What is a Day School?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A day school is a school which provides instruction during the day to students who go home at the end of the school day, in contrast with a boarding school, in which patients live on the campus full time, going home for holidays and special occasions. Day schools may be public or private in nature, and can be run in accordance with a wide variety of missions. Many children spend at least some time in a day school during the course of their educations.

A day school provides education to students who return home at the end of the day.
A day school provides education to students who return home at the end of the day.

Some day schools run literally all day, providing instruction from the early morning to the early evening. Some preparatory schools run on this schedule to accommodate a high volume of instructional materials, and Jewish day schools also use a day-long schedule to provide a blend of secular and Jewish education to their students. These types of day schools tend to be very competitive, and entrance is selective, with students needing to apply for admission rather than being allowed to attend automatically.

Most public schools are day schools that send students home at the end of the day.
Most public schools are day schools that send students home at the end of the day.

Other day schools may run on a relatively short schedule, from early morning to early afternoon, but provide students with optional activities and classes which can be taken after school, potentially allowing students to stay all day for activities. Optional activities can include specialty and advanced placement classes, sports, activity groups, and short courses. Students who choose to participate in such activities may be more academically motivated, and may use these activities to bolster their transcripts when applying to college.

Younger students at a day school may be able to transition from school to a childcare facility, for parents who cannot be home to attend their children right after school. In this case, students attend classes in the early morning and afternoon before moving into childcare. The childcare is often on or near campus to make the transition easy, and it can be a very useful solution for parents who must meet childcare needs for young children.

Many public schools are run along the day school format. Some private schools may also use this format. It is also possible to find a combination boarding and day school which takes in boarding students and offers admission to students who want to attend during the day and go home at night. This can allow a school to have a mixture of local students as well as students from further locations, which can increase diversity in the student body.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Ana1234 - Even though I know that it's more practical for students to go to a day school, I can't help loving the romance of a boarding school.

I grew up reading about Malory Towers and Harry Potter and other British students who found their friends and adventures in boarding schools. Day school just seems boring in comparison.


@irontoenail - The logistics and costs of hosting students overnight, even just during the week, are huge so it doesn't surprise me that it doesn't happen very often these days except in private schools.

I think it also completely removes any possibility of children developing friends or interests away from school. They wouldn't be allowed to go out to, say, a ballet class that wasn't already sponsored by the school, for example.

It's a necessity for some students, of course, because, for whatever reason, they can't be at home during the week (maybe because they live too far from their choice of school) but I know I would strongly prefer my children to go to a day school.


There are some schools which have chosen to start educating their children for much longer hours than normal schools. I've heard of schools where the children are expected to arrive and start at 7am and keep working until past 6pm at night.

The one I'm thinking of in particular was doing this not to force-feed education to the students but to give them the time to fully explore subjects, so the point of it wasn't to make things more intense, but to make them less intense, and allow the kids plenty of time for educational play. It was set up with the purpose of helping kids from impoverished neighborhoods to escape the trap of poverty and seemed to be working.

Although in the case of a school like that it almost seems silly for the students to have to go home afterwards. They spend so much time in the school anyway, they might as well live there.

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