6 Ways Boarding School Programs Build Future Leaders

By Maureen Leming

Communication. Critical thinking. Adaptability. Emotional intelligence. Creativity. Collaboration. Resilience. These are just a few of the traits shared by today’s most effective leaders – and they are all qualities students can strengthen by attending a boarding high school.

Boarding schools provide an environment where high school students can learn, practice, and develop essential leadership skills during a critical period of growth when students are refining their unique personalities and perspectives on the world.

From access to standout programs to navigating independent living to finding your fit within a diverse community, boarding schools are a leadership microcosm in myriad ways – and at The Hun School of Princeton specifically, every aspect of the student experience is designed to help students build the skills and confidence they need to become valuable leaders.

Here are just a few of the ways living and learning at a boarding high school can translate into the 21st-century leadership skills students need to succeed in the future:

#1: Peer leadership opportunities offer real-world training and practice.

One of the most valuable leadership opportunities in boarding schools is the chance to serve as a peer leader, which is called a proctor at The Hun School. Proctors are responsible for supervising younger students, helping to create a culture of belonging in the dormitories, serving as role models, and fostering a sense of community among their peers.

The Hun School’s comprehensive proctor training program is designed to teach students how to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and build trust with their fellow students. Proctors also receive training on issues such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, which helps them to be more in tune with others’ needs. It’s the perfect practice environment for students to develop important leadership skills and interpersonal awareness.

#2: A global campus community provides exposure to diverse ideas and perspectives.

Many boarding schools are home to vibrant and diverse communities of students from all over the world, exposing all to different cultures, beliefs, and viewpoints. This exposure helps students develop cultural competency, an essential skill for effective leadership in today's globalized world.

At The Hun School, students come from dozens of states and countries – and programs like the MLK Leadership Summit, SEED Training, National Day of Silence, and International Week create mutually beneficial exchanges of cultural learning. One program – What’s Happening Wednesday, sponsored by the school’s Cultural Competency Committee – provides students with the opportunity to learn about the countries and cultures of fellow global students. Each session includes a student presentation followed by a student-selected meal.

In such a diverse community, students gain the ability to understand, appreciate, and navigate different cultures. They develop empathy, open-mindedness, and a willingness to listen and learn from others – which can help them build stronger relationships, achieve better outcomes, and ultimately become stronger leaders.

#3: Independent living builds essential life and leadership skills.

A big advantage of attending a boarding high school is the opportunity to live away from home. Living on campus requires students to learn all of the skills they will need to successfully transition to college, such as self-reliance, time management, conflict resolution, self-advocacy, social skills, and much more.

Developing leadership skills like these in a safe, supportive boarding school environment helps students build confidence and competence while receiving guidance from caring and experienced faculty and staff. Students who develop and apply these skills in high school are better prepared to take on leadership roles in college and beyond.

"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

Presdent John F. Kennedy

#4: Activities, athletics, and community service create endless boarding school leadership opportunities.

Boarding high schools typically offer a wide range of extra-curricular activities, such as sports teams, clubs, and community organizations – each with its own student leadership opportunities. Boarding students can take on leadership responsibilities such as team captains, club presidents, or event coordinators, where they will practice motivating and inspiring others, delegating tasks, and managing projects.

In addition, many boarding high schools require or encourage students to participate in community service projects. (The Hun School requires students to get involved in extracurriculars and has more than 10 community service clubs, each focused on unique areas of local and global need.)

These projects benefit the community and provide students who take on leadership roles with opportunities to organize and manage volunteers, communicate with community members, and plan and execute successful projects.

#5: Academic challenges build critical and innovative thinking skills.

Academics are paramount at boarding high schools, and these rigorous programs challenge students to think critically, solve problems, and develop innovative solutions.

The Hun School, for example, encourages students to take the lead in their academics through a skills-based curriculum. Humanities courses occur around a Harkness table, STEM classes are active and hands-on, and all courses prioritize skill acquisition and experiential learning.

A boarding high school's academic challenge requires students to persevere through difficult tasks, work collaboratively with others, and develop creative solutions to complex problems – the hallmarks of good leadership.

#6: Impressive mentors provide guidance and support 24/7.

At boarding high schools, faculty members or other adults serve as leadership mentors, offering students guidance and support as they navigate their academic and personal lives.

At The Hun School, students in grades nine and 10 can join a group of student leaders called leadership cohorts, which are guided by faculty mentors in a two-year program. They discover their leadership styles through boarding school programming and roundtable discussions and then have the opportunity to mentor younger students.

By working closely with mentors, students learn how to communicate effectively, set goals, and take responsibility for their actions – and they see these qualities reflected in the actions and professional outcomes of faculty and staff.

Attending boarding school can be a transformative experience for students, particularly in developing leadership skills. By becoming peer leaders, living in a diverse community, accepting new challenges, and learning important life skills, students are able to acquire the skills they need to be effective leaders in college and beyond.

Are you ready to explore leadership opportunities in boarding school? Visit our Admissions page to learn how to apply, or contact us at (609) 921-7600 or admission@hunschool.org for more information.