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The deposit check has been mailed and the thank you notes sent. Our daughter is delighted with the outcome, and we are so grateful to our consultant who directed us to the school which has been our daughter's first choice all along and which we would never have found on our own.

The last step in the process was the school re-visits. Initially we planned to attend re-visit day at three schools just to be sure we were making the right decision. After two it was clear which school was the right one, and we canceled our third re-visit.

The first visit was to the school in California which we have all loved since our first visit. This school invites accepted students for an overnight, beginning with dinner. Our daughter was nervous but excited. From the moment we arrived our daughter was addressed by name. It was an impressive effort by the admissions office. She was quickly swept into a group of freshman girls with the other visitors and barely gave us a backward glance. The parents were invited to the headmaster's house for cocktails and a visit. While many of the other families were from California, we also met people from Chicago, Nevada, and New Jersey. The headmaster gave a powerful talk about what teenagers need from school and from adults to grow into responsible adults and about his vision for the school. As his views align with ours, we were very comfortable with all we heard. His wife, also an academic, was so welcoming and gracious and assured us that she would keep an eye on our daughter. The next day while our daughter shadowed her hostess, the parents were invited to attend classes, served lunch in the dining hall and met with the Dean of Studies and the Dean of Students then went to watch sports. While we may have been swayed by the sun, orange groves, and hibiscus, we remained as impressed with the school as we had been on our first visit. Once we were all together again, our daughter was ready to commit. The physics class had been "the coolest class" she had ever attended. The other students were wonderful, and the extra-curricular activities all met her interests.

We did re-visit another school the following Monday. This was a 9 to 2:30 visit which started with a panel discussion by some current students and faculty. The focus was much more on the day to day life of the school. Then our daughter attended a couple of classes while the parents heard more about the academics. At lunch the headmaster, a most impressive and humorous man spoke to the parents, and we had a chance to visit one-on-one with teachers.  We reconvened with our children for ice cream and meeting with the heads of various departments. While we were no longer seriously considering this school, the death knell was our daughter's report that students were playing video games during class and talking over the teachers. The second visit definitely gave us a clearer view of both schools.

It has been a fascinating process over the last nine months during which we have learned a lot about ourselves, our daughter and secondary schools. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share our experience with you.

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]. 
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].  

My apologies for having dropped off the internet for a few weeks. We live in that part of New England that was left without power for almost two weeks in mid-December due to a particularly vengeful ice storm. The upside was that school vacation began seven days early. The downside was that we were distracted from writing blogs and focusing on school applications by stoking the fires and sitting in the car to charge our cell phones.  

Our daughter was scheduled to have her SSATs privately administered the day after the storm struck. She did that as the consultant had a wood stove and kerosene lamps, so we figured our daughter would at least be warmer than she would at home. However, she didn't score as well as expected, which we hope is due to the unusual circumstances and not an inaptitude for test taking. This meant that last Saturday, at the last possible session, she took the SSATs again. This also meant that a precious three hours were lost in the final weekend before applications were due.

Having decided to apply to five schools, none of which have similar essays, she got to work. We were impressed by her diligence in writing essays, editing and re-editing them. Her self-discipline and initiative were in marked contrast to our son's procrastination and seeming disinterest. She agonized over her most memorable day, what she hopes to gain from boarding school and which photographs to attach. My husband and I agonized over the parents' statements and breathed a lot in the face of helping her manage her anxiety over presenting herself as well as possible. As the deadline approached this week, we at last wrote the checks and sent the applications off.

The interviewing and applying has consumed such a large part of our fall that while we all feel much lighter having the process behind us, we will also miss the fun of learning about new schools. We have been blessed to meet so many interesting and impressive students and admissions officers during this journey. Now we wait until mid-March...

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]. 

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.

There are a couple of final school visits to share with you, but as time is running short in the admissions process, today I want to move to the real work of the process- the applications.  We met with our educational consultant at the beginning of last week to winnow the list of schools visited to a list of six to which our daughter will apply. The goal was to have two "reach" schools, two "probably" schools and two "safety schools. While this sounds logical, in reality it may be just a mind game as our son was accepted into one of his "reach" schools and wait-listed at both his "probably" schools. After much discussion, our daughter decided to apply to five schools, which based on the feedback from the schools and our own instinct seems reasonable. It's been an interesting process as there are schools on her final list which I never would have guessed would have made the cut at the beginning of the process and schools to which she doesn't want to apply that I was sure she would love.

Over Thanksgiving, we sorted out all the reference forms with a separate folder for each subject, signed all the releases and stamped all the envelopes before putting it all in a big envelope for the administrator at her school to distribute. Two of the schools like an additional personal reference. This is a more difficult decision as we wanted someone who knows our daughter well but also whom we also feel will take the time to write a thoughtful and balanced recommendation. Our daughter chose to ask her riding instructor.  Our son asked a Boy Scout leader and a Sunday School teacher. I am a believer in accompanying the references with an effusive thank you note as writing all of them for the many eighth graders who are applying to schools must be a labor of love.

