Boarding School Advice For New Students

Justin Muchnick is from Southern California and just began his third year of boarding school at Phillips Academy Andover in Massachusetts. He decided to apply to boarding school when a middle school teacher recognized his passion for learning and the Harkness method (an interactive, student-driven style of learning. Students sit in a circle and the teacher facilitates a dialogue between them.) At Andover, Justin is the captain of the varsity wrestling team, participates in the chess club, is a member of the Athletic Advisory Board, and works as a tour guide. He also writes for, Stanford University’s football fan website, is a charter content creator at, and has published two books, Straight-A Study Skills (2013) and recently-released The Boarding School Survival Guide (June, 2014). You can email him at [email protected], visit his website at, or follow him at @BoardingSchl on Twitter and at The Boarding School Survival Guide on Facebook.

Build relationships with teachers. They are there to not just teach but also support you on your boarding school journey. At boarding school teachers are also your house counselors, advisors, coaches, and extracurricular adult leaders. Spend time getting to know them outside of the classroom. It’s not hard at all to build relationships with these supportive adults.

Eat well. The dining hall’s waffle makers, ice cream machines, and great desserts can be tempting. Since your mom is not there to tell you to eat your vegetables, it’s your responsibility to maintain a balanced diet with protein, fruits, veggies and other healthy choices.

Exercise. Join a team, dance, go to the gym, go for a run, or do all of the above. Break a sweat as often as you can to let off steam, clear your head, and work off those late-night snacks you might indulge in.

Sleep. Boarding school offers loads of activities and distractions, from dormmates to on-campus events. Be sure to factor in enough sleep into your schedule. A day-time nap here or there might also help you. Remember sleep is critical if you want to perform well in class or any other endeavors.

Be yourself. Relish it, be open to new ideas and experiences, and really discover who you are.

Work hard. Take advantage of the wide variety of courses offered, and do whatever you can to be successful in your classes. It’s also really easy to engage in dialogues about what you are learning outside of the classroom in your dorm, at the dining hall, or on bus rides to athletic competitions or other off-campus events.

Seek out extra help. On-campus peer tutoring and academic support are available to students in boarding school and there are usually designated hours when teachers are available to meet.

Be a joiner or a leader. Try out campus extracurricular activities, or start your own club if something you like is not offered on your campus. Eventually something you want to be a part of will pan out.

Learn the basics of doing laundry. Or, call your mom (like I did) and have her walk you through how to operate a washing machine if you are in a pinch.

Have fun (within reason). Boarding school can be a liberating and exciting experience if you try to enjoy it. Don’t sweat the small stuff and appreciate this unique learning opportunity that you are getting to experience.

More Articles