What advice can you give me before I start at boarding school?
Don’t try to change yourself to fit in. Act yourself and people will naturally enjoy your company, which is important in a boarding environment.
Don’t be nervous about people judging you due to your background, as that rarely happens – everyone at boarding school is relatively open to people from all kinds of backgrounds, so you will be accepted. Remember if you earned your place, you deserve to be there!
Never be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure. Talk to somebody if you have any problems.
Remember your roots and keep in touch with old friends – you still spend a lot of time at home and it is important to stay in contact.
Take every opportunity, even if it seems overwhelming, because boarding school gives you huge potential and helps you to find yourself and your interests and sets you really well for when you leave school.
Make many friends – the good ones last a lifetime.
Organisation and enthusiasm to get involved is vital
Prepare to feel out of your depth, confused and lost, but you will soon be lifted and realise the support that surrounds you.
The experience as a boarder has made me a better person and has completely made me a mature individual that is fully prepared to face the daily challenges that life has in store.
What can I do to prepare myself academically for boarding school?
It is going to be different and the first couple of weeks will be hard. But just learn how to manage your time, your prep and it will be fine.
Feel confident in your abilities and completely reset all expectations.
Try hard right from the beginning and if you struggle to motivate yourself get help with structuring your prep time and getting work done.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help because all the teachers are willing to help.
Do some background research into the topics you are studying at A-level.
Stick up timetables and events – and a school map! – on the wall.
Get a work routine set out and keep to it – it’s much easier to keep up.
Keep the work/life balance in order to maintain the drive to complete your work.
Order the syllabus textbooks beforehand and have a little look at what each subject entails.
What do I take with me to boarding school?
Your school will give you a detailed list of everything you need to bring, and this will include bringing your own bed linen (sheets, pillow cases, duvet cover) to use at school.
You’ll need home clothes, for when you don’t have to wear school uniform. Usually, these can be just the clothes you would wear at home in the evenings and at weekends, but check what your boarding school’s rules are about home clothes.
It’s nice to have some personal stuff with you, like posters to decorate your dorm (nothing too racy or revealing – that won’t be allowed!) and photos. Also bring something you can play your music on and your mobile phone, if you’ve got one. When you visit the school before you start, you’ll see what kind of things other pupils have with them.
You should have some pocket money with you and it needs to be kept safe, in a secure place. Your houseparent will tell you how much to bring and where to keep it.
What challenges will I face when I arrive at boarding school?
It’s an extremely busy lifestyle which takes up all of your time whilst at school, but once you are used to it you don’t want to do anything else.
The prep load took me by surprise, this is because at my old school we didn’t get much homework set on a daily basis and the lessons did seem a bit weird as the lessons vary by the days of the week. But it wasn’t too hard to get a grasp of.
Everything is very structured, because there are set timetables with lessons and for extra-curricular activities.
The smaller classes make it easier to get help, and being at school 24/7 means you always have the opportunity to aske other students or teachers for help.
The attention given to me by the teachers and school is amazing, however coming from state to private education I have had to catch up academically, but this is easy due to the support from the teachers and departments.
The timings of lessons, length of the days, lessons on Saturdays were challenges but you get used to it.
What’s it like settling in at the start?
It was hard for the first few days because I wanted some alone time as I was feeling quite homesick but after that it was fine.
I actually found that I settled in very quickly, a lot quicker than I thought I would. And I prefer it miles better than when I was a day pupil at my old school.
Once I was able to get myself around I found that I settled in very quickly.
Getting used to timings around the house e.g. meals, roll calls, spare time, prep, bedtimes etc… was tough at first but now I’m used to it!
How easy is it to make friends?
Everyone living together meant that you had to get along and it was just easy to make friends.
The majority of people at my new school aren’t significantly different to those at state schools. It would appear that no matter which school you go to, teenagers will always be teenagers at the end of the day.
Very, because you are living so close to people you get to know them very quickly and easily. Everyone is very kind and welcoming.
A lot easier than I anticipated, yet I still felt there were some self-imposed barriers, most of the time concerning the class difference, yet these melted away in less than a week’s time as people’s personalities began to emerge.
Participating in social events and societies has been quite useful in ‘branching out’ and meeting new people.
What should I definitely do when I start at boarding school?
Just finding a friend initially who is able to take you where you need to go for the first couple of weeks is very important until you get used to the routine.
Knowing the nicknames at the school…
I remember everyone saying that you can talk to anyone about anything and it seemed a bit scary to open up about being homesick but once I did if felt a lot better.
Friends – whether it was talking to old friends on Skype or going and talking to new friends.
Make sure you are able to change your own bedding as you will have to do this yourself.
A map! This place is huge…
Signing up to lots of different activities and clubs to get involved in really helped me meet new people and make new friends.
What is enjoyable about the academic life at boarding school?
I feel like I’m being challenged to think in such a way that I wouldn’t normally.
I like the fact that being clever is cool in my school.
For the first time in my academic career I am actually being stretched.
My teachers have pretty much all been amazing which has made learning a much more enjoyable experience.
We learn life skills from our teachers. It is the most amazing experience to be able to develop such open relationships between teachers and students.
If you’re willing to work hard and do well there are plenty of opportunities and no student is forgotten.
One of the most enjoyable things about going to boarding school is that you feel that you are being pushed a lot harder than any other college. While this is demanding, it is also intrinsically rewarding as you feel like you are forming a greater knowledge and understanding of a subject which can help when you going on to university.
I like the boarding aspect of being in a consistent and stable environment which helps me to get the best out of education.
The classes are smaller and you receive the attention that benefits you – with longer one-to-one time and focus from the teacher.
I’ve never played some of these sports before! Where can I find out about the rules?
Your PE teachers will help you, and have a look at the Useful Links for guides to playing different sports.
What about the food?
Food at school is actually really nice. You get a choice and there’s always plenty of it.
Most schools have a tuck shop, which sells food and snacks like sweets and crisps. Your houseparent will tell you where it is, when it’s open and how you pay.
All schools are used to catering for different dietary requirements, for example, don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian, they won’t make you eat meat!
What’s it like at the weekend?
I lost my Saturday! At first it was a shock but the extended holidays made up for that time.
It felt like we did not get a single day off in a week, to begin with, but now after being here for ages I wouldn’t know what to do with all the free time if we did have Saturday and Sunday off!
Can I phone home?
Yes. You can bring your mobile phone, if you’ve got one, although boarding schools have rules about when you can use them (like not during lessons). But there are lots of times when you can use your phone and you’ll be able to text or phone home if you want to.
There are private phones you can use to call home, and your houseparent will let you use their phone in an emergency.
Washing my dirty socks!
Your boarding school will have a system for doing laundry and your houseparent will explain what you need to do. Usually, you’ll have to hand in your washing on a particular day of the week and then it will be brought back. Make sure you have your name label sewn into all your clothes, including individual socks!
Is it difficult switching between life at school and home?
Initially the transition between the two felt strange but you get used to it quickly and now it’s just normal.
Although I spend most of my days in school I find it special at home because I don’t take for granted the time I spend with my family. When I get the opportunity to see them, I make the most of my time with them.
What can I achieve at boarding school?
Expanding my social skills and making the most out of the opportunities.
I’ve improved my confidence.
Achieving good GCSE results.
My communication skills have developed! Academically I’m flourishing and feel very fortunate to be with such amazing people.
I feel proud of making new friends that come from all round the world and will be lifelong friends.
I feel proud of what I am achieving academically as I feel as if coming to boarding school has unlocked the potential that I didn’t know that I had.
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