For many of my clients living abroad, the prospect of coming to a US boarding school or university is both exciting and daunting. I often receive questions from these families as to whether a US education is right for them and, as important, what they can do to be best prepared for this major step in their educational journey. Fortunately, there are a number of programs in place to help students address these questions and land successfully in a US school or college.
For students trying to decide if a boarding school would suit their academic, social, and extracurricular goals, there are several ways to “try on” the boarding school experience before ever enrolling or going through the application process. More and more schools are offering summer immersion programs designed to provide high school aged (or younger) students with exposure to the scholastic, athletic, and artistic programs one would typically find at a boarding school. From creative writing classes led by acclaimed authors, to robotics, astronomy, debate, and Model United Nations, students are able to explore an increasingly wide range of subjects. There are also more skilled based offerings, allowing students to develop stronger study skills, improve time management, or simply work to strengthen their overall academic foundation. What’s more, students are able to gain meaningful experience living away from home in a safe and supportive environment while exploring their passions and developing their English proficiencies. In fact, being fully immersed in an English program for one, two, or three weeks aids in language acquisition, reading fluency, and writing – – all essential skills for students as they transition to a US education.
Beyond these boarding school opportunities, many of my students who want to pursue their undergraduate degree in the US attend a summer study program at a US university. These programs offered everywhere from Ivy League institutions to polytechnic institutes and small liberal arts colleges, provide rigorous academic offerings in specific disciplines. The goal of these university-based summer programs is to:
- gain experience in a US university classroom
- determine the depth of one’s interests and whether or not a student is prepared to focus on that specific discipline for their university major
- gain a first-hand account of the type of university one may want to attend
Over the years, our students have told us that they may love what they studied but didn’t love the university or location. Similarly, others have reported that they may have loved the university, but not the course work. Either way, these programs provide helpful insights into areas of study and university culture. They also help to demonstrate a student’s intellectual curiosity – an important facet to the subjective portion of a student’s college application.
Yet another option for students who are keen to pursue an undergraduate degree in the US but who may need to strengthen their English proficiency or simply grow more accustomed to the US Education system before entering university, is the Post Graduate (PG) program offered at a number of boarding schools. While the PG program has historically been focused on helping US students hone their academic and athletic skills before transitioning to university, many of these same schools have well-developed programs for international students and are eager to welcome them to their campuses. These academically rigorous programs offer an abundance of academic, artistic, and athletic opportunities as well as helping to develop important life skills required for university life and beyond. It is also an opportunity for students to continue to prepare for the SAT/ACT/TOEFL, join clubs, experiment with the arts or athletics, or continue to hone an already establish passion or talent. In many ways, the PG program is a wonderful bridge between living and studying abroad and successfully acclimating into a US university.
From a personal standpoint, I have seen, first hand, the power of these programs and how they benefit the students who enroll in them. Regardless of the goal, be it to experience university living, “trying on” boarding school, or investing in a full-year post-graduate program, there are countless ways for students to explore US education in a safe and exciting environment.