Frequently Asked Questions
- Admissions Virtual Events Videos
- Financial Aid
- Studying at ISB
- Video Answers
- International Baccalaureate
- French Baccalaureate
- Spanish- and Chinese-Language Programs
- My child does not speak French / My child only speaks French. Should we still apply?
- When and how can I apply?
- Will ISB consider mid-year applications for admission?
- When will I know if my child has been admitted?
- What is the age cut off date for the Maternelle?
- My child’s age falls between the traditional American age cut off (9/1) and the traditional French cut off (12/31). Can I apply for the older grade?
- Does my child need to be potty trained?
- Do French citizens have priority in the application process?
We are experts at French and English language instruction and have cohorts of English Language Learners and French Language Learners in all grades, Toute Petite Section through Grade 8/4ème.
We do not, however, offer these programs in the Upper School (Grades 9-12). Students must be fluent in English to participate in our International Baccalaureate program or fluent in French to participate in our French baccalaureate program.
Our application is available exclusively online. The steps involved and the required elements are also listed on our website. There is no fee to apply. Families who want priority status in the application pool, should apply no later than February 15th for an entry into the following September. If you have missed the February 15th deadline, you are still welcome to apply and we will consider your application for admission if we have room available in that grade or for the wait list if we do not.
Due to the international nature of our community, we occasionally have families who depart ISB before the school year ends. Therefore, we do still consider applications for the current academic year. We will consider your application for admission if we have room available in that grade or for the wait list if we do not.
On March 10th, the Admissions Selection Committee delivers their decisions to families who applied using the February 15th priority deadline. Admitted families will have one month to accept the offer of admission.
Families who submit a completed application after the priority application cycle will typically hear from ISB within two weeks. If you have not heard back about your application and more than three weeks have passed since you submitted it, please check your application portal to see what is missing from your application file and contact the Admissions Office if you cannot identify the missing pieces.
In our experience, students are most successful in our curriculum and happier at school when they join our Maternelle program at the age guidelines indicated in the answer above.
Children whose grade level is accelerated are often the youngest in age and smallest in stature in the classroom. They need to not only to have accomplished all that they would have in their age-appropriate grade, but also have the social and emotional maturity that is on par with a child that is a year older.
We recognize, however, that ISB lives in two worlds, French and American, and that sometimes these two educational systems are not in sync. If a student is transferring to ISB from another French or AEFE school, we will trust the judgement of the child’s previous school and we will consider them for the grade level that they would have entered had they stayed at their previous school.
If your child is not transferring in from a French or AEFE school and you would like to make a case for the Admissions Selection Committee to consider your child for accelerated entry into ISB’s Maternelle program, you may apply for the older grade. Families should note that it is likely that the Admissions Selection Committee will offer the child entry into the grade indicated by their age unless the family provides substantial evidence during the application process as to why the child should be considered for accelerated admission including a recommendation from their current school addressing this specific concern and a written statement from the family as to the child’s fluency in French and why they think accelerated admission will be in the best interest of the child.
- What is the cost of attendance?
- What kinds of financial aid do ISB students receive?
- How and when do I apply for ISB Financial Aid?
- How do I apply for aid from the French government?
- My child is a French citizen, can I apply for the Bourses Scolaires Françaises, as well as for ISB Financial Aid?
- Does ISB offer a tuition discount for families with multiple children?
- Does ISB offer a tuition payment plan?
- Where else might I find financial assistance to attend ISB?
ISB students may receive financial aid from ISB directly through our Financial Aid Program and/or from the French government through the Bourses Scolaires Françaises. This financial aid is need based. Neither program offers merit-based financial aid. A small number of expatriate families receive a tuition benefit directly from their sponsoring company or organization.
More than 25% of our students typically receive some kind of financial aid to pay for their tuition at ISB.
The application deadline to apply for ISB financial aid is February 15th. Please note that this means you may need to get your taxes done especially early in the year. Financial aid eligibility is determined by TADS, a third-party company that administers the application. The Financial Aid Committee will send their decisions to families during the week of March 10th. Since ISB Financial Aid is need-based, families must reapply every year. Applications for ISB financial aid will not be considered after February 15th.
While ISB offers as much financial aid as possible, it is not always possible to meet a family’s full need. Families who apply for financial aid and submit a completed file by the February 15th deadline, do not need to commit to enrolling until after they have received a response from the financial aid committee.
Students holding French citizenship (residing with their parents and registered at the Consulate General of France in Boston) may apply for the Bourses Scolaires Françaises. These applications and funds are administered entirely by French government via the Consulate General of France in Boston.
The ISB Financial Aid Program may sometimes supplement the amount granted by the French government. French citizens applying for ISB Financial Aid must also apply for the Bourses Scolaires Françaises. In some circumstances, ISB may not know how much funding the French government will provide French families before the enrollment deadline. The Admissions Office will work with these families on a case-by-case basis to offer extensions on enrollment deadlines, if there is a need for them.
