What to Expect from Dorm Life

For many parents (and probably many students) the uncertainty of dorm life is the biggest cause of anxiety when talking about or considering a boarding school. It’s an uncertainty that prevents some students from ever enjoying the more positive, less worrisome aspects of the boarding school experience.

Though there’s a lot that can’t be known until the student is living in the dorm, there are some generalities that can ease the minds of both parents and students.

Most dorms have schedules to which the students must adhere. A typical day looks something like this (though times will obviously vary somewhat from school to school):

  • 7am – wake up call. In larger schools, the wake-up call is typically a bell or alarm. In a smaller school, it may be a house advisor knocking on the door
  • 8-9am – breakfast in the dining hall
  • 9:30am-5pm – school classes, lunch, and extra-curricular activities
  • 5:30-7pm – diner in the dining hall
  • 8pm-10pm – study hall
  • 10:30pm – students must be in their rooms for room check

Though a boarding school day is fairly scheduled, it’s up to each individual student to make sure he’s on time, which teaches the students to take increased responsibility for their actions. In addition, boarding school rules are often more strict than other schools and there are consequences for breaking them. Responsibility is also learned as the student has to manage his own spending money, keep his own room clean, and do his own laundry. Not to mention the fact that there’s no one hovering over him to make sure he’s doing his homework, so there are ample opportunities for students to learn responsibility!

It’s likely that your child will be sharing a room with at least one other student. Most dorm rooms are set up much like a simple hotel room. There will be beds, closet space, possibly dressers, and some rooms include desks. The room may have a bathroom and/or shower, but some dorms have community bathrooms that are shared by everyone on the floor.

Students don’t choose their own roommates. They’re assigned by the dorm staff and your child will likely meet his roommate at the first student orientation. This system presents a unique challenge for students, because they have to learn how to live and get along with total strangers. This is the part that causes the most worry and stress among both students and parents. Parents, especially, worry about their child having a roommate who is unreasonable, “strange” or downright mean. But when conflicts arise between roommates, the dorm staff is available to mediate and help find acceptable solutions. .

Boarding schools are highly diverse and often have a large international population. A student’s acceptance of and appreciation for people of different races and cultures will be broadened as he lives day in and day out with such a varied group of people.

Many former boarding school students say that the friendships they developed have lasted well beyond senior graduation. A boarding school is uniquely designed to create a tight-knit community among both students and faculty. It also allows teachers to take advantage of learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

The house advisors, or dormitory staff, often act as mentors and positive role models for the students, and close relationships are formed there as well. Most dorms host special events throughout the school year that may be as simple as a “movie night” or as elaborate as a spring formal dance or full-blown theatre production. All of these events provide increased opportunities for students to work alongside each other, celebrate together, and get to know each other better.

One of the greatest benefits of all of these relationships is parents can rest assured that they’re not leaving their children to “fend for themselves” as-it-were. Though parents may feel like they’re leaving their kids alone, to figure out school and life all by themselves, the reality is that there is a campus full of teachers, coaches, advisors and other students who are ready and willing to befriend new students and help them find their way; in school and in life.