Boarding FAQs

By now, you're probably curious about some of the details about our boarding program. This page provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about boarding at SSA, including dorm rooms, study hours, dining, activities and more. Scroll for more information or download the FAQs

For more information, contact Chad Green, Dean of Student and Residential Life, at 412-968-3087 or

For five-day boarders, what is the weekly schedule related to coming to and departing from school?

Five-day boarders must be out of their dorm by 6:00 pm on Fridays and are welcome to return after 5:00 pm on Sundays with an open invitation to dinner in the dining hall for a nominal charge ($5). Five-day boarders must sign out of the dorm when they go home on Friday. Five-day boarders are expected to return to campus and check in at the dorm no later than 10:00 pm on Sunday evening and must sign into the dorm immediately upon their arrival on campus so that every student is accounted for. We recommend that five-day boarders return to campus in time for Sunday evening study hours to prepare for school the next day. If this is not possible and the student will return on Monday morning, the student must notify the dorm adviser on campus by 8:00 pm on Sunday evening.

What is the morning schedule like for a boarding student?

Like most teenagers, boarding students prize their sleep! Boarders usually wake up between 7:00 – 8:00 am, take a quick shower, eat breakfast in McCune Dining Hall if they wish, and then head off for their first period classes by 8:15 am. Students with a first period free period may take a “sleep in” and get themselves off to class as required.

What are meals like?

The boarding fee covers both room and board. Boarding students eat breakfast before classes begin at 8:15 am, take lunch according to their class schedule, and dinner is served from 5:30-7:00 pm. At Monday and Wednesday dinners (6:15 pm) in the fall, and on Monday evenings in the winter and spring, students and Residential Life faculty come together for Community Dinner, a meal at which the entire Residential Life community sits together at assigned tables to socialize and catch up on the day. Regular dinners are less structured, but equally communal. After school snacks are available for purchase in the Dining Hall, and occasional dorm “feeds” (evening snacks just for boarding students) help hungry students get an extra bite. Meals themselves are excellent! There are always lots of options, with vegetarian entrees, poultry, meat, and fish dishes, nutritious vegetables, salads, desserts and other student favorites, too.

What is the evening schedule?

The boarding community has time after dinner to play games on the quad, relax, socialize, or get a start on homework. All students must check in with the dorm adviser on duty by no later than 7:45 pm. Following this check-in, all students have required Study Hours for two hours each night from 7:45 pm – 9:45 pm. Underform students (those in grades 9 and 10) study together in a structured, supervised environment in the Benedum Student Center (BSC). Upperform students (those in grades 11 and 12) are allowed to study in their own individual rooms in their dormitories, supervised by the dorm adviser on duty who supervises the halls but gives students more freedom to study in a mature fashion on their own. During Study Hours, teachers in all of these different venues are on duty to provide extra help, maintain a studious environment, and monitor students’ work habits. Since Shady Side students are highly motivated and dedicated to their studies, this time is quite productive. For those with less practiced study skills, Study Hours helps them internalize the habits of academic success.

After Study Hours, students may continue working, socialize a bit, participate in recreational activities or go to sleep. All boarders must check in with the dorm adviser on duty by 10:30 pm, and by 11:00 pm, all underform (9th and 10th grade) students are required to have their lights out. Juniors’ lights out are at 11:30 pm, and we suggest that Seniors and Prefects turn in by 11:30 pm as well (though final lights out for these students is midnight). Students can request Late Lights, if they have been working steadily.

Where do teachers live?

Four dorm advisers, who also teach at the Academy, reside in faculty apartments in both Croft House, the boys’ dormitory, and Morewood House, the girls’ dormitory. Every night a dorm adviser is “on duty,” meaning they are an active and visible presence throughout the dorm, both for supervision, extra academic help, mentoring, and advice. In addition to the dorm advisers, the campus is home to teachers and Academy personnel who represent almost every academic department. These teachers live in homes on campus (or on the nearby Middle School campus), eat dinner with students, and provide additional supervision and academic assistance in the late afternoon and evening.

All staff members of the Residential Life Program are active educators with many years of experience working with young people in a variety of educational settings.

What is life on campus like for seven-day boarders?

Starting at dinner Friday evening through dinner on Sunday, a team of Residential Life faculty are assigned to provide an active and engaging experience for those students on campus. The activities planned by the Director of Student Activities, the Office of Residential Life, and student prefects - both on and off campus - will cater to students of different cultural backgrounds and their varied interests. Most weekend activities are offered free of charge to seven-day boarding students.

