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Empowerment and excellence: US boarding schools that nurture tomorrow’s changemakers

Source: Linden Hall

There’s a whole lot that can be said about boarding schools. First-class education, outstanding student care in a globally-inclusive community, and endless extracurricular opportunities for character development outside of the classroom — these are just some of the features that sustain enduring legacies of greatness among graduates. Upholding a tradition of prestige and academic excellence is made possible only through a holistic philosophy prioritising a student’s growth in all areas. 

Boarding schools in the US exemplify the transformative results of a holistic education grounded in self-awareness and experiential learning. Carving an optimal space for self-actualisation is an integral part of a student’s journey into adulthood, and independent schools have a distinct upper hand on this front in terms of class size and faculty support. 

Recent studies agree — there’s been an uptick in transfers from public schools to independent schools during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the latter’s small class sizes, flexible learning, on top of full-fledged support for each student even during a global pandemic. Add sprawling campuses and student-centred programmes to the fore, US boarding schools establish a sturdy bedrock where lifelong advancement becomes a personal credo for students gracing their halls. Here are four boarding schools in the US where individual excellence is all-encompassing: 

Garrison Forest School

boarding schools

Source: Garrison Forest School

Madeleine Albright. Nancy Pelosi. Ayanna Pressley. These women trailblazers in the American political arena are products of rigorous private education where leadership skills are sharpened for an extra edge to catalyse social change in the real world. This creed buttresses the educational vision of Garrison Forest School (GFS), an all-girls day and boarding school ensconced within a lush 110-acre campus outside of Baltimore, Maryland. 

True to its “To Be Rather Than To Seem” motto, girls at GFS are both seen and heard, whether within or outside of the classroom. Through wide-ranging interscholastic athletics and solid programmes in visual and performing arts, each girl is given the avenue to pave her own trajectory in acquiring her unique sense of self. GFS emphasises the value of compassionate leadership in a vibrant camaraderie where cooperation and mutual respect bind the school’s community together. 

Academically, its customised college-prep curriculum offers students a range of Advanced Placement (AP) courses to challenge their intellectual zeal for a propitious head start into tertiary education. GFS alumni include groundbreaking researchers in COVID-19 vaccines, one of the first women to attend Yale, and a senior management member for an NBA team. The school’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) programme, done in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, is one of many platforms where gifted students can undertake world-class research projects guided by seasoned mentors in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). 

Located strategically just an hour’s drive from Washington, around two hours from Philadelphia, and about three hours from New York City, GFS is surrounded by major cities with Ivy League and high-ranking universities for future progression upon finishing high school. To learn more about GFS, you can embark on a campus tour here.

Linden Hall

boarding schools

Source: Linden Hall

To quote Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.” At Linden Hall, its young women have been shattering glass ceilings for 275 years. The oldest independent day and boarding school for girls in the US is older than the country itself, founded with a progressive philosophy championing women’s education and knowledge-seeking since 1746. The all-girls’ advantage fosters a greater sense of self-worth and erudition, with graduates six times more likely to consider math, science and technology degrees compared to girls in co-ed schools. Linden Hall girls receive offers from some of the world’s best universities annually, including Yale, Harvard and Stanford. 

Globally, the STEM gender gap is a pressing concern, where women are severely outnumbered by men in high-paying fields due to systematic exclusion in various spheres. Linden Hall’s response? Providing access to education where the sky’s literally the limit. The school is famed for its trademark Aviation Programme, where girls can apply concepts in physics and engineering into in-flight training. The best part? Students can obtain their private pilot’s license while still in high school. 

Open to girls in Grades six to 12, Linden Hall’s curriculum is exclusively college preparatory, offering solid programmes in STEM and the arts. With an average of only eight students per class, the girls of Linden Hall benefit from personal attention and an individualised course of academic study with unfaltering support from instructors. The academic legwork translates into unmistakeable excellence; the average five-year AP exam score of a student far outpaces the national average at 4.1.

Its Equestrian Programme is well-known nationally, complete with the school’s own stables, plus indoor and outdoor rings for riders to forge quality horsemanship. Linden Hall’s students have competed in top national competitions, with academic support guaranteed when travelling away from school. If you’re interested in becoming a boarder, you get to call a 49-acre campus in a quaint small town home, but still retain a worldly character through its diverse, multinational student body. A tight-knit residential life in a caring sorority underpins the boarding experience, where girls support each other to become the best version of themselves.

Solebury School

boarding schools

Source: Solebury School

At a serene, bucolic scene just 50 minutes from Philadelphia, a rolling 140-acre campus is a haven for budding leaders to strive for personal excellence. Solebury School in New Hope, Pennsylvania, is a co-educational day and boarding school offering Grades nine to 12 education with post-graduation options. 

An all-encompassing education awaits enrollees at Solebury. The school places equal importance in academics, arts and athletics, driving students to use their whole being for a well-rounded metamorphosis in character. 

The school’s mission to create an environment of educational excellence is imbued within its comprehensive, college-prep curriculum that covers everything from STEM, the humanities, and concentrations in Social Justice and Global Education. Forward-thinking conscientious minds are given space to bloom in lessons averaging just 11 students per classroom, with the earliest classes beginning at 8.30 in the morning to combat sleep deprivation for optimal concentration. 

As a boarder, living on Solebury’s grounds means joining a diverse cohort celebrating the uniqueness of each student’s heritage and background. No one student is the same; all are cherished for their talents and emboldened to pursue their passions. Each dorm has its own family, where students mature through lasting friendships and meaningful connections in their journey to become self-sufficient.

For extracurriculars, the school boasts a 21,500 square-foot gymnasium, a multipurpose room and a six-lane running track and athletic field. Its Cornerstone Coaching centres around three pillars, namely Sustenance, Movement and Mindset for steady, sustainable results. Hopeful creatives too can rejoice in Solebury’s commitment to the arts. The school’s location in Bucks County — nationally recognised as a hub for artists — forms the school’s cornerstone of imaginative excellence going back to 1925. 

The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland

Source: The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland

At The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, every boy is known – for who he is today, and all he will be tomorrow. Since opening its doors in 1844, this all-boys school — located on over 75 acres of rolling countryside and just 15 minutes from downtown Baltimore — embraces inquisitive learners to instil the school’s tripartite values of courage, integrity and compassion in cultivating industrious young men of tomorrow.

Drawing on nearly two centuries of experience, the school’s K-12 education is small by design to preserve its close-knit fraternity in building a sturdy foothold for self-confidence and providing boys with countless leadership opportunities. Here, boys transition seamlessly from lower to upper years where they learn how to adeptly navigate complex, critical thinking skills necessary for higher learning after graduation. Innovation propels the scholarly fervour of its students, especially through a sophisticated robotics programme that has been ranked as fourth in the world, with over 100 members progressing to top engineering colleges.

Empathetic connections are forged in the boarding environment. The residential life facility is newly renovated and each dorm room is 350 square feet and includes its own private bath. More importantly, no boy ever stands alone here; students from all over the world are integrated into the community through meaningful peer activities such as weekly dorm meetings, group dinners, and mentorship opportunities. To create a sense of belonging, each boarder is paired with a day student family for home-cooked meals, movie nights, or games at Camden Yards in Baltimore . The school’s community underscores its expansive outlook, and it understands that boarding isn’t about leaving family behind; it’s about building a bigger one.

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