Flourishing mind concept

Making the Case for Private Day School

At the time of our meeting in late 2016, Ava Shen was currently studying in the US as a junior at Fort Worth Country Day school in the State of Texas and due to graduate shortly thereafter. She is a former student of our TOEFL test-prep course and writing program, and has made a successful transition to an American private day school. As a private day school student, she lived with a host family and had an overall positive experience during her life there. She currently attends Boston University as an International Relations major. So what are the key differences between boarding school and private day school?

Here she shared her thoughts with us in our brief interview below.

1.) What led you to seek admission to an American school?

I took my first trip to the US when I was in seventh grade. And I saw some colleges during my trip and I loved them. That was when I started to think about going to college in the US. Then I thought that if I went to America starting in high school, my college transition would be much easier. I got support from my mother then I started preparing myself for my goal.

2.) What were some of the characteristics you were looking for in a school?

I preferred a small school so that I could have an interactive classroom environment. I wanted my school to be an academically challenging school. And I also wanted to go to a school that has some exciting community service opportunities. Finally, I wanted my school to offer me help in applying to colleges.

3.) What was your first day at your new school like?

To be honest, it was scary. I didn’t know anybody back then. There were a lot of new things to take in: different classmates, different classrooms, different learning materials, etc. But, overall, students and teachers were nice to me.

4.) How long did it take you to get comfortable living away from home?

After two weeks, I was used to the English teaching environment and had no trouble learning at all. (p.s. practicing reading/listening/writing English at home will definitely help you a lot when you come here!) After six months, I became truly comfortable living away from home.

5.) Unlike boarding schools, which can be more challenging to get into because of limited space and increased competition from international students, private day schools seem to be a suitable alternative, the only major difference is you stay with a host family rather than live on campus. How has this experience been for you?

I love living with my host family. They are super nice to me. The best thing is when they travel to other places during vacations, I get to go with them. In these two years, I’ve been to places in the US I’ve never been to before. For me, this is so much more than a boarding school experience in which I would just live on campus and go home during vacations. Living with a host family is a really good way to understand and experience American culture. I still feel very lucky that I chose to go to a private day school.

6.) For students who may not know much about private day school, based on your experience, would you recommend it?

Yes, absolutely. I would recommend going to a private day school. It is actually a lot cheaper than going to a boarding school. You are not bound by your school borders and you have more freedom.

7.) What have you found most challenging during your studies there? How did you overcome this?

Writing essays is the most challenging part of my studies. I’ve never written essays that were more than 3 pages before I came to the US. In my first year, I had to do a timed writing on comparing Shakespearean plays, an essay about Oscar Wilde’s satires, a research paper on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. I had to write a 15-page paper about US-China economic relations and make a presentation about this topic for my final history exam. For me, I would start my essay a lot earlier than other students so that I could have more time to write it. (p.s. do not wait to do things until the last minute!) I would also find time outside of class to ask my teachers for advice on writing about a certain topic.

8.) As a student studying and living away from home, would you agree that the better choice of school for other students has more to do with “fit” rather than the school’s reputation—i.e. a top “ranked” school?

Yes, I agree. My school is a day school in Fort Worth, Texas. It is not a famous or a top “ranked” school. However, I felt comfortable in that environment. I was neither too relaxed nor too stressed. There are different kinds of schools for different individuals. Therefore, the school’s reputation is not that important in your school searching process.

9.) What are your plans after you graduate?

I plan to go to college in the Northeast and I want to major in business/economics or foreign language. I also want to minor in piano performance or studio art.

10.) Please share any other advice that may help Chinese students considering to study in the US.

Be brave, my friends! Going to school in a country where you cannot speak your first language may be scary at first, but that’s how you become more independent and more mature. This experience will not fail you.

Ava holding Boston University balloons