A US boarding school experience is highly reputable for many reasons: world-class education, extensive lists of extracurricular opportunities, diverse campus communities, and a track record for alumni success. The best among them have all of these features, providing a holistic education that goes beyond the four walls of a classroom.
Recent studies highlight the edge US boarding schools boasts. Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in an uptick in transfers from public schools to independent schools. Parents are seeking flexible learning and small class sizes, on top of full-fledged support for each student.
Add verdant campuses and student-focused programmes, and these US boarding schools become a home away from home that doubles as a sturdy bedrock where students have all they need to succeed in school, college and beyond.
Here are four boarding schools in the US that best exemplify the finest of an American education:
John Bapst Memorial High School
John Bapst Memorial High School is a coed, independent college preparatory high school with a tradition of excellence since 1928. Located in Bangor, Maine — the third-largest city in the safest US state — John Bapst prepares students in grades nine through 12 for college and university placement by offering dynamic programmes in academics, athletics and arts.
Here, every student reaches their individual potential. John Bapst focuses on flexibility and individualisation, using this chart to help map out a student’s core course choices for their four years here. Independent studies are common, as are connecting kids with researchers at local universities for extended work.
There are various opportunities for John Bapst students to extend learning beyond their classwork. The Distinguished Graduates Programme — an individualised honours programme — lets students take on rigorous capstone projects. Combined with a challenging high school curriculum — as many as 24 Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered — they ensure students graduate strong, with many progressing to elite universities each year.
Indeed, John Bapst is well-known for their many achievements. Its academic curriculum is the best in Northern New England. The robotics team is the best in the Eastern US, whereas the chess team is the best in Maine.
John Bapst’s sports programme further promotes growth, leadership, and teamwork. It includes football, soccer, field hockey, cheering, golf, basketball, ice hockey, swimming, tennis, softball, baseball, outdoor track and field. Everyone is encouraged to participate. If John Bapst sounds like the place for you, click here to start your application.
Cardigan Mountain School
For the past 75 years, Cardigan Mountain School’s structured and supportive pre-college preparatory academic programme has been preparing boys in grades six to nine for a successful transition to secondary school and beyond.
The Cardigan Way has helped the all-boys school identify several unique points to ensure smoother pupil integration. Firstly, the student-teacher ratio is just four to one, which means more attention can be given to each boy to develop his maximum potential, especially at this crucial growth stage.
Secondly, the school’s strong focus on individual growth is combined with their core values of compassion, integrity, respect and courage in the unique PEAKS (Personalised Education for the Acquisition of Knowledge and Skills) programme that enables all boys to identify and nurture their hidden strengths. The dedicated PEAKS Department helps boys explore which learning style fits them best over four days a week; PEAKS coaches are also available after school hours for mentoring and guidance.
Finally, with access to excellent facilities, plus extensive co-curricular offerings in the arts and athletics, students here can hone their leadership and artistic skills on top of their academic pursuits to become all-rounded students. To learn more about how the school nurtures not just academic achievement, but also the physical, social, ethical, and personal growth of pupils, click here.
West Nottingham Academy
If you’re looking for a campus that offers the best of many worlds — urban and tranquil, established and future-forward, academic and athletic — then the West Nottingham Academy (WNA) is the place to be.
On the academic front, the US’s longest-standing boarding and day school stands out for its 99% acceptance rate, college-level prep and signature programmes in environmental sustainability, STEM and innovation, and the arts. WNA offers nearly 90 courses, including a number of Advanced Placement (AP) courses geared toward the national exams, as well as Advanced and Honours courses. These offerings inspire pupils, embedding critical thinking skills and cultivating a passion for lifelong learning in them.
Another unique advantage? A beautiful 100-acre campus situated in the rolling countryside of northeastern Maryland. It is just a few miles from the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay and within a two to three hour drive to cities like New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
Living and learning here is a diverse, enriching experience. After the academic day is done, pupils can join a student body representing 15 different countries and nine states in the United States in a wide array of extracurricular activities right on campus.
With its strong education-based athletics programme, they build character, evolving into well-rounded graduates with sportsmanship, spirit for competition and integrity. Whether it’s soccer, volleyball, basketball, dance, tennis, or badminton, each represents an opportunity to grow, learn, and find success. To learn more about how WNA inspires and educates socially aware leaders and innovators, click here.
The Putney School
Creative yet practical, visionary yet grounded — the Putney School is one of the most progressive schools in the US. That’s not all. This co-educational boarding and day school for grades nine to 12 is distinctive in many other ways.
One is its culture of vibrant intellectual curiosity within an informal environment. The feeling that students belong is tangible as soon as one steps foot on campus. Free from the race for grades — it does not teach the Advanced Placement curriculum or any other standardised tests — they learn in compelling ways. They are in charge of the destiny of their education. Adults step back, How? By operating the school’s dairy farm, participating in physical work programmes, getting elected to the governing board, sitting in as members of the admission committee and more. Regimented? Far from it. Inspiring? Very much so. It’s an effective approach too — the majority of Putney students win places at top colleges and universities.
The second reason is its project-based learning, integrated curricula and hands-on education. Although only recently implemented by other schools, the Putney School has been practising these for over 75 years. Its academic arts programme encompasses a wide range of disciplines in the visual and performing arts, one of the central Putney experiences. They get to dive into their media in greater depth during Project Week, a period of nine to 10 days at the end of each term where students get to engage and explore a topic meaningful to them.
The third reason? Support. Learners of all stages and experience are celebrated here. There are English language classes for international students. The Afternoon and Athletics programme ensures Putney students are not just active, but reap the full physical and emotional benefits of exercise. Across the curriculum, issues of social justice and race are taught.
To learn more about how your child can become active, critical thinkers and members of a democratic society, click here.