There are a variety of websites where students can search for scholarships from third-party benefactors. Most of these search engines are designed for students applying to college, but there are also some scholarships for students in high school. There was also a recent change in the law governing 529 savings plans, that, as of this writing, allowed families to use 529 funds to pay for independent school tuition.
- What languages of instruction does ISB offer?
- How do you integrate new students who do not speak French or do not speak English at home?
- Do you have families at ISB who speak neither French nor English at home?
- How long will it take for my child to become fully fluent in their new language?
Students in our Toute Petite Section through Grade 8 attend classes in both French and English.
Students in the Maternelle experience a nearly immersive classroom where they spend about 75% of their time learning in French. The amount of English instruction is increased every year until Grade 3, at which point students spend half their time in French and half their time in English. This ratio continues through 5th grade. In grades 6-8, students can choose to study math and/or science in English and/or French. Students in grades 9-12 can choose between the International Baccalaureate (IB) offered in English and the French baccalaureate in French. Having fluency in both English and French is not necessary at this level due to the two divergent academic tracks.
Spanish and Chinese are also offered as an additional language of instruction in our Elementary Division. The Secondary Division is offering Spanish-language options based on language ability that will cater to both Spanish Language Learners and native speakers. In September 2023, our Secondary Division will also offer Chinese.
Nearly half of our students arrive at ISB without any previous exposure to French. Approximately one quarter of our students begin with no knowledge of English.
All of our Maternelle teachers and the vast majority of grades 1-8 teachers are bilingual in both French and English. They are very sensitive to the needs of students who are not yet bilingual. In grades Toute Petite Section through Grade 8, we offer English as a Learning Language and French as a Learning Language instruction several times a week, sometimes in the classroom and sometimes in small groups outside of the classroom. Students who do not speak English or French at home typically need approximately two years of this extra support.
Students who join us in grades 9-12 do not need to be bilingual because they choose between the International Baccalaureate offered in English and the French baccalaureate in French. Having fluency in both English and French is not necessary at this level due to the two divergent academic tracks.
At least 25% of ISB families speak a third language at home. The more languages a child knows, the easier it is for them to learn another because their brains have already established the ability to understand a bilingual world. We have many tri- and quadrilingual students at ISB. Our student community speaks more than 30 languages in total.
Learning a language is a long-term commitment and the whole family has to be involved with the process. As the child grows, their exposure to language and literature becomes more and more sophisticated. The longer a child spends at ISB, the easier it will be for them to use both languages in a professional capacity after they leave ISB. As our world grows increasingly smaller, the benefits of our multilingual education expand the career possibilities for our graduates. ISB “lifers,” who graduate from Grade 12/Terminale with deeper knowledge not only of language but of the world, have broader opportunities available to them than their monolingual peers.
- Is ISB accredited?
- What does the ISB population look like?
- What colleges and universities do your graduates attend?
- How does ISB support students with learning differences and students’ emotional well-being?
- What credentials do ISB students receive when they graduate?
- How can parents get involved in the ISB community?
- Do students have to wear a uniform?
- What is the average class size?
- Does ISB offer a lunch program?
- How do ISB students get to school?
- What are ISB school hours, and how does the drop-off and pick-up work?
- What kind of sports programs does ISB offer?
ISB is accredited by a multitude of national and international agencies. They include:
- French Ministry of National Education
- Council of International Schools (CIS)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO)
ISB is also a member of:
- Agence pour l’enseignement français à l’étranger (AEFE)
- Association of French Schools in North America (AFSA)
- Mission laïque française (MLF)
- Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE)
- Educational Collaborative for International Schools (ECIS)
- National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS).
One third of our population is French or francophone, one third is from a binational or other non-French/francophone foreign-national household, and one third is from local American household that has an interest in bilingual education with a global mindset and/or our International Baccalaureate program. Our students represent forty nationalities and speak more than thirty languages. Approximately 30% are students of color.
Competitive colleges and universities all over the globe recruit and admit International School of Boston students. Our college counseling office works with students and families starting in Grade 9 to guide them towards the "best fit" school. Here is a sampling of the colleges and universities that have admitted ISB students over the last five years.
ISB believes that good health and learning go hand in hand and so comprehensive health and wellness programming is integrated into our curriculum in every grade. Students also have access to counselors who work with students and families in small groups or on an individualized basis.
ISB’s Learning Support team works with students at every grade level to help them be as successful and happy at school. While our internal team is capable of assisting students with many of their needs, including:
- In-class support or small-group support outside the classroom to provide better access to our multilingual curriculum
- Remedial assistance in speech and language, pre-reading, reading, writing, handwriting
- Homework support in the after-school program
Occasionally they will connect the student with outside support services who will visit with the student during the school day. Depending on the type of support, sometimes there is an additional fee for this service.