Our daughter is now on her own to write the essays while we write our own essays for the parent statements. In our house that means, I write and my husband edits.  It's hard not to provide input into their essays and hard to distill my child into a page on her strengths and weaknesses. Maybe AdmissionsQuest can tell us how the essays are weighted versus the interview and recommendations. It might relieve some of the pressure.
In our three years of interviewing, we just went to our first open house/visiting day and wished we had attended more. Our day at this pretty, well-kept girls' school began with a warm welcome by the admissions staff and breakfast in the dining hall. From the beginning I knew I would like the school as the fruit was fresh, the pastries delicious and the coffee served with real cream or milk, not those "tear-the-top off the plastic bottom" creamers. Poised, well-spoken students were working the room talking with families about their experience at the school. After an introduction by the head of admissions and the head of school, the parents were escorted to a panel discussion by students and faculty and for a tour while our daughters went separately for their own tour and panel.

We were so impressed by all the young women who spoke to us, most of all because while each was articulate and confident, they all seemed comfortable with their different gifts and styles. We were equally inspired by the faculty, all of whom spoke thoughtfully about the benefits of single-sex education and all clearly had warm relationships with the girls. On our tour confirmed that this is a school that is true to its mission and educating young women who will make a positive contribution to society.

The formal part of the visit concluded with a sit-down lunch with members of the administration and faculty and a performance by a student group. The head of school made a point of speaking to every family, which certainly made us feel wanted. After lunch our daughter had her interview during which members of the faculty were again available to talk with parents. Our investment of a day at this school was certainly worth it as we have a better understanding of the culture and philosophy of this wonderful school that we would not have gained had we just come for an interview.
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]. 

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 lovely fall day found us in a suburban part of New England visiting two very different schools, both of which are viewed as very desirable. The outcome has posed a family challenge and one we'll be grateful to have the consultant aid us in resolving. Our daughter liked the first school and had a strong aversion to the second while her parents had the opposite view on each school.

The first has a decidedly academic bent with strong arts and weak athletics and a large day student population. It is a school where a student takes the prospective student on tour and a current parent tours the prospective parents. Our daughter really enjoyed the international student who gave her the tour. The parent who showed us around had an infectious enthusiasm for the school, and indeed I can see how our daughter might thrive there. However, the adult tour guide said two things that gave me pause. The first was that she didn't understand what people meant when they talked about the fit of a school as she thinks every child would fit at this school. Well into my third year of touring prep schools and having had children in both public and private schools for the last twelve years, it has become clear to me that schools have distinct cultures and personalities and every school isn't a match for every child, so this comment baffled me and made me feel she was perhaps naive. The next shocking comment was in response to my question about disciplinary policy to which she responded, "Well my son says that if you get caught smoking dope, you get spoken to; but if you're not nice to someone, you really get in trouble." Perhaps I'm too provincial, but this approach to discipline captured my attention. This was later explained to me as high achieving kids are terrified of getting in trouble, so they need to be able to make mistakes and learn that adults will still love them and that their lives aren't over. Framed that way, the policy made more sense and I am now open to a "multiple strike" approach. A friend touring this same school with her daughter was told that the school is better off without strong football and hockey programs as they would only attract aggressive students. As luck would have it, our friend's son is a hockey player at another school.

Next we visited a movie-set traditional and lovely school at which children of close friends are very happy. Despite no offer of coffee, tea or a cookie for which we were desperate having had not time for lunch after our first interview, we had a good tour with a lively and enthusiastic guide and our daughter's interview seemingly went well. My husband and I were thrilled at having another solid school on the "to apply" list. Our bubble was burst when our daughter got in the car and announced she hated the school. She felt the lovely façade masked a school where boys only want to be "jacked" (very muscular and fit for those of you who don't have teenage boys) and seen as cool jocks and the girls are pressured to be pretty and not seem smart. (For those of you who are interested in gender differentiation in prep schools and wealth communities Perfectly Prep by Sarah Chase is a fascinating book.) This was apparently triggered by a photo in a year book of a dorm with its male residents lined up outside without shirts yet wearing ties and by the tour guide who was expensively dressed but admitted to not being a very strong student. While we are sure the academics are competitive enough at this school that our daughter is probably somewhat mistaken in her read of the culture, she will not be swayed.

While at this last school, my heart went out to a small eighth grade boy touring with his father. Throughout our tour we noticed this child tagging along behind the tour guide while his father kept wandering off in search of cell reception. Back in the reception area, I began chatting with the boy as the father was still off on the phone. It turns out he is a second cousin to some friends of ours. When the time came for the admissions officer to interview the father, he was still out on the campus talking on the phone. I can only hope he had an emergency at home as an excuse as I have since found out this parent is retired. It seemed to me disrespectful of both his son and the admissions officer.