What happens on snow days?

The Dean of Student and Residential Life, in collaboration with the Dorm Heads and Director of Student Activities will schedule duty teams, activities, and meals on snow days. The dormitories will remain open, and meals will be served, albeit on a modified schedule that is similar to a weekend. Our approach will be “if there is snow, we should play outdoors!”

May seven-day boarders leave on weekends to stay with friends?

Yes. With proper parent and host permissions seven-day boarders who wish to leave campus overnight for the weekend after their last commitment of the week can request permission for an off-campus overnight from EITHER Friday through Sunday OR Saturday through Sunday.

What is life on campus like on the weekends for seven-day boarders?

Starting at dinner Friday evening through dinner on Sunday, a team of Residential Life faculty are assigned to provide an active and engaging experience for those students on campus. The activities planned by the Director of Student Activities, the Office of Residential Life, and student prefects - both on and off campus - will cater to students of different cultural backgrounds and their varied interests. Most weekend activities are offered free of charge to seven-day boarding students.

Where will my child do laundry?

Each dorm has sets of laundry machines in the basement for use by boarding students. There is no cost for the machines. Parents will find that five day boarders usually take their laundry home on the weekends.

May my child drive his/her car or ride in one off-campus during free time?

With proper permission granted by a parent and by a member of the residential faculty, boarders are allowed to travel off-campus.

Will my child have a roommate?

Because the Residential Life Program’s mission is to provide an academic and social experience, we believe students benefit from learning to live with a roommate. Living with a roommate is a great opportunity to learn about similarities and differences while preparing for an aspect of the college experience at the same time. To that end, most students will have a roommate.

Can I visit my child at school?

We welcome family members to visit! A family commitment, special dinner, or doctor’s appointment can always be accommodated. Should your visit include an off-campus trip for dinner, we ask that you schedule these visits on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that we can gather together at Monday and Wednesday Community Dinners. Parents and families may visit the dormitory before 7:00 pm and must limit their visits to no longer than a ½ hour in duration out of respect for all of the residents of the dorm (some of whom do not have the benefit of relatively local parents).

How do you keep my child safe?

On campus, there is a 24-hour security guard as well as a nurse on-call 24/7. Our dorm advisors are CPR and first aid certified. In 2015, along with other upgrades, the dorms have an improved security system and access.

What if my child gets sick?

The School has a day nurse, and an on-call nurse who lives on campus and is available for consultation after hours. If a student is sick during the school day, they should report to the school health center for medical attention or time to rest. The Nurse will either send the student to class, keep the student in the health center, or for five-day boarders, call the parent(s)/guardian and ask them to pick up the student and take them home.

If a parent has a concern about her or his child's health, s/he should contact any member of the dorm staff, the Nurse, or the Dean’s Office. Parents of boarding students may not call in to excuse a student's absence due to illness unless they have brought the student home as a result of that illness the night before.

In the event of a more serious medical problem requiring hospital attention, a student will be transported to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center St. Margaret's Hospital nearby in Aspinwall. The student’s parent(s) will be notified, and if located in the Pittsburgh area, asked to meet their child and the SSA representative at the hospital. The Academy has made arrangements with Foxwall Emergency Medical Service to provide emergency medical help and transportation for all residential students. In any life-threatening situation, 911 will be called immediately.

Does my child need a computer?

Computers are necessary learning tools for our students; therefore, each dorm has WIFI access. Most of our boarding students bring their own computers with them, but a computer is not required. Each dormitory is protected by school firewalls to provide each student with a safe environment and a productive learning experience. In addition, there is a printer in each dorm common area and a small number of Chromebooks that boarding students can utilize in the dorm when needed.

Does my child have to board for the entire year?

Shady Side Academy offers boarding for the full year, and most students in the dorms take this option. Space permitting, we also offer boarding for a single term, such as winter term, with its extra demands of morning swim practice, hockey practices, basketball, the musical and the possibility of inclement weather.

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What Parents Say About Boarding

"It's impossible to know who my daughter would be now if she were not boarding, but I believe that her boost in confidence and improvement in academics is directly related to being a seven-day boarder. She has dozens of friends, role models and support people. She has learned to be responsible and has been encouraged to be empathetic and supportive of others."

What Students Say About Boarding

"I really do believe that my education at Shady Side would not have been as complete without my boarding experience. I became a more complete person as a boarder, and I gained valuable friendships that continue to grow today."