Boarding schools publish a tuition number, but it's often just the baseline for the cost of attending a particular school.  

The true cost of attendance is the number that you need to work out to make your best decision regarding school costs and any financial aid that you might receive.

At most schools, but not all, students and families will incur expenses for activities that come with attending a boarding school.

At some schools, tuition, or, tuition, room, and board, includes everything.

At other schools, it may include everything, but books and incidentals.

While some schools may take a more itemized approach by listing tuition, room &  board, books, supplies, transportation, athletics, field trips, weekend activities, etc.

As an example, the tuition numbers published as part of our school profiles capture this reality.  

The tuition rates in AdmissionsQuest school profiles are the costs published by schools without any mention of extra charges.  These school reported costs follow no "industry-wide" standard of reporting.

Without a single cost of attendance formula followed by all schools, the onus of figuring true cost of attendance falls on the family.  Make sure you ask about all costs —tuition and beyond.

So what's the true cost of boarding school?

The true cost of attendance is a number that you must know to make an informed decision regarding boarding school expenses.

At some schools, additional charges can push beyond the layers of small expenses to become primary line items in your budget analysis.  

Extra academic expenses are not uncommon, and they can add thousands of dollars to your boarding school budget.

Begin by adding tuition, room, board and known additional expenses to approximate the total price.  Then, begin looking into the details of additional charges/expenses.

True Cost of Boarding School Formula

Ask your school about any extra charges for program applicable to your student — English As A Second Language (ESL) programs, Learning Skills Programs, Study Abroad Programs.  

Are these programs part of the school's standard tuition, room, and board bill?  Or, do they cost extra?  If so, how much?  

If applicable, ask about how financial aid applies to these programs.

Here's a simple formula that I suggest you use to begin looking at potential boarding school costs.  

The Boarding School Tuition Formula!

Add the applicable items below to build a better picture of what it'll cost to attend boarding school:

  1. Tuition, Room, Board
  2. Additional Academic Programs
  3. Transportation To and From School
  4. Uniforms/School Clothes
  5. Books
  6. School Store
  7. Any and all items that the school bills for during the school year (field trips, weekend transportation, athletic billing, etc.)

Total expenses: ____________

Extra charges can quickly add up to large numbers, pushing the true cost of attendance quite a distance beyond quoted tuition numbers (and potentially beyond your budget).

Take the true cost of attendance; subtract any financial aid package that you receive and you'll get a number close to your family's actual cost for a particular boarding school.  

This will help you make your best, informed decision.