Private Boarding Schools

It is possible for a UK student to travel to the US without their parents and directly enrol in a private boarding school. Please note it is not possible to directly enrol in a public (state-funded) school if the student does not have an immediate family member living in the US who is a US citizen or permanent resident and acts as his/her legal guardian. And if they do, they may still need to pay tuition.

Historically, private boarding schools were established to create unique educational environments such as single-sex schools, religiously-affiliated schools and schools for students with learning disabilities. Some private schools called "preparatory schools", or "prep schools", are geared toward preparing students for admission to highly-selective colleges. Others emphasise certain curricula such as the performing arts or the International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Some private schools can be very selective, and parents should check that their child meets the admissions requirements. In addition, many application deadlines are early, so students should begin the process ideally one year in advance. Private schools may request academic records, writing samples, application essays and/or teacher recommendations. Many private boarding schools also require a standardised admissions exam such as the SSAT or the ISEE.

In considering your child’s education, it is important to research private schools and examine the mission statement of the school in order to find one with goals that match those of the student. Families may also wish to consult the Association of Boarding Schools for more information on private boarding schools.


UK students travelling with their families should enter the US under the visa status of their parents. Students travelling to the US without their parents and participating in an exchange programme will likely apply for a J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa, while those attending a private boarding school will likely apply for an F-1 Student Visa.

However, you should consult your school or visa sponsor to confirm the correct visa type.

Our staff is not trained to handle specific enquiries related to visas in the US. For such enquiries, information is available on the US Embassy in London website. Alternatively, you may call the US Embassy at 020 3608 6998 (Operator Assisted £1.20/minute) between the hours of 7 am - 7 pm Monday - Friday.