Top schools in the US for a well-rounded student experience
Source: The Cambridge School of Weston

There is little wonder why families around the world are willing to invest in an American education for their children. These schools are known for providing the ideal environment for students to flourish in a rich culture of learning, collaboration, athletics, arts, and overall mental stimulation. A boarding experience takes this further, enabling students to enjoy these perks 24/7. 

As students face pressure to prepare for and thrive in college or university, a well-rounded education has proven its position as a clear solution. With early exposure to interdisciplinary excellence, students close the skill gaps others would endure when stepping out of high school and into higher education.

Of course, ensuring they are able to lead productive and successful lives once they leap into the workforce is a priority as well. This is where a school’s ability to nurture aspirations of all sorts comes in. At many schools in the US, students take the lead in crafting their experiences to match the dreams they wish to make a reality. 

To find them, do your research on schools that prioritise a personalised approach, emphasise the importance of hands-on knowledge, and enthuse the benefits of student leadership. Or, you could just consider these options:

The Cambridge School of Weston

At The Cambridge School of Weston (CSW), it’s easy for students — between the grades of nine and 12 — to get a glimpse into their future, both on and off-campus. Set on 65 acres of lush woodlands, about 12 miles away from Boston’s finest universities, students enjoy the best that a world-class dynamic city and the tranquility and safety of a contained, suburban campus have to offer. Rooted in the progressive teachings of John Dewey, CSW brings to life active, experiential, student-centred learning to complement diverse interests and aspirations — an education that remains relevant and responsive to the evolving needs of generations of students and the changing world in which they live.

 Schools in the US

Here, a progressive education brings to life active, experiential learning to complement diverse interests and aspirations. Photo source: The Cambridge School of Weston

CSW’s signature academic model, the Module System, is based on research about how adolescents learn best, and divides the year into six, six-week terms known as “mods,” in which students take no more than three academic courses at once. Rigorous courses in the expressive arts, English, language, history, math and science lay a solid foundation. With guidance and support from teachers, advisors, and coaches, students can choose from CSW’s over 250 courses that provide incredible depth into specific themes or subject areas. This highly individualised approach empowers students to explore and engage with choice, curiosity, courage, self-awareness, discipline, open-mindedness, and a sense of personal responsibility.

Here, social justice is a requirement as well. In fact, CSW is the first school in the nation to make it a fundamental component, encouraging students to take at least 10 classes on the diverse perspectives, complexity, and richness of our world. These courses — there are over 80 in total — examine issues from the perspectives of non-Western cultures and historically oppressed groups, study structures of power and privilege, and investigate models of social change with the goal of advancing human rights.

Life outside the classroom is just as rich. With the confidence they gain in classes, students participate in competitive interscholastic athletics and assume leadership positions in alliance, affinity, and interest groups. With opportunities like sitting on the school’s Board of Trustees (with full voting rights!) or serving on the Advisory Board to the Head of School, developing student voice and engagement are pillars of CSW’s educational model. The intellectual independence a CSW education inspires serves students well in university life and beyond. To learn more, click here.

Episcopal High School

Episcopal High School (EHS) is a private, 100% boarding school for boys and girls in grades nine through 12. EHS has been around for 175 years, and today is home to 440 students. What’s unique about EHS is that students are guided by four principles: honour, academic distinction, spiritual growth, and community. 

Schools in the US

Students learn by making connections from freshman to sophomore and junior to senior years. Source: Episcopal High School

Here, students learn by making connections from freshman to sophomore and junior to senior years. Teachers work alongside each pupil in open classrooms. While EHS encourages students to embrace the principles of a liberal education and appreciate a deep and rigorous learning process, they are equally encouraged to challenge, question and explore the content of that learning, to push boundaries and overturn expectations.

Learning also takes place outside the classroom. Physical activity is key to the EHS curriculum, which believes that it is crucial to the health of every teenage boy and girl. The habits and routines of exercise at a young age are important to lifelong health, as well as the other values gained from athletic competition, from sportsmanship to self-discipline and perseverance. 

A squash centre, a wrestling cage, a tennis court, and a field house — these showcase the school’s commitment to help EHS students earn these qualities through various athletic activities such as football, basketball, tennis, golf, cross country and so forth.

The Webb School

Picture all the perks of a rural location in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, with Nashville, one of the South’s iconic cities, home to famous recording artists, writers, world-renowned chefs, and rich cultural heritage, only a short drive away. An outdoor programme that makes the most of surrounding natural areas through hiking and white water rafting on the Ocoee River, a former Olympics site. Every weekend, there is something new to do. From music to art and theatre, there are opportunities to explore one’s creativity and find one’s voice. 

US Schools

The Webb School emphasises independent thinking, creative initiative, personal integrity, and civic responsibility. Source: The Webb School

These features define an education at The Webb School. Founded in 1870 by noted educator Sawney Webb, it is the oldest continuously operating boarding and day school in the South. Today, it provides a distinctive education — focusing on challenging academics with an emphasis on personal integrity in a small family-like setting — to 400 students in grades six to 12.  

What sets The Webb School apart is how it develops characters. Focusing on community and relationships, children get a down-to-earth upbringing that places honour and personal integrity in every aspect of school life. Other unique offerings include Webb’s Wilderness Instruction and Leadership Development (WILD) programme, Emerging Voices Programme, global curriculum and personalised approach. Little surprise a recent survey found that students and parents are very happy with their Webb experience. In a world shrouded by negativity and polarisation, parents felt Webb’s inclusive community stood out.

The Hun School of Princeton

High-powered academics paired with a joyful environment can be a transformative experience. Just ask the graduates of The Hun School Of Princeton. Here, learning takes the form of exploration, trying new things and daring to fail — both in and out of the classroom. 

Schools in the US

Here, learning takes the form of exploration, trying new things and daring to fail — both in and out of the classroom. Source: The Hun School of Princeton

Be it Arabic, Bioethics, Engineering Design, or Multivariable Calculus, Upper School students not only examine the principles of that course, they also forge these seven skills: creativity, cultural competency, collaborative problem solving, critical thinking, ethical decision making, effective communication, and leadership skills. 

Academic support here is unparallelled. Students have one-on-one access to all their teachers for a whole period every day, complementing the active mentorship offered as part of a Hun education. More importantly, they care — genuinely — for the success of their students.

Whether in academics or arts, athletics or leadership, Hun students thrive in an environment where the spirit of kindness and possibility reign together. They can seek out the fullest range of their abilities and interests, supported every step of the way. Passion can take flight, unrestricted by unnecessary competition that dog other elite schools. Rather, The Hun School provides a safe environment that liberates curiosities and lets students go deeper with the material.

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