Types of Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens

Boarding school teen working on a science experiment

When adolescents struggle in school and need help beyond what is offered in the classroom and at home, a boarding school for troubled teens may be the way to go.

What Is a Boarding School For Troubled Teens?

Boarding schools are usually synonymous with being affluent. But the facilities for troubled teens aren't just for the rich and famous. Teens who attend a boarding school for troubled teens may be dealing with one or more of the following problems:

  • Lack of motivation and direction
  • Insubordination
  • Disrespect
  • Low self-esteem
  • Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Truancy
  • Sexual promiscuity
  • Failing classes
  • Breaking curfew
  • Lying

These kids are in trouble, but are not out of control. They don't need to be placed in juvenile detention or boot camps for troubled teens. Most public school districts are unable to get to the root of the teens' problems or give the individualized attention they deserve. In order to keep them on the straight and narrow, boarding schools may be their best shot.

Teens attending a boarding school for troubled teens range in age from 12-18, depending on the type of facility. They are long-term, year-round programs that not only offer academics, but the emotional and behavioral support that the teens need. They typically cost between $3,500 to 7,500 a month, and with good credit, financing and payment plans are available. Unlike boot camp, teens have a choice about being there. Many of the advertisements for these schools tell you that you can't put a "price tag" on your child.

Types of Boarding Schools

There are many types of boarding schools available. Each depends on what your teen's needs are as well as what their school focus should be.

College Preparation

This type of boarding school for troubled teens focuses heavily on academics and is designed to prepare teens for college. The rigorous schedule teaches the students to live independently and self-reliantly. Students must be motivated and dedicated to their studies, and are expected to maintain high grades and proper behavior or they will be asked to leave. At that point, parents can lose their tuition investment. A report by the Association of Boarding Schools states 87 percent of boarding school graduates report being well prepared academically for college.

Behavior Modification/Therapeutic

When a teen's behavior dramatically changes upon entering middle or high school, and behavioral intervention and counseling is needed, then this type of boarding school may be best. This facility also offers mental health and special education programs, as well as small class sizes (student-teacher ratio is roughly one-to-five). Therapeutic boarding schools offer academic and behavioral success without any of the negative influences that may have been present in their old school. Teens can catch up academically if they have fallen behind.

Same Sex Schools

Same sex schools allow students to develop physically, mentally and emotionally in a more natural and community-oriented environment. There are pros and cons to this type of boarding school for troubled teens, including lack of socializing with the opposite gender. These schools focus on academics as well as behavior modification. Struggling girls who have graduated from this type of school have been found to be more independent, confidant, disciplined, focused and successful. Boys who have graduated from these facilities are reported to be higher achievers and better disciplined.

Other types of boarding schools include:

  • Excellence in the arts
  • Religious
  • Sports emphasis
  • Military training

The Right Choice?

There are many reasons both for and against boarding schools for troubled teens. The pros include:

  • Individual attention -- This is for those who don't work well in large groups -- class sizes can be very small.
  • High quality faculty -- Most of the teachers at boarding schools have advanced degrees in education or other specialties.
  • Academic focus -- Many of these schools apply the idea of discovery learning where students are encouraged to discover the answers for things instead of just memorizing them.
  • Stricter rules -- Your child will have a strict schedule with which to adhere -- both academically and socially.

However, there are reasons not to choose a boarding school: Those are:

  • Difficulty adjusting to new environment -- Since these schools are usually not in their hometown, some students have a hard time being away from family and friends. Some won't thrive in this situation.
  • Financial costs -- It's not cheap. The average cost is about $33,000 a year.
  • Stricter rules -- If your child really does not work well in very strict environments, this may not be the place for him or her.

Parents Have Choices

Parents sometimes feel they don't have a choice when their child get into trouble. But unless the treatment is court-ordered, they do have a say to what type of program with which to enroll their child. If boarding school is not an option, there are several others:

  • Military schools -- If your teen is just lacking motivation or direction, but has the potential for good grades, then consider a military school. This atmosphere is perfect for struggling teens who do not have any emotional or behavioral problems.
  • Boot camps -- For the most unruly teens, it's either boot camp or juvenile jail. This facility is usually court-ordered and military-style training and exercises are enforced.
  • Wilderness camps -- If your teen is into the outdoors, then a wilderness camp may be a better fit. As a means of teaching discipline, adolescents are expected to perform challenging tasks in the great outdoors.

Online Resources

Types of Boarding Schools for Troubled Teens