An interesting difference I've noticed this year from prior years of school visits is that the schools seem to be wooing us much more. All but one school interviewer has sent a follow-up note or e-mail to our daughter, and they seem to be much more in sell mode. While I thought this was because they feared fewer applications this cycle due to the economy, admissions officers deny it. At one school we heard that they expect applications to be up, however the admissions' process won't be as need blind as in previous years due to the reduced value of the endowment. Whatever the reason, it is very nice to have our visits and interest in a school acknowledged.

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: "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.

Our second school visit with our daughter was to a single-sex school relatively close to home that has the sports about which our daughter is passionate. My optimism quickly faded as we had to wait twenty minutes for our tour guide and there remained only one hot cup and one cookie to tide the three of us over on a damp day. When she arrived our tour guide was a lovely, friendly girl who, when asked about weekend activities at a school with a high percentage of day students, replied she goes home every weekend. This was a red flag to me who does not want to be picking our child up in rush hour every Friday. She also commented on how well put together the girls at the school are when all I saw was girls in sweat pants and artistically ripped jeans, a comment my daughter, who is slightly fashion sensitive, found shocking. We were shown all the academic support centers but didn't see many engaged girls in classrooms. Once in the actual interview, I hoped the interviewer would talk to us about how the school used their single-sex status to develop strong leaders and thinkers, but unfortunately she didn't. The most interesting part of the day was meeting a family from the mid-west who returning the following week with their son to look at junior boarding schools, so we had a great chat about those options. We all left feeling deflated and disappointed that a school which seemed to have such possibilities felt so stagnant.

The next day we visited a highly selective small New England school, which we all loved and about which our highly-focused daughter was very excited. The campus was lovely, the tour guide lively and passionate about the school, the academics clearly outstanding. It felt right to all of us. Then the terrible moment when the parents go in to be interviewed, and the interviewer asks "What can I tell you about the school?" For some reason, probably not rationale, this signals to me that they aren't interested in our child and just want to move us on. While I am usually prepared for this tactic with a good strategic question, I was distracted because the name of the interviewer wasn't the name on the door and lost my train of thought. Fortunately my husband was in better form early that morning and carried the conversation. As we have found that admission representatives often interview in offices not there own, beware and pay attention to their name. Our consultant, who seems to have a personal connection to someone at every school, did indeed report back that they felt our daughter probably lacked enough extra-curricular activities to be accepted. Our daughter is determined however and plans to apply to this school. We fear it's a waste of $50.

Columbus Day weekend took us to a beautiful part of New England for a school visit. Not realizing it was a holiday weekend, I failed to make a hotel reservation in a timely manner, which left us stranded at a motel with a party in the parking lot in a dying mill town. This is the school my brother had left after two years because he was so unhappy, so I visited only at our daughter's insistence. My spirits were raised by the hot coffee and pastries they had in the waiting room. Somehow, a hospitable reception area always makes me feel a school will tend to my child's needs. To my delight, the school seems to be moving in a positive direction, the party atmosphere seems to have faded with the last century, and we were all really impressed by the friendly students, comfortable facilities and generally happy feeling we got from the school. The tour guide was engaging, had wide interests and seemed to connect with our daughter. The admission officer seemed to like us too and want to spend time talking with us which is always salve to the ego. However what was most impressive is that the coach of our daughter's favorite sport took forty-five minutes to talk with us about his philosophy and show us the athletic facilities. Our daughter was sold. My husband and I are left wondering if there is a decent hotel nearby and how often we'll see our child given how far from home this school is.

If these schools are starting to blur for you, they are for us too. Next we visited a smaller, picturesque school, which has perhaps the best admissions' effort I've encountered. We had loved this school when we visited with our son and were sure our daughter would too. Not only is there plenty of hot coffee in the reception area, but both times I've toured the school, the headmaster has come out to shake hands, there are students available to chat with candidates while they wait for their interview and there are parent volunteers available to answer questions. The academics are rigorous, the students seem engaged, and the school feels like a close-knit community. It is a very smooth operation. It is also a school where the parent and child are given separate tours. (My family has divergent opinions about separate tours. Our daughter and I like it as we can both ask as many questions as we want. My husband believes it's a family experience to be shared. I do agree with him that it's good to be able to speak with a student while touring.) I loved my tour, but our daughter reported that her tour guide didn't seem to enthusiastic about any of the school activities; and she had the impression it was structured beyond her needs. We were interviewed by an admissions intern who was delightful, but I felt that if they were serious about our daughter's candidacy, they would have given us a different admissions officer. Surprisingly the consultant reported back that they did indeed like our daughter, so as of now it's still on the list of possibilities.

We are now halfway through our eleven visits and so far have only ruled out one school. Our daughter's goal is to apply to six schools, so this is positive. We also spent Parents' Weekend at our son's school during this time which has made us more sophisticated consumers but also causes us to compare and contrast the other schools to his school which is an unfair bias on our part.

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: "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.

Before continuing with our adventures on the boarding school trail, I want to share my experiences over the past two weekends. These examples for me put in stark contrast the reality of the boarding school experience and a common perception of boarding schools.

The first weekend we spent at our son's school for Parents' Weekend. Despite the relatively large size of the school, we continue to be amazed by the personal touch we encountered from faculty and administrators. Our son remarked that he has never been happier in school, he is continually being pushed outside his academic comfort level, and he loves his extracurricular activities. The other children we met were also enthusiastic about their experience. One girl said, "This is the first time I've felt like I fit in school." There were many parents there who seemed to share a close bond with their children. Clearly it is a school filled with bright, athletic, well-adjusted kids.

Last weekend I attended my twenty-fifth college reunion. My roommate, who remains a dear friend, has a daughter in eighth grade who is, according to her mother, the brightest child in her kindergarten through twelfth grade country day school in the mid-Atlantic and a gifted vocalist and athlete. She wants to put her in another day school where she will be more academically challenged, but there isn't another school conveniently located. Naturally I suggested boarding school, to which my friend responded, "I love my child. I wouldn't send her away." My response was, of course, "My children have the opportunity to attend boarding school and get the best education because I love them." It clearly made some of my other old friends uncomfortable that I had chosen to "send my children away" too.

Another friend who lives in a prosperous suburb told me she has been getting the same response in her community. Clearly people either don't understand what boarding school is, or they feel as if we're suggesting that the local schools where they send their children aren't good enough. When the reality is that we simply don't feel that the local school is the best place for our child. We're not passing judgment on their decision.

My feeling is that individual parents know the right course for their own children. If you are considering boarding school, please visit some schools and talk to the kids there before allowing yourself to be swayed by public opinion.

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: "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.

Having undergone the prep school admissions process twice with our son, we thought we knew what we were doing, but our highly focused eighth grade daughter has disabused us of that notion and taken charge of the school search. Before school was out last June, she had me schedule her appointment with the educational placement consultant. She arranged for a meeting with the head of her current school to seek her input as to appropriate schools, and she started doing research on-line.

After researching about 20 different schools which included driving through some over the summer in order to get the feel of the school without students, she has narrowed her list to 11 at which she wants to interview. While her father and I would like to have her within two hours of home, she insists on considering three schools in southern New England and one in California, a school highly recommended as a good fit for her by both our consultant and the head of her current school. Our daughter is considering all-girls schools, co-ed schools and schools both with and without strong horseback riding programs. She has been thoughtful about her choices, so we are trying to be open-minded; and in fact are looking forward to our trip west.  

Now as any of you with multiple children know, they are different. Our son let us drive the process, read the catalogs in the car on the way to the tour and may have heard half the advice offered by the consultant. As a boy, the whole question of what to wear was moot. The same navy blazer, tie and penny loafers worked for every interview for two years. She has had two practice interviews during which she was encouraged to provide thoughtful, expansive answers to the interviewers questions and discouraged from fidgeting, actually studied for the SSATs, and has spent the last month worrying about what to wear to which interview.

Some observations from the field on the school visit:

  1. Be on time. We once observed a mother and daughter break out in a heated argument in the reception area blaming each other for being an hour late.

  2. Turn off your cell phone.

  3. Have your child dress at least to the school's dress code.

  4. Parents too should dress to the dress code but also should not upstage their child. I have been distracted by fathers in blue jeans and tee shirts and mothers in sequins that might have been more fitting at a holiday party.

  5. Wear comfortable shoes. Tours always involve a lot of walking over uneven ground and are often in the rain, cold or snow. I have regretted choosing vanity over comfortable and warm.

  6. Have a snack and a drink before you arrive. Most schools offer only the token cookie, and we are invariably starving by the time we leave.

  7. Write thank you notes promptly and your child should do the same. While I have no idea if this has any effect on the outcome, it seems the right thing to do.
The First Interview

Our daughter's first interview was two weeks ago. Because we were worried that she would be overcome with stage fright and not speak, our consultant arranged for her to interview with a very experienced admission officer at a school where she should be a strong candidate. 

The school had arranged for a girl who had attended our current school to give the tour.  However when that girl failed for some reason to show up, they recruited a lively, engaging senior to show us the school. Our daughter was smitten with the girl's passion for the school, articulate description of its strengths and, I must admit, her sense of style. They chatted away, and I might not have been there. The last time I had seen the school there had been many feet of snow on the ground, and this sunny, warm day the school seemed much more attractive. I worked my way through much of the reading material in the reception area while she was interviewed. