Open To Question: Boarding Call, Keystone Academy students consider 24-hour life at school

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Is boarding school suitable for everyone?
In popular culture boarding schools are often misrepresented as an elitist solution for absentee parents or institutions specialized in eliminating negative behaviors.

The reality of modern boarding schools quite different: most students are there because they want to be. Far from being dumped there against their will, kids have self-selected to attend; citing benefits such as the opportunity for round-the-clock friendships, growth in self-discipline and independence, access to daily extra-curricular activities, and membership of a peer group concentrating on achievement. Two students from Keystone Academy ponder whether residential life is for everyone.

Vincent Zhiheng Liu, China, 16, born and raised in Beijing
Living at boarding school is a unique experience, and as a student doing just that, I believe it’s not for everyone. Studying at a boarding school requires strong self-control, excellent time management, and an extroverted personality. I have a lot of interests: I play Hearthstone [an online collectible card game], I love basketball, and I also enjoy playing Go. I enjoy my hobbies so much that, honestly, I want to do these activities all the time. Since I am boarding, there are no parents or guardians to tell me what to do. It’s essential that I control myself. There are lots of distractions: most teenagers my age can easily get caught up online games and videos, talking with a roommate, even by less essential work in other subjects.

Since there is limited time for individual study, it is crucial to get work completed as soon as possible, leaving time to relax, work on long-term goals, or enjoy non-academic activities. Single-mindedness is one of the most important elements in self-control. It is important to focus on academic work not only during classes, but also during individual studies.

School usually ends at 3:20pm, and we return to our rooms for room inspection by 7pm, so that gives us three and a half hour of free time. Using this time wisely reduces the pressure of heavy work and creates more time for our own hobbies; this requires conscientious time management. I struggled with this when I first arrived at Keystone. In the last two weeks of the first semester, multiple deadlines coincided over the last days of term. In this situation, the study hours left couldn’t provide enough time to get all the assignments done. Boarding school students have to learn to manage their time, do fewer after school activities, hang out with friends less, and use thier time wisely to finish important assessments.

I also feel extroversion is necessary to live at school. Circumstances here means you meet, talk, and cooperate with complete strangers from day one. Being more extroverted helps you blend in with the community, feel more comfortable interacting with others, and get ahead in academic work more easily. Extroverts don’t spend as much time worrying about relating to other people, so they can focus more easily on pursuing their own agendas.

Coming to Keystone Academy has been a huge step forward for me. I spent my primary and middle school education at different local day schools, and this is my first year at a boarding school. Keystone has really changed me. Life at a boarding school is an early taste of college. I get to do a lot more around campus; both academic work and other activities. It’s a great opportunity to create better relationships with others. But as I’ve mentioned, boarding school is not suitable for everyone. To unlock these advantages, students need to be self-managing, control time wisely, and be sociable.

Ashley Fang, China, 15, born and raised in Beijing
I attended boarding school for primary, and I chose to go to a boarding school again for high school. From my perspective, after years of boarding experience, I can definitely see many advantages. I believe that residential life benefits students both behaviorally and emotionally.

First of all, students get to live independently and develop self-management skills. We have to do all kinds of chores such as making our bed and sweeping the floor; at Keystone, we have room inspections every day at 7pm to make sure all the rooms are clean and tidy. We not only keep our rooms neat, we develop lots of other good habits. Phones are handed in during study hours so that we can concentrate on our homework. We manage our own time: making plans, using our time efficiently, and learning to prioritize the most important or urgent tasks.

Another advantage of boarding school is that students develop life-long friendships and become emotionally mature. Residential life allows us to have more time in contact with our friends. All kinds of relationship building activities are organized quite frequently in most boarding schools, so that students can develop sense of togetherness and community instead of just locking themselves up in their rooms and spending most of their time on their phones.

Two traits are especially important for students to adapt and take advantage of residential life; otherwise, the benefits I mentioned could turn into drawbacks. Self-control and resilience are fundamental personality traits for students who are suitable for boarding school.

Living at school means having lots of free time without supervision by parents or teachers. People could in theory just watch videos and play games throughout study hours and put off their assignments until the night before the deadline. Lack of self-control results in bad time management and leads to a decline in the quality of work or an addiction to electronic devices; therefore, self-control is crucial for students. If students cultivate good habits and behaviors; it also assists them in achieving a better academic performance.

Students sometimes need to handle depression or conflicts with others, and those are times when resilience becomes significant. Resilience is the ability to deal with pressure and setbacks and convert them into strength and motivation. Being resilient means staying positive, confident, and tolerant. At a boarding school, everybody lives together every day; the closer the distance between people, the more conflicts. Parents won’t be there to support and talk to the students when they are upset – they need to deal with negative emotions on their own. Resilience really helps students to recover, and benefits their health and well-being.

Boarding school is suitable for most students, as long as they have self-control and resilience. They can take full advantage of residential life, and not get slothful or overwhelmed. The freedom given to students at boarding schools can be beneficial or harmful – it all depends on how the students make use of that freedom.


This article originally appeared on page 38-39 of the April 2016 Issue of beijingkids. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact

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