Some of our students join us when they are as young as two years old and their needs change over time and/or do not present themselves until the child is older. ISB does its best to make it possible for all members of our school community to be successful in our curriculum over the long term, but in the event that the student’s needs are beyond the capability of our school to meet, we will work with the family to find an alternate solution that would be in the best interest of the child.
ISB welcomes parent volunteers. Many families, particularly those who are new to the Boston area, are able to make meaningful connections with other families by virtue of participating in school events and volunteer opportunities. Opportunities exist for volunteering that last just for a few hours on one occasion to others that ask parents to donate a bit of time intermittently over the course of the year. All volunteer help is appreciated.
The three primary volunteering opportunities include:
The Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) works with members of the Advancement Office to organize a variety of community events throughout the year including:
- Winter PTO Party for students, parents, faculty and staff where the parents have a dance party in the gym and the students take over the classrooms (with supervision)
- International Springfest, a daytime celebration of international foods from around the world
- Bread-Sale Fridays: baguette, pain au chocolat, croissant and more. The PTO coordinates this event with a local bakery (don’t worry, no need to bake at home). The parties are fun, but during COVID, it was safe to say that this was the PTO effort that the community missed the most.
Room Parents work with the Directors of the Elementary and Secondary Divisions. Each classroom is represented by two room parents who provide a link between parents, teachers and the division director. Room parents often:
- Organize field trip chaperones, classroom dinners for parents, and recruit volunteers for special events.
- This role has no pedagogical involvement and duties can vary by division.
Parent Ambassadors & Welcome Committee work with members of the Admissions Office. Their efforts include:
- Connecting with prospective parents who have questions about ISB via phone or email
- Representing the parent perspective at panel discussions at in-person and virtual open houses throughout the year
- Joining members of the Admissions Office at school fairs and other admissions events
- Reaching out to new families during the summer before their arrival and helping them acclimate during the beginning of the school year
Food is a very important part of ISB culture. All students have a full hour for lunch and recess every day. The school works with Season to Taste which provides a home-style hot lunch and specializes in using ingredients that are responsibly sourced, seasonal, and high quality, while minimizing environmental impact. ISB lunches do not include ingredients containing tree nuts or peanuts, or pork.
Students also have the option to bring in their own lunch. Maternelle and Lower School students should also bring a snack.
ISB runs a private bus service for students in Grades TPS-12.
Cambridge residents have access to free transportation offered by the City of Cambridge for students age 4 through grade 8.
ISB is located near a variety of public transportation options offered by the MBTA.
There is a strong bicycling culture in Cambridge and a nearby bike path, so many families choose to ride their bikes.
Automobile traffic in the Boston area can be unpredictable and so we offer a 30 minute window during which students can be dropped off in the morning. There is no additional fee for using the early drop-off option.
Parents are asked to drop off and pick up their children outside of the building. Parents are allowed in the building on Friday afternoons.
All doors open at 7:30am and close at 6:00pm.
- School day:
- 8:15am - 3:00pm
- Garderie (after school program) and clubs run until 6:00pm.
- Drop-off: Maternelle families drop off their students in the drop off lane located directly in front of the maternelle playground. A team of teachers will remove the children from the car and lead them to their classrooms.
- Pick-up: Parents come and pick up their children at the assigned door.
- School day:
- 8:00am - 3:00pm
- Garderie (after school program), clubs, and sports runs until 6:00pm, and include a homework session.
- Drop-off: Lower School families drop off their students at the drop off lane near the entrance to the gymnasium. Staff will be available to open car doors and help with backpacks.
- Pick-up: Parents come and pick up their children at the assigned door.
Middle & Upper School
- School day:
- 8:00am - 3:25pm (though a couple of classes can run as late as 5:25pm)
- Study hall, clubs, and team practice run until 6:00pm
- Drop-off & Pick-up: Front entrance to the main school building
Moreover, our Upper School has 7 Varsity teams:
- Fall: Boys and Girls Soccer
- Winter: Boys and Girls Basketball & Coed Fencing
- Spring : Boys and Girls Volleyball
All teams have full varsity schedules, practice 2-3 times per week, and compete against other schools in the Boston area.
- What qualifications do ISB teachers possess?
- Do all French-speaking teachers come from France?
- Besides their academic credentials, what are the qualities you are looking for when you hire teachers?
- What is the average tenure of ISB faculty?
- What is the student/teacher ratio?
More than 75% of ISB faculty members hold advanced degrees and all teachers in our English program have credentials from the State of Massachusetts. All teachers coming from France are native speakers who were trained in France and hold credentials from the French Ministry of Education. During their tenure with ISB, the school offers financial support for teachers seeking opportunities for professional growth including advanced degrees.
