ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Applying to College / How Do Admission Officials View Applicants from Top Boarding Schools?

How Do Admission Officials View Applicants from Top Boarding Schools?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 1, 2015


Does attending a boarding school affect how admissions officers perceive a student? I attend a small, highly selective boarding school with no honors classes, because everything is assumed to be taught at a higher level than most regular high school classes. There are many amazing options and opportunities, but I don’t have access to some of the same opportunities (e.g. community service, academic recognition/acceleration, etc.) as students in public or day schools. Are admissions officers generally aware of this, and do they perceive good/bad grades and school involvement through a different lens as a result of boarding prep schools’ different culture and academic standards?

Admission officials typically take great pains to understand the high schools that their applicants attend. So it’s very common for them to realize that, at some schools—especially the most rigorous boarding schools—earning a “B” in a tough course can be like earning an “A” at a less challenging high school.  They also realize that the extracurricular options, awards, etc., that are available to students who live in a dormitory can be unlike those offered to students living at home. These officials usually keep copious records of past applicants from each high school so that new admission officers can see how the pattern of acceptances from one high school can vary from that pattern at others.

So, yes, admission committees are indeed using a “different lens” when they evaluate candidates from a demanding private school. That’s the good news. But there’s some bad news too:  Many of the celebrated private schools will send dozens of applications to a fairly short list of prestigious colleges. These colleges, however, are keen on admitting a diverse freshman class and, for them, such “diversity” includes diversity of high school background. Thus, even if all of the candidates from one private boarding school are well qualified, it’s unlikely that all will be admitted, in order to save spaces for students from a range of alma maters.

Thus, as compile your college list, try to include not only the “dream schools” that are on many of your classmates’ lists too, but also some “think outside the box” schools that could be very attractive to you but not as popular with your friends.  Although admission officials have great respect for students who have been successful at rigorous boarding schools, I have known some wonderful seniors from the top boarding schools who were turned away from all of their favorite colleges because they were “competing” with scores of equally talented classmates (even though admission officials will rarely own up to such “competition”) and they ultimately didn’t stand out in the crowd.


Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

More on Applying to College

See all
typing at computer- karolina-grabowska-6958506-resized

Authentic Voice in College Essays

That’s why you want to use your authentic voice when writing any college essay.

So what’s the problem? A student has shared an ess…


College Interview Prep Tips: Brainstorm, Research, Analyze, Generalize

I recently visited Washington University in Saint Louis and was lucky enough to set up an interview. By speaking with peers of mi…

campus gates

Academic Index Scores: Why They Matter and How They're Calculated

Note: Click here for 10 Summer Programs You Can Still Apply For or keep reading to learn more about academic index scores.

8 Podcasts for Students Going Through the Admissions Process

7 Podcasts for Students Going Through the Admissions Process

Podcasts can offer a wealth of information to busy students, particularly when it comes to the college admissions process. We…


Avoid College Application Regrets: Tips For Getting It Right the First Time

Decision Day occurs each year on May 1st and is the deadline for students to inform the college of their choice of their intent t…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship