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Results tagged “boarding school admission” from Boarding School Blog - onBoarding Schools

Diana Costello has written a snapshot of the school and family sides of the private school admission process in the lower Hudson River Valley for the Journal News and ("Parents still paying up for private schools").

She chronicles the thinking and decisions of families as administrators work to keep their schools full and parents cut and sacrifice to afford an opportunity they believe important.

"The Geber family of Nyack, for instance, is shelling out $55,000 a year to send two children to the Rockland Country Day School, where both have been students since kindergarten. One is in eighth grade, the other is a senior who has been accepted to Columbia University.

"It's like buying a Mercedes E-Class once a year and then driving it off a cliff," said David Geber, 58, a member of the board of trustees at Rockland Country Day who is also the dean of faculty at the Manhattan School of Music. He wasn't the only one to make that joke.

But, he quickly adds, he can't think of a better investment.

"If we don't spend our money on our children, what are we going to spend it on?" he said. "We do not drive fancy cars, do not go on vacations, we just make things meet." (

There's an unstated idea in this piece that strikes me- that few people seem to be acknowledging- schools and families seem to be making very resourceful efforts to meet each other in the middle regarding tuition and costs. I think there's still a way to go in terms of school lowering costs, but the opportunities and willingness to make changes and adjustments seem to be taking hold.

Walter Johnson, headmaster of The Hackley School in Tarrytown told the Journal News:

"People have made philosophical decisions to keep their kids in public schools, but if you have the sense that that decision is becoming more challenging because of the economic struggles your schools are facing, that's when you may start to consider something different." (

Photo credit: s_jelan

Ross School Offers Merit Scholarships

File this under the 'fantastic opportunity' category.

Ross School in Bridgehampton, NY "is offering $20,000 annual Merit Scholarships for students in grades 5-11 who demonstrate academic achievement and exceptional promise" in a number of areas.

Have a demonstrated talent for the Arts, Athletics, Community Service, Math, Media, Music (Jazz), Science, or Theater? This may be an opportunity to explore if you answered yes to any one of these categories.

I heard about this a bit late in the day (I read about it in the Independent Educational Consultants Association April/May Insights newsletter)- the deadline is May 1 and applications received post-May 1 will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

If you're interested, you can learn more on the school's site or submit an inquiry to school's admission office through their AQ admission inquiry form.

I read a couple of articles over the past few days that, combined, provide a good pictures of the thinking, priorities and sacrifices that families are grappling with in their 'public or private' school decisions. With a generally more conservative outlook about future earnings and home equity gone as a banking option families are struggling mightily to reach the best decisions about schools.

Two articles provide insight into the two sides of the education coin:

The New York Times article, "The Sudden Charm of Public School," looks at family thinking and finances that underlie a migration into the public school system by families who previously assumed that private school would be their choice. The exact numbers are unspecific and anecdotal, but the number of families thinking through this process is clear.

In the current climate can we, and, should we send our kids to private school?

From the NYT article:

"There is no way of knowing just how many would-be or current private school parents are turning to the public schools. But there is no question that the city's public kindergartens are experiencing a groundswell of interest...

The growing undertow from private to public emphasizes just how desperate some families have become.

Moving your kid out of private school is usually one of the last things to go," said Kathy M. Braddock, a partner at Charles Rutenberg Realty. "You give up vacations and cars and take away summer camp first.

But I hear people evaluating everything now. I know lawyers who have been laid off, Wall Street people, the Madoff victims. These are people who never thought they would be in a financial situation where they would have to start making certain choices.

...saying you're interested in sending your kids to public schools used to be a taboo among a certain group of people....Now it's actually kind of cool and in vogue."
The NYC Private Schools Blog paints the opposing view. In a post titled, "Private School Not a Luxury to Most," the author paints a picture of the willingness of parents to prioritize and sacrifice for private education.

Much of the article comes from a Wisconsin Rapids Tribune article looking at one mom's desire and willingness to sacrifice so that she can afford private school tuition and efforts of the area catholic schools to create aid and financing options. 

As Beckie Rogers told the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:

"It's pretty much a given tuition rates go up every year...But as a parent, I prioritize and give up other things. This is a necessity for my family."
The reality of the public versus private equation in the current admission cycle lies somewhere in the middle. With no sound data, we don't know how many families will choose their public or private education options. We know for sure that economic stress has increased the value and importance of the public side of the equation. We know, with certainty, that uncertainty has private school admission officers working to demonstrate the value of the product and looking harder at their cost structures and aid and financing options than they have in quite some time.
Rinker Buck of the Hartford Courant wrote an interesting piece this week, "Enrollment Shift Could Burden Farmington Valley Towns" in which he lays out the linkages between public and private school enrollment in private school dense areas. Looking at Hartford and its surrounding area, its private school density and the changing fortunes of private school families, he presents the private and public school sides of the education coin as some families shift their children from private to public schools.

Mark Zito, Simsbury schools' Director of Human Resources told Buck, "This winter, during our budget planning process for the 2009-2010 school year, we were aware that there might be an influx of students from private schools...We are planning for an extra 33 students above what the models predict our enrollment size should be." (Hartford Courant)

Public and private schools have been living in a very nice world with families paying local school taxes while paying private school tuition. Now local public schools face increasing resource demands as students migrate to public system while prep schools face declining endowments, enrollments and tuition dollars.

Westminster School Headmaster, Graham Cole added: "I have not seen anything like this before...The independent schools have been riding the crest of good times for so many years, so it's a wrenching emotional experience for us now. But I'm confident there will still be a role for independent schools and that they will still be here." (Hartford Courant)
Blue Ridge School recently added its Affordability Plan to the school's web site laying out their commitment to affordability.

It includes both philosophical and concrete examples of the school's approaches and commitment. Among other items in the Affordability Plan, Blue Ridge has increased its financial aid budget by 30% over the past two years and, one item that I really like, the school makes clear that the tuition, room and board are inclusive of all school activities- including textbooks. This is more important than it sounds; for years, many schools have used extracurriculars and books as profit centers- charging and billing for activities and bus rides.

I like Blue Ridge's willing to publish their positions and thinking. They use one of my favorite terms transparency. Transparency allows parents and families to make the best possible decisions.

Although the official notification date is today, March 10, two acceptance letters arrived on the 9th to our great relief. The Director of Admissions for our son's school called to let us know that our daughter is on the waiting list, which was such a gracious thing to do. At 12:05 this morning we received an e-mail from a fourth school bringing the news of another acceptance, and we are still waiting for a letter from the fifth school.

As through the whole experience, the culture of a school shines through their communications with applicants. One acceptance yesterday was a single page form letter for our daughter and a similar letter for us with all the information on tuition and fees. Not a missive which made her feel particularly special or wanted.

The other school, fortunately her first choice, sent a highly personalized package including an acceptance letter citing her references and her distinctive qualifications, information about the re-visit days and, most exciting to her, a bumper sticker.

The school which informed us by e-mail early this morning included a link to youtube with a special message, but as we have only dial-up in the provinces, we're unable to view it and are hoping it doesn't have any requisite information.

We hope the last letter contains positive news as it is one of two schools which she would like to re-visit. There is a long exhale at our house.
Editor's Note: We're excited to feature a post by the Boarding School Mom's daughter. She offers her on the ground take on the boarding school admission process.

The applications are in, and there is little you can do but bite your nails and wait. However, the endless flow of questions is not over. This time instead of what to wear to the interview, when is the interview, what should my essay be, etc., the questions are did I do everything I could have done, did I do my very best work, etc. These questions can sometimes be more mentally exhausting and more worrisome then questions about the interview or applications. Most humans like to feel in control and these questions are putting me as from the control booth as we can be. This adds to your level of anxiety.

I'm not here to give you breathing exercises or say "yes" with a little bit of magic the questions will fade and you can sleep at night once more. However, sometimes when you realize that you're not the only one dealing with these issues; things can seem less intense or unreachable. For me the waiting has been more of an excitement than anything else. I want to know, but have not been nervous about finding out or scared about what the results will be. However as the deadline slowly approaches, I've become more nervous, counting down the days, and silently praying that everything will turn out right.

When the applications first go in, it's more of a relief than anything else as you feel free for the first time in weeks and your arms can finally rest. Your worries about getting carpal tunnel syndrome disappear, and you relax for the first time since September. However, by the end of January your mind starts throwing questions of doubt at you, and you lose your relaxed feel. From there you're simply sliding downwards. For all of February I fought these questions and tried to convince myself that I'd done my very best. I could manage to relax again during sports and at home, but school was still a tense mess. I felt like there was nothing I could do, and I was partly right. These feelings are completely natural. High school is a huge deal and going to the perfect place is something to fret over, but you can also fall back on the truth that you will be in your right place. It worked and once again I was completely relaxed just looking forward to finding out the results.  Then, the nightmares and horrible thoughts started. This time however they weren't fueled by my own over-excited imagination or my mind, but by other people.

You can't control what people say to you, but when every person you talk to asks you if you're nervous or if you've heard from schools, you start to become nervous and more edgy about finding out. The more people that asked the more anxious I became. The first time I freaked due to boarding school fears was when my report card came. At any other time, I knew it would have been excellent, but this time I was having visions of getting straight "F's" and my teachers writing terrifying comments. This was a completely nonsensical worry, because I knew this couldn't be true, yet in my frazzled state I'd almost managed to convince myself I was getting "F's". I am now worried that each letter next week will contain a rejection and am now in a feverish state about what's going on. However, I have managed to convince myself that I did everything I could. The one thing that I've found hard to accept, but know is true is that getting in or getting rejected doesn't change who you are. You are still the same great person it just means it wasn't meant to be and who knows like my brother it could turn out to be for the better! (read first Boarding school mom blog)

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected]. 
Photo credit: alexanderdrachmann

Waiting for Our Admission Decision

Well, we are counting the hours and wondering how soon letters mailed from various parts of the country on March 10th will arrive in our corner of New England. Our consultant has shared that she is hearing positive comments from her contacts at the schools at which we've applied. However our daughter is getting a little frazzled. We are making as few commitments as possible in late March and early April so that we are able to attend re-visit days as necessary. The benefit is that we have realized that our last child is (hopefully) leaving in five months which makes us treasure each moment with her and makes us much more patient when our buttons are pushed.

I have been privileged to spend time lately with a young man in eighth grade currently in a junior boarding school who will be applying next fall to prep school. A thoughtful and organized kid, he is already thinking about where he wants to apply; so we spent a couple of days visiting schools to get a feel for whether or not they are places he wants to interview in the fall. It's been fun seeing schools I had visited with my children in a different season and through another's eyes and also interesting to visit some new campuses. An athlete and a thespian, the priority for him has been to visit the gym and the theater at each school, which does indicate the value a school places on each.

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected].  

It's March 10th! Time for Decision Day Insights and Resources

Today's a big day. It's when boarding school decision & financial aid letters go out and/or arrive. You'll learn which schools you've been invited to attend; which schools where the fit wasn't quite right; and, perhaps most importantly, the size of the financial aid package.

Weighing the options, you might feel that you now have a more serious, focused decision to make than when you constructed your list of prospective schools.

You might be wait listed; you might have financial aid awards to weigh; you might have received acceptance to several schools. What to do now?

We've published several articles over the years providing insight and thinking into the "which school should I go to; wait listed, what should we do?" questions. As you take the next month or so to make your final school choice you might find them helpful.

The Admission Process: Decision Time!

Waitlisted at a Private School?

Tips for Students Accepted at a Private School

Photo credit: ocherdraco

Boarding School Fit: It's Complicated Matching Student & School

Editor's Note: A recent exchange between onBoarding Schools contributor Leo G. Marshall, Director of Admission, The Webb Schools and a reader requires its own space.

Daphne, reading Leo's post (In Defense of Childhood), wrote expressing concern that perhaps she had not structured her child's time or pushed and programed her child harder. Achievement, it seemed was all the boarding school admission officer wanted to know or hear about.

As Daphne wrote:

My daughter was faced with question after question about her academic honors and prizes, extra-curricular awards, athletic achievements, positions of leadership. Nowhere was she asked "What do you do just for fun?" And I was left feeling that maybe our not pushing her hard enough has put her at a disadvantage at this critical juncture in her young life.
Leo replies, the key to the process is understanding the variables, and more specifically, your student, the school and how the two might fit well together.

Subject: Re: [Boarding School Blog - onBoarding Schools] New Comment Added to 'In Defense

Dear Daphne,

I dare say that often the schools and colleges themselves are part of the
problem. From one side of their mouth comes such questions as you
describe as, of course, we are looking for students who will contribute to
our schools in meaningful ways. Everyone, for example, has to fill their
orchestra or their soccer team. At the same time,  every school shies
away from a student who is doing little at home other than sit in front to
tv or a computer game. Most will say they want creative thinkers who
enjoy learning for learning's sake but may not tell you what that means.

What schools sometimes suffer from is a lack of imagination about what
what kind of students they wish to have on campus. This is especially so
when schools are dealing with large numbers of applicants and they are
attempting to make some sense of the pool. It's then easy to fall back on
old notions of what constitutes achievement. Therefore, our job is to
articulate our thoughts about learning and what kind of students find
success in our classrooms. And this has nothing to do with rattling off
average SSAT scores, GPA's, or the recent winning record of the lacrosse

The whole process becomes confusing to parents who then decide that the
best way to ensure their child's chances for admission is to load them up
with activities and build a proverbial resume for their child. I am not
suggesting that parents shouldn't introduce their child to a musical
instrument or encourage them to play a sport. Many students lack the
confidence to give such things a try and we parents should be in the
position to offer encouragement and support. But when this is all done
simply to give that edge to a student - the result of which cannot be
predicted - without taking into consideration the child's real interest or
potential, the result is more tutors, more test preparation, more special
coaches, and exhausted kids.

This is also complicated when parents think there are only handful of
schools out there worth looking at and that is very often based on
perception of prestige, not whether they're the right school for their
child. I cannot tell you how many parents ask me about our track record
for getting students into schools like Harvard. Yet, when I ask them if
they know anything about the college or whether it might be a the right
place for their child, they look at me like I'm crazy. The same thing
happens when parents look at boarding schools. Thus, I suspect a number
of schools are overloaded with applicants who really know little about the
school except the name. Those schools in their attempt to manage the
numbers fall back on questions about leadership (I'm just not sure any
middle school child can tell me they have developed real leadership
skills) or whether they have recently discovered a new vaccine.

What is the answer? Well, there is no perfect school except the one that
inspires your child. There is no magic path to success via the name of a
school. Nobody is going to ask what your child's shot-to- goal ratio was
in middle school and no one cares what his SSAT scores was when he is out
there in the world. I do believe they will want to know if he imagines a
world as better place and that he enjoys being with others of all
persuasions and experiences. They will want to know if he has been asked
to question, i.e. to be an informed skeptic. They will want to know if
he loves reading and enjoys the thrill of competition but has kept losing
and winning in perspective. Schools like ours can help your child get
there but the work in front of you is to find which school can do that for
your child... and forget what your friends tell you.

Best wishes,

Leo G. Marshall
Director of Admission & Financial Aid
The Webb Schools
Claremont, CA
I recently received a call from a mother, a doctor, who wanted me to give her names of elementary schools in the area. After offering a list of public and private schools without suggesting which was best, I was then asked what I thought the best way to prepare her child for our school. I've learned from experience that this is essentially what we call the "red flag" question. To translate: 'Which school will guarantee my child will qualify for your school.' Of course, there is no such school since every school has its own strengths and philosophy about the ends of education but I was curious:

"How old is your child?"
"Oh, she's four."
"Yes, I want to be sure she's best prepared."
For what, I was thinking. "But, we are talking ten years from now. How could one possibly prepare for a school that might look completely different by then?" I knew what was coming so I continued, "I would hope that you simply let your child learn to play. Read to her. Let her dance. Encourage the joy of learning something new in the sandbox. Play music for her. Take her to the zoo but please do not push reading lessons on her or have her begin math tutorials."

"But I have had her with a reading tutor since 3."

She went on to tell me that all the educators she has heard have given her the same advice but that her friends have given her different advice. That of course begs the question, "Why would one lean on your friends who have no expertise in the field rather than listen to the experts?" She had no answer and we left the conversation at that. I am convinced I made no difference in her plans.

What has happened out there? I grew up in a time when one went home after school and played touch football in the street. I learned to love reading because my father would answer my many questions with "Well, let's look that up." And into the encyclopedia we went. That was followed by trips to the library where I was left to read anything I wanted. There were no Kumon classes; no standardized test preparation. When I learned to play the drums, I was allowed to spend hours in my basement attempting to duplicate the rock rhythms of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. I did not have to achieve level five or six or whatever is being sold out there to our budding pianists. I learned to love music because I was allowed to explore it as a distinct passion. My father put the drumsticks in my hand and let me take it from there.