- What makes the International Baccalaureate (IB) different from other high school curricula?
- What parts of the International Baccalaureate program does ISB offer?
- Do I have to speak a second language fluently to be admitted to the IP or IB Diploma programs at ISB?
- Can I attend a U.S. college or university with an IB Diploma?
- Do the ISB International Program students interact with the French Program students?
- Watch a Virtual International Baccalaureate Information Session
IB learners are:
- encouraged to think critically and solve complex problems
- drive their own learning
- a core part in educational programmes that can lead them to some of the highest-ranking universities around the world
- more culturally aware,through the development of a second language
- able to engage with people in an increasingly globalized, rapidly changing world.
Like all of our curriculum, IB students pursue project-based learning. They are asked to examine the links between each subject as opposed to studying their courses each individually as in the other popular test-based curriculum. IB students are evaluated against an international standard, but within parameters of their experience, they also have a good deal of autonomy, particularly when it comes to writing their Extended Essay, the capstone of the IB experience.
IB students also learn how to pace themselves in such a way that they do not feel burned out by the time they get to college. The IB curriculum requires that students study a combination of Higher Level (HL) and Standard Level (SL) courses - they cannot overload their schedule only with HL courses. In an era when students in other systems are packing an unhealthy number of advanced courses into their schedule starting as early as 9th grade, the IB Diploma Program allows students to take their time to dive more deeply into subjects, examine them from a variety of perspectives, and most importantly, to learn at a pace that fosters a love of learning that will propel them through college and beyond.
ISB does not offer the Primary Years Program (PYP) or the Middle Years Program (MYP) in the strictest sense. This is largely due to the fact that our overall curriculum goes beyond the requirements of these programs due to our connection with the French Ministry of Education. Families will find that ISB programs during what are typically the PYP and MYP years are very similar to the official IB programs, but with more of an emphasis on multilingual education. The similarities of our programs at the younger levels, makes transition into the Diploma Program (DP) in Grade 11 seamless.
ISB calls our English-language curriculum in grades 9 & 10 the International Program (IP). This program does not require French fluency. It is designed for current, bilingual ISB students who prefer to follow an English-based program and for new students who are fluent in English.
Students in the IP transition into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in Grade 11.
Definitely! U.S. colleges and universities value the preparation provided by the IB program as do universities in Europe and beyond. Data indicates that IB graduates are in fact more successful than most other US high school graduates in their post-secondary education and beyond. Colleges offer credit for higher scores on IB and French bac exams in the same way they do for Advanced Placement (AP) courses.
On October 2nd, 2021, ISB joined forces with the George School and the Newman School to present a virtual information session specifically about the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Watch the session and learn more about the IB from Admissions Directors, IB Coordinators, Parents, Students, and Alumni.
- Do ISB 9th graders take the Brevet des Collèges?
- Where can I find some information about the French bac at ISB?
- Does ISB offer the "baccalauréat français international (BFI)?"
- Can students who study the French baccalaureate attend college in the United States?
- What is the difference between the IB and the French bac?
Yes, our students do take the Diplôme national du brevet (DNB) des collèges. The exam takes into consideration a continuous assessment, and a final exam at the end of the school year. During the final exam, four written tests are taken (French, mathematics, history-geography and sciences), as well as an oral one.
Yes, we do offer the baccalauréat français international (BFI). Student entering 11th grade with an excellent English level will be able to take the BFI and will take the classes below in English:
- American Literature and culture
- History and geography
- Connaissance du monde, project-based class.
All our students graduate with either the French or the International baccalaureate, as well as the American High School diploma. The French baccalaureate prepares students to apply to universities worldwide, including the United States.
The United States is the number one destination for higher education for students from across the globe, and college admission officers are intimately familiar with high school curricula around the world (i.e. French baccalauréat, German Arbitur, United Kingdom A Levels, etc.)
ISB students who study the French baccalaureate routinely apply to, are accepted by, and matriculate at U.S. universities. In recent years, 60% of the ISB graduating French baccalaureate students attended a U.S. university.
Students from Pre-K through Grade 1 participate in the Éveil aux Langues program in Spanish and Chinese. They discover one language per semester, 30 minutes per week. The languages are introduced through various activities, reading, and singing.
All our Grade 2-5 students choose to learn either Spanish or Chinese as a third language, twice a week for 45 minutes. This is in addition to their primary languages of instruction, French and English.
At the Middle School level, students learn their third language, Spanish, German, or Chinese (starting in 2023-24) by ability level. They take beginner or advanced classes, according to their aptitudes in the language.
In Upper School, students in the French track are able to continue to study their third language according to their ability level. In the International Program, students are able to choose between French, Spanish, German as a second language, in Grade 9.