Things I learned at boarding school which prepared me for uni

I’ve been doing my own laundry for years, kids

Boarding schools get a lot of hatred from people who deem its alumni to have “had it easy”. Apparently, we do little for ourselves and struggle massively to cope with the sudden independence of university life. Pushing back against these claims, it’s worth noting a few things I thank my boarding school years for.


How to handle a long day

9-5? That’s a luxury compared to the gruelling 8-7 (and beyond) days we’ve had to deal with, and don’t forget Saturday school and early morning chapel services on Sundays. Enough saying we aren’t used to a heavy workload, please.

How to put up with people I can’t stand

Living with (and having lessons with) 60 other girls, it would have been innocent and naïve to think I’d get on perfectly with everybody, and things get tense towards the end of terms when your patience is wearing thin. I’m glad I’ve had plenty of practise, or I’d certainly have snapped at uni a few times more than I have done.

Every obscure excuse for not having work done under the sun

Perhaps your finger dislocated in a freak library incident, or maybe you got distracted by a flying squirrel… either way, the standard doctor’s appointment or a simple “I left it at home, I’ll bring it tomorrow” just isn’t possible at boarding school. Instead, you learned to be creative, and let’s be honest, the more elaborate the better when it comes to pretending you didn’t spend your evening staring at the attractive maintenance worker, or watching Big Bang Theory re-runs in the common room because you got distracted en route to your dorm.

Intense school and house rivalries make uni rivalries look tame

Nothing gets the blood pumping like an inter-house game of netball or hockey when you’re sporting your house colours.

How to wear bizarre items of clothing

On which note, that sport social outfit doesn’t seem quite so out there when a cape was part of your uniform and a perfectly acceptable thing to be wearing.

How to put up with doing things you don’t want to

It’s incredibly difficult to think of a reason why you can’t perform in that end of term event, give a talk to younger students or read in that assembly when you live at school.

Early morning halls fire alarms? Not a problem

2am, 3am, 4am fire alarms were the norm at school. Many a time have I had to stand, shivering, in a freezing field in midwinter while barely awake.


Getting all your work done quickly to avoid an all-nighter

When the WiFi cuts out at 11pm every night, you learn pretty quickly how to bang out an essay in an hour after you remember it in the shower at 9:45am. This has served me well – I manage to get work done pretty soon…although I do then spend the rest of the night watching aforementioned re-runs in my excitement at having 24-hour internet access. It’s the little things, eh.

Toga Parties? Old school. Literally

Togas since fifth form

Eating bizarre food combinations to survive on the little you have

When the nearest shop is over a mile away and you have only a packet of Ryvita, a box of Cheerios and some jam in your desk drawers, you learn how to improvise with food. Just call me Heston Blumenthal…

I learned to accept the unusual without question

People must think we’re so weird

Staying in one place constantly can make you go just a little bit loopy at times, and for an outsider looking in, it might seem like you’re an apple short of a fruit bowl when you and your dorm-mates bring your “personal jokes” into play…especially when they come to visit you in your halls.

I’m an expert at living with weird rumours

Are they/Aren’t they?

Ranging from the standard ” x and y are sleeping together’ to the more obscure ‘She stole a cow and rode it naked”, I’ve dealt with it all at some stage. When 400 girls all live within the same gates for weeks on end, these can get to a whole new level of weird. Eventually you even stop trying to work out how they originated, they’re so damn strange.

We understand the importance of a not-so-wild Friday

Absolutely wild

We’re used to Fridays being a school night, and I still haven’t managed to quite shake that, so if somebody suggests a Friday night in with a movie and a face mask, I’m completely for it. Doesn’t hurt your bank balance too much, either.