Boarding Schools Aren’t Just for Rich Kids

Boarding Schools Aren’t Just for Rich Kids

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Why some Solo Moms see real benefits to boarding school

For the Solo Mom with modest means who is considering boarding school for her child, it is useful to begin by asking some basic questions:

  1. Can I make it work financially?
  2. Does the school provide a unique experience? In other words, will it give my child something I am unable to provide that he or she might benefit from in the long term?

There are some general websites that might provide some insight on how to pay for your child’s boarding school tuition. Here are a couple to get you started:

It is important to note that the websites listed here serve as tools to help you begin collecting information, as there is no central boarding school “clearinghouse” able to offer assistance across the board.

All boarding schools should, however, offer individualized financial-aid packages when a student applies and is accepted, and keep in mind that private schools do have endowments. One central purpose of these endowments is to offer assistance to qualified candidates, so, if possible, sit down with school admissions counselors and learn how families are paying for these schools, some of which can cost upwards of $60,000 per year. Students who are able to attend boarding schools with large endowments or who get in on their merit may receive very generous financial assistance. The assistance package should also factor in your child’s housing needs.

If you have parents or in-laws who are in a position to offer tuition assistance, there is often a tax benefit to doing this. To find out whether this might work in your situation, consult with an attorney who specializes in trusts and estates or has related expertise.

If you have decided that you are able to make it work financially, consider other factors, including the logistics and the social aspects of school.

Looming in the forefront of the minds of many Solo Moms is the question of fit. Some parents might be concerned that a child whose family is not wealthy may not “fit in” at a boarding school. Since boarding schools increasingly are becoming socioeconomically diverse, chances are your child will acclimate just fine. A daughter of a divorced Solo Mom I know who attends a private boarding school in New England told me that her school “is diverse in all ways. There is always someone in the same boat as you, although no one says what the boat entails.”

Here are some other possible benefits to boarding school:

  • Your child will find like-minded people. Your child will be with “their people” and might find that it’s cool to be smart and high achieving.
  • Consider the burden-sharing a boarding school might offer. A Solo Mom may sometimes benefit from being able to say that a set of rules are school rules rather than her own. Things such as curfews and homework are effectively and responsibly delegated to third parties at a crucial developmental time.
  • Many hands make light(er) work. More eyes on the child of a busy Solo Mom may be a great comfort to her. She then gets to show up for an art event or athletic dinner and talk to her child about things other than curfews and homework to strengthen the adolescent–Solo Mom bond. Also, for those with work schedules that can’t be planned around the school’s, there is comfort in knowing the child’s daily needs (extracurricular activities, food, housing) are largely met by the school.

Next, to apply to the school and for financial aid, here are some things you should consider that might help streamline the process:

  • Make a list of schools that interest you. You might find it beneficial to do this by yourself first, including your child only after you have decided which schools seem reasonable. Take a look at schools in regions that are convenient for your family to travel to.
  • Keep visiting schools until you find one where your child feels comfortable with the students. In a sense, boarding schools are better able to blur socioeconomic differences among students because no matter the student’s background, all students live in the same dorms and eat the same cafeteria food. That stands in contrast to many day schools. As my friend’s aforementioned daughter also told me, “At the schools I went to before, I always felt like I would be called out for not handing in field-trip money or paying for lunch. But here everything is under wraps. No one discusses your tuition or your smart-card balance.”
  • Make an appointment with the admissions officers at each school that interests you. Have a sit-down meeting with each school’s admissions director or financial-aid representatives. Explain what you are looking for, and understand what they are looking for. Ask yourself if the school would be a good fit for your child.

The takeaway

Boarding school can offer any number of benefits to the child of a Solo Mom. Since Solo Moms are often the sole provider and/or primary caretaker for their child, having an objective set of eyes on your teenager may be a source of deep comfort; moreover, boarding school has become a real option for families with modest means. Schools look for academically high-achieving students or students who fit their needs and will often do what it takes to help them attend.

One long-term benefit is in college admissions. A boarding school will work tirelessly to get its students into colleges. This is their bread and butter. Having trained professionals to help your child succeed under your direction may, indeed, have long-term benefits for their choices in the future.

Tara Shafer is the cofounder of Reconceiving Loss, an online resource center for families coping with pregnancy and infant loss. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and BabyCenter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @reconceivinglos.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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