My father was the supreme skater, a hockey player of enormous skill, but his attempts to teach me to skate were met with my inability to enjoy falling on a frozen lake over and over again. He never pushed me and when I found I could run fast for great distances, he would show up at my races, smile and leave it at that. We never discussed whether this was an activity that might get me a college scholarship (It didn't). He never insisted he meet with the coach to go over my training strategies or wonder if someday the Olympics were in my future. To this day, at the age of 59, I still love to run simply for the sake of running.

So what does this have to do with our misguided doctor? Well, I am sad to say that she is not out of the ordinary. My admission officers interview as many as four hundred high school applicants every year and we are struck by how over-programmed are these candidates. It's as if every child is expected to build a resume that will lead to some distant promise land that, in fact, may not exist. And I am convinced these children have no idea of what's happening to them. Could it be true that, perhaps, three quarters of all children are learning to play piano? Well, of course, I may be wrong and there is nothing wrong with that. But ask them if they just love to clink around the piano or improvise or just do it all for the love of it. Blank stares. What I am talking about, their eyes say. They are preparing for Royal Academy Level Whatever. Period.

We are seeing students attending after school tutorial sessions on a daily basis not because of some intellectual infirmity but because their parents expect them to get A's. We have a student in ninth grade who is taking pre-calculus because she's that strong in math, but what are her parents expecting her to do? She goes to a pre-calculus tutor on Saturdays. We have students attending PSAT prep classes which is a bit absurd because the PSAT is in itself a practice test for the SAT. Why would one take time to prepare for a practice test? And these are ninth graders!

Our good doctor intuitively knew what I was saying perhaps made sense. She had heard it all before from other educators. Yet, she has put her faith in others who know absolutely nothing of which they speak. Why? Well, she wonders, if I or my colleagues are mistaken then her friends' kids will get the upper hand, that little edge that will lead to that celebrity school or college. In meeting just such a parent our very wise head of school once asked a pointed question, "Well what, then, is the end game?" Stops them every time for they have no answer.

Maybe the answer lies with this generation of children who when they become parents decide they've had it with tutors, rote piano lessons, test preparation, soccer at age three. Maybe, just maybe, they will have their child simply go outside and do nothing but play. They'll be allowed to let their imagination run; climb a tree; sit in the leaves; make a snow angel. And there will be no purpose but the joy of having no purpose. I'd like to see that and, if I am still an admission director, I hope those children come to my school.

Leo Marshall serves as the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Webb Schools in Claremont, CA- a coed, boarding school offering grades 9-12.

Five Cool Things to Know About Westover School

Today I'm taking folks at Westover School, a girls boarding school in Middlebury, CT, through my social media workshop. As with each workshop, my desire is to be both theoretical and practical. One goal the workshop is to collaborate with the school to produce a finished blog post (missing accomplished!).

As homework, my Westover friends sent a list of five happenings/programs/events that they'd like to get the story out on.

Five Things to Know about Westover School

  1. WISE program and our push toward enrolling more in this award-winning program.

  2. Special program with Manhattan School of music.

  3. Special Dance program with Brass City Ballet.

  4. Solar/co-generation "Green" project that will provide our campus with 25% of our own energy.

  5. Our exchange programs: getting them more attention!

Time permitting, I hope that we can focus on one (or two) of these and record a podcast conversation around it. My goal is to post it to the Boarding School Podcast next week.

I hope to be able to do some live blogging and tell the workshop's story as we move through tomorrow.   Updates should appear on Twitter.

In the meantime, think about which of the topics might interest you and take some time to learn more about Westover School.

Your boarding school application file is complete. Everything is in- application, application fee, recommendations, and transcripts and, after the admission office has given your application the once through, you get the call or note asking for interim grades.

In bluntest terms, the admission office/committee wants more information behind their decision and it means they have questions or concerns. Maybe they see a trend on the transcript; maybe the previous year or semester you hit a rough patch and told your interviewer that things are straight now? No matter the question, the school wants additional evidence. They want to learn more about you.

As an applicant family, make sure that you take these requests for additional grades seriously and attend to them quickly. This will help demonstrate that you're serious about your application.

