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Why Boarding Schools?

Portrait of Megan Harlan

by Megan Harlan, Head of School for Fountain Valley School


After 25 years of living and working at boarding schools I believe in my heart that this specific learning environment offers the best education for growing adolescents. Below are eight reasons why I choose to stick with and stand by boarding schools.


You are surrounded by unique and inspiring peers.

Individual success, health, and confidence often flourish because of those with whom we surround ourselves. Learning in a global community – with peers from across the nation and around the globe – advances our understanding of and how we see our place in the world. To learn, understand, and accept individual differences at a young age provides students with a competitive advantage as they look to dive deeper into our interconnected world via college and beyond. 


Learning happens around the clock. 

Often, the most important lessons on character, responsibility, leadership, and connection occur outside of the classroom. At boarding schools, students grow and develop at all hours of the day: from morning school gatherings to afternoon activities, to conversations on the paths, in the dining hall and in the dormitories. The opportunity to grow and develop exists and is nourished at all times. 


Small class sizes help you find agency and celebrate others. 

The classrooms found in a boarding school environment are often organized in a circular fashion; seldom are desks found in rows. This is an important physical aspect, as the formation reflects the philosophy that every opinion is valued, that ideas exist to be shared, and that every student has the option to participate, engage, and be heard. Teachers can, in turn, focus on the actual art of teaching and developing skills in their students. 


Weekend Activities are robust and available to all. 

The fun and learning does not need to end on Friday at 3 p.m. Rather, both expand into the evenings and on weekend days. Many boarding school employees have worked for summer camps and the notion of fun, relaxation, and engagement is something that is embraced by the entire school community. There is always something positive to do on a boarding school campus and the opportunities are open to all. 


Take risks and try new things. 

When students enter the ninth grade, they frequently consider themselves to be someone with strengths in a particular subject, sport, or art form. Engrained in boarding school life, however, is the opportunity to try new things and see these preconceived assumptions grow and change over time. Watching students discover new talents, push their limits and develop new interests has been one of my favorite aspects of working in boarding schools. The adolescent growth and development that educators in boarding schools witness are truly remarkable. 


Your teachers live and work with you. 

At boarding schools, teachers live in the dorms and on campus, seeing and interacting with students in a variety of settings and situations. Teachers come to know their students as athletes, artists, adventurers, and – most importantly – as unique individuals. 


Develop your independence. 

Frequently, adults underestimate the abilities and potential found in adolescents. Boarding schools offer students independence with scaffolding, helping them develop life skills and time management and, in turn, gain confidence in their abilities to thrive in the world beyond our supportive paths. 


All of your favorite activities can be found in one place. 

The amount of time spent in the car, moving frantically from one activity or responsibility to the next, suddenly vanishes and students can now follow their passions in one, world-class location. Arts, athletics, academics, and meals are available within walking distance. Clubs are prevalent and span from Robotics, to debate, to the school newspaper. And, if there is a club a student is interested in that does not yet exist, they will likely have the opportunity to start one.