Saint Mary's School


Asheville, NC

Client Challenge

Members of the Association of Boarding Schools faced significant change. Many felt that their ability to recruit students was hampered by stereotypes about boarding schools: that they are homogeneous, that they are populated largely by “problem students” with bad home lives, that their campuses are awash in drugs and alcohol, and so on. In contrast, school leaders perceived that a boarding school education carried lifelong academic and social benefits, but lacked compelling proof.


Our Approach

We designed a robust study of students and alumni of boarding schools, private day schools and public schools at various stages of life to compare their experiences and life outcomes. Controlling for socioeconomic status, gender and college graduation rates, we were able to avoid the shortcomings typical of such studies and isolate the impact of the boarding experience on high school seniors and alumni in their 20’s, 30's and 50’s. 


The Results

Our research showed that boarding school students spend their time in healthier ways — devoting more time to homework, sports and creative endeavors and less time watching television — than their peers at private day and public high schools. Boarding school students reported substantially greater satisfaction with the quality of their teachers and greater levels of academic challenge. Contrary to conventional wisdom, drugs and alcohol played a substantially lesser role in their lives. The study also found that attending boarding school offers a lifelong benefit, for instance with graduates maintaining healthier habits and being much more likely to achieve positions in top management and the professions in both mid- and late-career, compared to graduates of private day and public high schools. TABS initiated a public relations campaign to spread the word, and on our recommendation, developed tools for individual schools to use to articulate more powerfully the benefits of the boarding school experience to their own constituencies. This collective action has helped to strengthen the efforts of individual schools across the nation.