How to approach this type of request? Most schools don't issue interim grades so make sure that you know what the school wants. How fast do we need to get this done? Do they want grades from some or all of your courses?  How should the grades be figured? What is an interim grade; your grade so far this semester? Does it have to be official- from the registrar? Can your teachers phone them in? Does the school want additional commentary from recommendation authors or new commentary from particular teachers? How should the information be sent to the school- by your family; by the school?

Make sure you understand the request; then, get on it and tie-up the process as quickly as possible. You don't want your application languishing for failure of providing requested information.

Ask if the admission office needs anything else.

Remember, quick fulfillment of this request reflects positively on your candidacy.

Photo credit: Old Shoe Woman
The Washington Post ran a piece highlighting the rise of online interviews in the admission process.

The online interview isn't well-established and still faces some technology hurtles. Not all families have the technology readily available and admission office staffs need some convincing and prodding to learn new ways of communicating with applicants.

The web interview certainly offers the prospect of saving families travel dollars.

One of the largest hurdles to more online interviews seems to be admission office reluctance and unfamiliarity with the technology.

I'm guessing efficiency will win out in the end.

With respect to boarding schools, anyone participate in an online interview (either as an interviewer or interviewee)? I'd love to read your impressions- chime in below.
Editor's Note: We're thrilled to welcome Leo Marshall as a contributor to onBoarding Schools. Leo is the Director of Admission and Financial Aid at The Webb Schools in Claremont, CA- a coed, boarding school offering grades 9-12.

It seems inevitable at the end of any presentation about our school that we face questions about test scores. Perhaps, it's because we are selective (i.e. there are more applications than available space) that families are attempting to discern the exact requirements that might guarantee admission. They don't always have a clear idea of how all this works and can see test scores as, perhaps, the only hard criteria that they might understand. Unfortunately, most do not understand the purpose of admission tests or their place in the admission process.  

Admission tests like the Secondary Schools Admission Test (SSAT), which are required by virtually every selective boarding school, are what we call aptitude tests. They do not measure what a student knows about history or science, for example. Those are called achievement tests. What aptitude tests tell is exactly what their name implies: they tell us a student's relative aptitude for doing the kind of work necessary to find success in a college preparatory school. Every school, therefore, usually has a good sense of what scores predict relative success. A student's aptitude test results, however, are meaningless unless they are measured against a school's own criteria for what kind of student is best suited for the school's program. Now this is fairly maddening for the average applicant parent as none of us can say categorically that there is a certain score for all schools that can guarantee their child is qualified for admission. What we can say about the matter is that such scores are only one small, albeit important, piece of the admission puzzle.

Test scores tell us where the applicant falls relative to the competition and to students who have attended our school in the past and found success. But boarding schools look for much more than a test score. We look for students who can live in a diverse community of students and adults, students who have a certain amount of emotional intelligence that is not easily measured by any test currently designed for admission. We look for students who have not exemplified themselves solely by a grade point average but by what actually went into that grade average, i.e. mastery of a subject. We hope to learn that from the candidate's teachers. We also search for that student who will contribute to our schools in a profound way through, perhaps, a special talent or interest. Every school needs to fill its orchestra or choir, for example, and every school has sports teams that need athletes.

In spite of our efforts, however, to explain where scores fit in this list of criteria for admission, parents still insist on enrolling their children in test preparation courses at sometimes exorbitant costs. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that they sacrifice the necessary play time every adolescent needs in search of those elusive ten to fifteen points they think will make a difference in our admission decisions (which they won't). Instead of encouraging their children to read a variety of books, they believe memorizing vocabulary words will give their child an edge. The fact of the matter is that it works in the opposite way. When we meet a candidate whose entire after-school life centers on tutors for math, English, or SSAT preparation at the expense of engaging in that activity they find most rewarding, we become less interested in the candidate.

So, where do these scores fall in the whole scheme of things? At The Webb Schools, we know that typically a student should find success if they are in the upper quartile of those tested in a particular year. But after that we look at so many other things. Yes, we have turned down top test-takers and taken a chance on those with weaker scores because they just might add a unique spark to our community.  That is the art of admissions and, regrettably for that parent looking for a definitive answer to the puzzle, it is an art that remains abstract at best.

Editor's Note:  Visit The Webb Schools' (Claremont, CA) website to learn more about the school  and its programs.

