personal strengths. There are only three other 100% boarding schools in the US.

Here, close relationships — the kind that help us understand, appreciate, and bridge our differences — are forged. Step beyond campus and the intriguing, real-world experiences amidst the vast resources of Washington, D.C. — only eight miles away — and beyond, are at the disposal of students. On a weekly basis, students get to take full advantage of all the nation’s capital has to offer, be it during their extracurricular programmes or their experiential classes.

Episcopal HS also offers special programming through the McCain-Ravenel Centre for Intellectual and Moral Courage. The centre coordinates and supports signature initiatives that prepare Episcopal HS students for life outside Episcopal and to help them embody the Portrait of a Graduate. These include the Washington Programme, Global Programmes, Leadership and Ethics, Outdoor Leadership, and Service and Civic Engagement.

The centre’s name is fitting for its and Episcopal HS’s mission — it is named for the late Sen. John McCain ’54 and his Episcopal HS mentor, teacher William B. Ravenel, a World War II veteran who inspired McCain to pursue a life of honour and service.

Thomas Jefferson School

Source: Thomas Jefferson School

Thomas Jefferson School is a co-educational, non-sectarian, independent day and boarding school. Source: Thomas Jefferson School

Located in suburban St. Louis, Missouri, Thomas Jefferson School is a co-educational, non-sectarian, independent day and boarding school. The school educates a purposefully diverse and deliberately sized group of academically talented students spanning grades seven to 12. 

Its aim is to provide students with the strongest possible academic background. “Our alumni may find success in a wide variety of fields (art, business, computer science, dance, engineering, law, medicine, physics, to name a few), but they all share the same foundation of their academic experience at TJ,” says Matthew R. Troutman, Head of School. 

“Above all, our graduates are curious and confident: curious to explore the world and confident that they can acquire the skills and knowledge to be experts in whatever they choose to explore.”

It’s not all work and no play at TJ. In addition to academic excellence, the school encourages students to excel in areas they’re passionate about. If you’re interested in directing a play, or stepping onto the stage to act, sing, or dance, you can take part in the school’s offerings in art, theatre, and dance programmes. 

Here, students study and grow in a tight-knit, nurturing community. They develop a responsibility for their own learning and a desire to lift up the world with beauty and intellect. The school believes that independent learning sets up for — as one recent graduate stated — an “easy” transition to college and beyond. 

Spire Institute

Source: Spire Institute

Spire has one mission: to inspire individuals to achieve their peak potential in life. Source: Spire Institute

If you’re looking for a challenge, then the Spire Institute is for you. This is where professional training, education and competition across a wide variety of sports, disciplines and possible career paths take place. 

With sports at its core foundation, Spire aims to inspire individuals to achieve their peak potential in life. Academics here are college preparatory, using an integrated, cross-curricular, project-based model culminating in the earning of a transcript for submission and acceptance to college or university.

From basketball to esports, swimming to track and field and drone racing, Spire’s offerings are like no other. The school prepares students to achieve peak performance in school, at work and in life through intense weekend and week-long training camps — building strong minds, strong bodies and strong characters. 

The institute’s complex is one of the largest indoor, multi-sport, training and competition facilities in the world. It hosts a residential academy, clubs, leagues, tournaments and championship events. 

The complex’s features include a 300 metre indoor track, a 400 metre outdoor track (both with separate areas for field events and stadium seating); a 50 metre, 10 lane, Olympic-sized pool with two moveable bulkheads, and more. 

Idyllwild Arts Academy

Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy

Idyllwild Arts Academy is perfectly situated a short distance from Los Angeles. Source: Idyllwild Arts Academy

Nestled on 205 acres of pristine pine forest located in the renowned arts village of Idyllwild in Southern California’s San Jacinto Mountains, Idyllwild Arts is home to children, pre-teens and teenagers who come to hone their talent and develop new skills. Here, almost 300 students from over 30 countries pursue artistic excellence. 

Diverse yet intimate, multicultural yet deliberately secluded, ambitious yet supportive — these factors let the arts become the greatest teacher of humanity, to the boundless advantage of Idyllwild Arts students.

“Each year, hundreds of summer campers and academy students travel 5,200 feet into the mountains to Idyllwild, California,” shares Pamela Jordan, President and Head of School. “Once here, they walk onto a picturesque campus with dorms, charming classrooms, practice rooms and studios all surrounded by beautiful wooded terrain.”

The academy is a creative sanctuary for those who want to blaze their own trail, map their own path, and be surrounded by the majestic and untamed. Just two hours from Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California’s only boarding arts high school offers a variety of majors — Music, Visual Arts, Creative Writing, Fashion Design, Theatre, Dance, Film and Digital Media — along with college-prep academics.

Classes are small and seminar-style, providing the ideal setting for teachers to impart their knowledge and guide students to create the world anew. They teach individuality and spur students to pursue their private dreams for the public good.

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International