Millie’s Magical Guide to UK Boarding Schools
Article written and edited by Ariel Lau and Nadya Soetomo.
Just like in Harry Potter, boarding schools in fancy buildings do exist. Only without Dumbledore and flying brooms — but that doesn’t mean they’re any less fun!
An overview of boarding schools in the UK
Unlike IB or AP, the British high school curriculum is structured from Year 9 to 13. With an additional school year, the UK boarding school system works with the following three age groups for students to start boarding:
- Primary : From ages 5 to 11-13.
- Secondary : From ages 11-13 to 16 (The most common entry point for students)
- Sixth Form : From ages 17 to 19.
There are various types of boarding available in the UK — two of which are Full Boarding and Flexi Boarding. While Full Boarding only allows students to return home during long holidays, Flexi Boarding permits students to also leave school during weekends.
“Unlike IB or AP, the British high school curriculum goes from Grade 9 to 13.”
Criteria to consider when researching
There are over 500 boarding schools in the UK. Without a set of criteria for what you’re looking for most in a boarding school, the search for one can be stressful. To narrow down your choices, here are a few factors to consider when choosing the most compatible boarding school for you:
- Type of boarding (student demographics, boarding and visiting policy, etc.
- School type and campus size
- Location (countryside or urban surroundings)
- Living environment (mixed or single-gender)
- Academic program (academic calendar and curriculum structure)
- Religious affiliation (influence of religion in the school’s education system)
- Extracurricular offerings (equestrian, surfing, etc.)
You can also decide whether a school is a good fit by taking a look at its credibility and rank from league tables, Oxbridge acceptance rate, the pupil/teacher ratio, or if the school has a specialty — whether it’s academically focused, has a well-known music program, or even an equestrian championship!
Boarding school application requirements
To apply for a UK boarding school, your application should include the following four items:
- Application form
This contains basic information about the student (your recent grade profile included), official transcripts from your current school, and reference letters from current teachers — it’s best if your reference letters are written by teachers of your favorite subjects.
This can be done with only the student, the parents, or both. Treat your conversation with the admissions officer as a golden opportunity for the school to get to know you better and vice versa. If you ever need help, check out Millie’s guidance program to help you nail your interview!
- Entrance test
The purpose of an entrance test is to challenge your critical thinking and reasoning ability rather than whether you can recite what you’ve learned at school.
- Essay / Personal Statement
A student’s personal statement showcases your personality, purpose and commitment towards entering the school. It’s the most important component during the application process to tell more about yourself!
“Your personal statement is your chance to tell the school more about yourself personally.”
Some schools administer their own entrance tests while others may adopt a common entrance exam. Common entrance exams are offered at Primary, Secondary, and Sixth Form entry points. In all entry points, the core subjects you’ll be tested on are English and Math.
For more details on how to prepare for boarding school, watch our webinar on Millie’s Guide to UK Boarding School and if you need help planning your journey, you’re only a click away from Millie’s UK Boarding School App Clinic!