California Boarding SchoolsBoth our educational consultant and the head of our daughter's school encouraged us to visit a certain school in California. Initially it seemed crazy to us to consider a school so far away when we live surrounded by the country's great preparatory schools. However there were some cultural sites we wished to visit, and a school visit justified a junket. As we flew into the airport, wildfires were raging beneath the plane. It was a beautiful, terrifying sight, and one which I thought would put our daughter off California forever. However the warm weather and outdoor lifestyle drew her right in.

Our school visit was the fourth day. The drive to the campus winds through orange and olive groves and ends in a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside. When we first arrived all of us there for interviews were introduced to each other , and we sat in the reception room and chatted with the admissions officers. They also had the best scones of all the schools we have visited and a lovely selection of teas and coffee. This always makes me feel as if my child will be well-fed.

It's one of those schools where the child has a separate tour from the parents. Our tour guide was well-chosen for Easterners anxious about sending their baby far from home as she too was from the East Coast. She spoke articulately about the school and her reasons for loving it. Afterwards we realized we had seen very few indoor spaces, rather the tour was about the ethos and culture of the school. The interview was similar in that we skipped right over many of the traditional questions on both sides and went right to approaches to education and how our family values fit with the school's values. When we were told that there are no mall trips, we knew the school could be a great fit for our child.
After the interview we had the opportunity to watch the student-run school assembly, where we were impressed by how supportive the students were of each other and how articulately the made their announcements. That it was held in an outdoor amphitheater further added to the charm of the school.

It was exciting for us to visit a school which is so true to its mission, so committed to having the students lead active outdoor lives while still maintaining the highest academics standards. We left calculating how many trips our frequent-flyer miles would get us if our daughter is fortunate enough to be accepted.

With the break from school and the slower routine, the end of year holidays provide a great time to make sure your ducks are in a row with respect to the private school application process. This is an overview of where you might expect to be if you're on an ideal application calendar. If you're in a different spot in the process- don't worry. It's a process; all the pieces can be compressed and sped-up if you need to.

By the end of the year, you should have worked through the following steps for Fall 2009 school admission:

  1. Committed to exploring a school change.

  2. Developed an understanding of your child as a student. How does he/she learn best?  In what type of environment does he/she thrive? Does he/she structure/support?  Does your student have a strong talent or ability that needs an especially strong program- art, music, athletics?

  3. Researched and explored schools- understanding the difference between different schools.

  4. Settled on a list of schools with environments and programs that will best nurture your student.

  5. Ordered application packages and started the application process at these schools. This includes completing the applications and working with your current teachers and school to have recommendations and assessments written.

  6. Scheduled interviews at these schools.

  7. Financial Aid. You should be gathering financial data and be completing the SSS financial disclosure from.
The process requires a good deal of gathering & information management; planning and is paramount. As I mentioned earlier, all of the parts can be compressed if you arrived late.

Financial Aid  
If you plan on applying for financial aid, start early. The financial aid process requires lots of disclosure and it can take some time to gather the information.

Also, schools may accept admission applications on a rolling admission basis. Be aware, however, that financial aid is not awarded nor is it usually available on a rolling basis. Financial aid applications have a fixed, early application date and you must submit your applications on time.
Editor's Note: "A Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal" appears every Thursday throughout the admission season. Check-in each week to read the Boarding School Mom's latest entry.

A raw, rainy afternoon found us at our son's school for our daughter's interview.  In some respects this was the most relaxing of the school visits as we are familiar with the campus, our daughter has visited several times to watch her brother compete and for Parent's weekend.  Obviously it is a school we all hold in high regard as our son has adjusted so well and is so happily challenged.  Our tour guide was terrific - personable with wide interests and a good sense of humor.  While the campus and student body are large, it feels like a small, friendly community.  Our son's history teacher crossed paths with us and chatted about his class participation and upcoming paper.  At this school each teacher has no more than four classes of twelve students each, so they do develop close and supportive relationships with the
To our family this school is outstanding for its strong academics, diverse mix of kids - socio-economically, racially, geographically and in terms of interest.  Other than bright, the kids at this school can't be categorized.  The faculty are gifted and supportive, and the administration is responsive to students and parents. Finally the facilities are well-maintained and support the academic and athletic mission.  This school is true to its mission.
It was a great relief when the admissions officer interviewing us turned out to be the same person who had interviewed our son the year before.  She is a warm, relational person and one of the best interviewers we've met.  We all felt it was a great visit, and the report back is that our daughter is a viable candidate.  Of course, the admissions officer was also clear that the school expects applications to be up this year; and they already only accept one in ten applicants.  Excited as our daughter is about attending this school, we all realize it is a "stretch" application.

