All the ways boarding school life prepares you for uni

‘Oh, you know Darce Hunter-Chesterton too? Our dads were at Oxford together!’

Boarding school. You’ve been kept in an insular little bubble somewhere in the idyllic English countryside for five years, and now you’ve been flung out into some Russell Group uni in the middle of an industrial city. You might feel a little lost to begin with – but you’re probably more prepared than you think.

9am seminars? Nailed it

You’ve woken up at 6:30am for five years. You’ve managed to go write off your tardy, jump in the shower, grab some breakfast, finish your English Hall (translation: homework), squeeze into a suit (girls – with a skirt JUST as short as the regulations allowed, heels JUST as high), slump into registration, haul yourself to chapel, belt out “Jerusalem”, and trudge to a Latin lesson whilst muttering “puella puella puellam” under your breath like a lunatic, ALL before 9am. You’ve got this covered.

Self-catered? You’ve basically fed yourself for five years

No one could be expected to eat the suspicious-looking mush they slobbered onto your plate at 6:30pm for dinner. Your parents wouldn’t complain on your behalf – whenever they came to visit the caterers were magically transformed into a team of gourmet chefs. You’ve mastered the art of the instant noodle. You’ve had more Chinese takeaways and Domino’s than you care to remember. You’re made of sterner stuff, can survive off anything, after five years of alternating between stomaching whatever slop the caterers provided and filling yourself up with cereal to fill the void left when the meal just wasn’t edible – having chocolate spread on toast for dinner every night will be nothing new.

Meeting your flatmates is no big deal

You likely had to share a dorm with five people you’d never met before in your first year. And then with some more newbies again in your second year as your housemaster or housemistress thought you could “show them the ropes”. You’ve dealt with messy people, loud people, rude people. And you can handle them all – your new flatmates will pose no problems.

You’ve already got a wardrobe decked out for whatever socials throw at you

After five years of society dinners, Christmas suppers, spring balls, and a plethora of themed discos – you’ve got it covered. Formal black dress for a society ball? Check. Glittery bodycon for a special night out? Check. Neon leggings and pink leg warmers for that 80s social? Check. You knew they’d come in handy again one day.

You’re prepared for long-distance friendships

They were already long-distance in the first place. If you lived in Cheltenham, you were lucky if your BFF lived as close as Bath. Let’s not even get onto the agony of having your bezzies abroad – try living in Herefordshire with your best friend in Moscow. Holidays were painful. The journey from Leeds to London is nothing compared to a flight across the world. On the plus side, at least you got some cool holidays out of having your mates live in exotic places.

Hangover? What hangover?

Your boarding house probably went into lockdown around 10pm every Saturday. The result of so many teenagers cooped up and bored on a weekend? Many a drunken night. You necked vodka out of a water bottle, terrified your matron would come in at any moment. After panicking over a friend that got a little too out of it and cleaning vomit out of their hair, it was likely 4am. Getting up the next day for chapel at 6:30am became the norm. You can deal with any hangover after doing that for five years. Unless you were the kid who threw up in the pew during “Shine Jesus Shine”, creating a story to add to your school’s canon of legends.

Speaking of alcohol – you can handle your drink

Okay, every teenager does their fair share of drinking – obviously, that’s not exclusive to boarding school. But you’ve mastered the art of acting sober, something which took years of practice. You probably got gated and given a Sin Bin in your first year after drunkenly hugging your housemaster or housemistress and professing your love for them. So, you learnt. By Upper Sixth you could happily sip your fifth glass of red at your Leavers’ Supper AND keep up a conversation about the impact of Brexit on the school with your tutor. How classy.

You’ve got an instant conversation starter

When you meet a fellow ex-private schooler – this may take some time, as we are a wary bunch, somewhat eager to conceal our elitist pasts – you’ll have oodles to talk about. “Where did you go?”, “Clifton!”, “I must have played against you at netball in third year!” etc, etc. You’ll probably find them on Facebook and realise you already have about 10 mutual friends from back home because for some reason every private school is weirdly connected. “Oh, you know Darce Hunter-Chesterton too? Our dads were at Oxford together!”

Long commute to uni? Easy

Your Hogwarts-esque campus was probably so vast it took you half an hour to fully traverse it at normal pace. But fear of getting a tardy motivated you – what a normal human being can walk in ten minutes, you can manage in two. You likely managed to walk it in one, if there was an especially scary teacher waiting at the other end. If you find your accommodation is miles away from campus, it’ll bring back fond memories of legging it to the hockey pitches from your boarding house with two minutes to go until training began in the freezing December rain. Good times.

Boring lecture? Try two hour chapels

You had chapel every other day. It’d be half an hour most days, but it felt like half a century. Sometimes on religious days it’d be an hour – and though you’d welcome the fact it ate away half an hour of your Maths lesson, it was still painfully boring. The worst ones were the ones at the end of term. Or Commem. Having a 55 minute lecture on a book you don’t really understand is nothing compared to chattering away in a freezing church (the heating was always broken) with a numb backside whilst learning about all the nice things Jesus did. At least your lecture theatre has comfy seats.

Walking past your one night stand on campus is a breeze

Your school was a little bubble. Everyone knew everyone’s business. You got with someone at Saturday’s disco? Rest assured, Sunday morning chapel, you’d both end up sitting opposit each other in some sad twist of fate, whilst both sets of mates made obscene gestures, laughed audibly, and generally made the two of you EXTREMELY uncomfortable. Nothing can beat that level of awkward. You’d mumble “Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer” into your hymn book, praying for instant death. You’d be forced to walk past your old flames on a daily basis. You’d get used to it eventually. You might bump into your uni one night stand in Tesco’s and go as far as exchanging a little smile, maybe even a hello – nothing in the face of the jeers you got last year after pulling your teacher’s son.