How to prepare your child for boarding school: 12 essential tips

Ensure your child is set up to succeed in every area of life at Interlochen Arts Academy.

A dark-skinned female student poses in front of a car with her parents. They are in the middle of unloading cardboard boxes for move-in day.

Sending your student to boarding school is a major decision. Your student will be living away from home, possibly for the first time, and learning to navigate classes and friendships independently. To help successfully prepare for the boarding school experience, we worked with Michael Kern, Ph.D., Director of Student Support Services; Megan Walton, Vice Provost of Student Life; and Corey Hill, Director of Health Services to develop this list of essential skills. We’ve included tips and tricks to ease the transition and help your high school student have an outstanding Interlochen experience.

1. Sleep

In order to stay healthy and grow, teenagers need to get plenty of sleep. It helps if they’re waking up and going to bed at consistent times each day, even on weekends. Work with your child to ensure they have a tried and tested routine for waking up on time and getting where they need to be—whether that involves an alarm clock or maybe a cup of caffeinated goodness. That way, morning classes will be a breeze. 

2. Self-care

Make sure your student can take responsibility for their personal hygiene. This includes dressing, showering, and brushing their teeth without being reminded by an adult. Talk to them about how good hygiene can help them get along well with others and feel good about themselves (not to mention, it’s great practice for success in the workplace!). 

3. Scheduling

Your student should be able to handle their schedule on their own. This includes showing up to class on time, finishing homework assignments, and managing other commitments. Many students use scheduling aids to help with time management, such as a notebook, daily planner, or Google calendar. Try out a few before they head off to boarding school, and decide on a system that works best for them. 

Six students sit around a table with plates, cups, and food. They smile at the camera.

4. Meals

Does your student have any allergies or dietary issues? Make sure they are aware of their needs and know what is safe to eat and what they need to avoid. During Orientation Weekend, you can meet with Interlochen’s Dining Services to develop a plan for accommodating dietary needs.

5. Cleanliness

Your student should be able to take care of their own laundry and keep their room tidy. Not only does it show respect for roommates, it will also ensure that your child knows where to find their things and prepares them for independent living. Encourage your student to keep their room tidy at home, so that basic cleanliness is a habit by the time they come to boarding school. 

6. Wellness

Interlochen is a safe and welcoming place for students with a variety of chronic conditions, from diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy to depression and ADHD. Ensure that your child knows how to care for themselves, self-advocate, and get help when they need it. Interlochen’s Health Services is available to support your student in their wellness journey. 

A male student with glasses, wearing a gray shirt, sits at a table and looks at his laptop screen.

7. Academic support

Does your child struggle to compose a literary analysis essay, or need a little extra help solving trigonometric equations? Let your child know that they can get help with academics through Interlochen’s Academic Center for Enrichment (A.C.E.). A.C.E. offers an Assisted Study course during the academic day, as well as tutoring services with faculty, peers, and professional tutors. 

8. Medication

For safety, Interlochen’s nurses in Health Services help maintain and distribute student prescriptions. Make sure your child can independently and consistently pick up their own medications, and encourage them to set reminders—whether on a planner or using their phone—to get refills when it’s time.  

9. Emotional regulation

Your child will do well at boarding school if they can understand their own emotions and express them to others in a healthy way. Interlochen offers psychological and mental health support for students through on-campus professionals, as well as partnerships with telecounseling services and local providers. Work with your child so that they feel comfortable reaching out for help when they need it. 

A girl with glasses talks to a boy in a red plaid shirt about a large white posterboard, covered with pictures and with the title "Venezuela."

10. Respect

Boarding school requires students to build relationships with peers from different cultures and lifestyles, and it’s important that your child can show respect to others even when conflicts arise. Make sure they are ready to follow the standards of behavior outlined in the Academy Student Handbook, which ensures that all Interlochen students enjoy the benefits of an accepting community. 

11. Resilience

Encourage your student to stay positive during any challenges they might encounter. Learning to work through difficulty is a necessary part of growing in independence and becoming an adult. Let your child know that you’re there for them as they learn.

12. Being considerate

At Interlochen, your student will live with a roommate and uphold a roommate agreement. Make sure your student has the communication skills to talk through any issues with their roommate, or seek out an appropriate resource in Interlochen’s Department of Residence Life to help.

As your student develops these skills, they’ll be ready to experience the full potential of personal, artistic, and academic growth as a boarding school student at Interlochen Arts Academy. 

Interested in learning more about boarding school? 

Get our guide on what first-time arts boarding school students should know