The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
International Boarding

English Skills & Private American Secondary School

Does Your Child Need Strong English Skills to Get Into Private American Secondary Schools?

Can your child get into a top-tier American secondary school without fluency in English? It’s possible, but in the race for precious few openings, your child may find him or herself at a serious competitive disadvantage.

At the very least, most of America’s top boarding schools require applicants to take the standardized Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Exeter “strongly recommends” it for students who haven’t been studying in an English-speaking school for the previous two years. So does Groton

Because selective private high schools teach in English and their classes move at a challenging pace, students who lack a firm grasp of the language can fall behind quickly. There are, however, some well-regarded secondary schools that do offer English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, such as Cushing Academy.

How to build English skills before applying to top American high schools

If you’re worried that your child’s English won’t be good enough when it is time to apply to secondary boarding school, take heart. Young brains learn languages quickly, especially when they’re immersed. With a few years’ preparation, your child will be participating eagerly, and with fluency, in his or her advanced high school classes.

Here are a few ways to build those English skills:

  • Tutoring. With native English speakers spanning the globe, you rarely have to look far to find tutors.
  • Local language groups. English is the most widely spoken language in the world. Many communities have English language interest groups that gather for conversation and practice. Look for an organization in your area that you could join along with your child.
  • Practice at home. Since you’re reading this article, you must speak at least a little English. So try some homegrown immersion. Read English language books with your child: let your child choose the topic, and focus on making the process both meaningful and fun. You could also pick a regular night to speak English around the dinner table. Once your family gets in the habit, it will start to feel natural.
  • Consider a junior boarding school. American junior boarding schools offer five-day and seven-day boarding to middle school students. Among the many advantages of attending junior boarding school is the opportunity to experience full immersion in the English language and American culture, along with support for non-native speakers, before moving on to high school.

How junior boarding schools help students master English

Here at Fay School (a junior boarding school), our community includes seventh, eighth, and ninth graders from across the United States and 20 different countries, and many of these students are non-native English speakers. We celebrate the cultural diversity these students bring to our school, and whether they are beginning or advanced English speakers, we support their efforts to attain fluency.  

In addition to full immersion and formal English language classes, international students at Fay School:

  • have the opportunity to explore the school’s New England surroundings on weekend outings, experiencing English as it is spoken in the real world.
  • play on sports teams, participate in drama and music, and contribute to clubs and extracurricular activities as full members of the campus community.
  • are paired with roommates who speak a different language. Dorm parents are trained to provide supervision and support as international students gain confidence in English.

About Fay School

Fay School was founded in 1866 and is the oldest junior boarding school in the United States. Our 66-acre campus is located in Southborough, MA, just 25 miles from Boston. Our community includes 475 students in kindergarten through grade nine and includes 150 boarders in grades 7-9  from across the United States and over 20 countries. Fay is recognized around the world for its superior educational program, and our graduates are accepted to top secondary schools. Fay's program empowers students to discover their talents, develop their intellectual abilities, establish essential academic skills and knowledge, and define their moral character - all essential to living a life of meaning and making a positive difference in the world.

Learn more about Fay School.

main number 508-490-8250
admission 508-490-8201