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected]. 
Editor's Note: We're excited to feature a post by the Boarding School Mom's daughter. She offers her on the ground take on the boarding school admission process.

Going through the admissions process is stressful, not only for the parent, but also for the child. Many parents add extra pressure and stress, but also you hear stories about boarding school. So let me start with this: You are all great people, sometimes you freeze up and don't get to show the admission officer how great you are or sometimes you're just not the right fit for a school, but that doesn't change the fact that every person applying to boarding school is a special and wonderful person.

Having an older brother who's gone through the admission process twice, I knew what to expect, but each interview is different and you have to be prepared to react to each interview. There are millions of things you can do to help you be prepared. I'm going to share some of the things I've learned from personal experience with you now.

In my opinion the most important thing you can do (if you're a girl!) is lay out your outfit the night before. The morning of my first interview both Mom and I were in tears because neither could agree on an appropriate outfit. I can't guarantee no crying, but it's better to have the crying the night before. Lay out everything from your clothes to accessories. This will really help you in the morning: one it means you can get up later, and two it means there's less stress in getting out the door.

A lot of these schools are in really pretty towns so being early isn't a bad thing. As a kid, I get really anxious before an interview and start worrying about silly things like being late, so try to leave early to guarantee you'll be there on time and to help lessen the stress on your child. Another thing I've found helpful is if the school is more then two hours away and you have a 9:00 or earlier appointment, try to stay the night somewhere closer by if you can. We've done this several times, and it really helps. I don't feel as anxious if I know were nearby. Another great thing to do is print off directions the night before!!!!

Look over the view book and application materials the night before. I once talked to a retired admissions officer who said that to the admissions officer it shows you don't really care about their school if you ask a question that's answered in the view book. So look over the view book the night before and generate a list of questions for your tour guide and your interviewer. You want to be the one asking the questions not your parents.

Another thing you can do if you're stressed out about the interview is generate or find an online list of questions you think the admissions officer might ask you. Think about how you would answer them if you were asked. Even if they don't ask you those questions, having thought about your characteristics, things you like to do, and your school can help you in the interview or have a mock interview. Have a friend or teacher (noon-parent) conduct a run through interview. Experience helps so don't schedule your favorite school first. Save it for last and start with a school that is either a back-up or that you're not that excited about or a school you're comfortable at.

Get a good night's sleep! You want to be fresh and relaxed for your interview. I've woken up on an interview morning and felt like I could sleep for eight more hours. You do not want to feel like this. Go to bed early and try to get at least nine hours of sleep if not more the night before your interview.

These are just some things I have found helpful in preparing for an interview. HAVE FUN!

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the pen name "Boarding School Mom" and all family, child consultant, and school names will be changed or omitted. You can reach AQ's Boarding School Mom at [email protected]. 

The boarding school financial process officially kicked off this past Saturday (11/15) with the opening of the 2009-2010 PFS or Personal Financial Statement completion window. The PFS- the information or form gathered and processed by School and Student Service for Financial Aid (SSS)- is used to report family financial information to member schools. The processing and number crunching results in each family's Report of Family Contribution- the amount of annual tuition SSS calculates a family can afford pay. Member schools award their need based financial aid using the Report of Family Contribution.

SSS offers a list of frequently asked questions about the PFS on their web site. I recommend giving them a read.

Important notes about the FA process:
Applying for financial aid is time consuming. Read through all information available from each school and from SSS. Do your homework. Gather documents and start early. Be transparent open, honest, and candid- in all your data and in your communication with admission and financial aid officers. Keep the FA officers at your schools informed; let them know what you're doing; ask them questions. In turn, they will keep you informed.

Remember, seeking financial is a process, not a recipe. The completion of the process will not produce a specific result. Schools award their own aid based on the competition for that aid. The amount of aid you might receive varies from school to school based on how much aid the school has available and the quality of competition for each available dollar.

The long and short- be prepared to receive more aid from a school where you might be stronger applicant and less aid where you would be in the middle of the pack.

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