Three Things First-Time Boarding School Students Need to Know

Stories, know-how, and guidance from the experts in educating boys.

Ollie Rothmann

Three Things First-Time Boarding School Students Need to Know 

If this fall will be your first time going off to boarding school, I am sure you have faced several questions from friends and family over the past few weeks: Are you excited? Have you met your roommate? Do you know your schedule? Are you nervous? Nervousness is something that goes hand-in-hand with new experiences, especially if it is your first time leaving home. But do not fear, this feeling is normal. There are three important things that you should keep in mind in order to combat overwhelming nerves.

1. All in the Same Boat

When you are checking in to your new school on the first day, take a look around the room. There is a good chance that every other student is new. In fact, at Avon, we ask our new students to all arrive on campus a few days before the returners. Each student, whether he is in line at the registration table, eating lunch or moving into his room, will be nervous. Regardless of whether others are showing their nerves or not, you must keep in mind that you are all in the same boat as a new student at registration. So, instead of letting your nerves intimidate you, force yourself to engage with your new classmates. Every new student wants to fit in and quickly make friends, but it takes a bit of bravery to spark a conversation. Be brave. Introduce yourself to three people and see where the conversations take you. I met one of my best friends by introducing myself to him at orientation in England during my year abroad in college. Do your best to harness your nervous energy by sparking conversation. You never know. You might ignite an eternal friendship.

2. Orientation Events

If you are introverted and you really find it hard to engage with others in new situations, you are not alone! Most boarding schools have orientations designed to ‘break the ice.’ Each planned event is carefully designed by school administrators so that it is tailored towards catalyzing conversations and friendships among the students.

At Avon Old Farms, the New England boarding school for boys, our orientation is called ‘Opening Days.’ Early in September, the faculty and dormitory monitors will welcome all of our new students to campus. For their first two days as Avonians, the new students will participate in several orientation activities like bowling, advisor dinner and tubing on the Farmington River. Then, all of the returning students move onto campus for the year and we have two days of classes. The first weekend of the year is a continuation of our ‘Opening Days’ as each class-year goes on a different trip on Saturday. In the past, classes have gone to Six Flags, paintball, and ropes courses. Finally, the last—and best—event during orientation is the school-wide field day on Sunday. During this competition dormitories—with day students—go head-to-head in several contests like ultimate frisbee, stickball, volleyball, tug of war, and the infamous ‘fastest man at Avon’ race. Whether you participate on the field or whether you choose to cheer your dormmates on, this event is the perfect ending to a week full of new friendships.

teacher and student walking

3. Support is There For You

After orientation is complete, you will be more familiar with your new home away from home; however, you still may be acclimating to the new environment. At Avon, we understand that every boy adjusts differently. For instance, a boy from Maryland may adjust to life at Avon quicker than a boy from Ghana. Similarly, an eighteen-year-old boy may adjust quicker than a thirteen-year-old boy. It is important for your schools’ faculty and student leaders to understand this. Avon is a small, tightly-knit community in which faculty and student leaders are constantly communicating; therefore, if a boy is struggling in the dormitory with homesickness, or if a boy is grappling with how to organize himself, he will receive the attention that he needs. With this guidance and support, he will work through these bumps in the road and learn throughout the process.


Key Take-Aways

  1. It's okay to be nervous, harness that energy and put yourself out there.

  2. The orientation at school is designed specifically to bring everyone together. Participate.

  3. Your faculty and fellow students will be there for you. Don't be afraid to ask for help.



Avon Old Farms Class of 2011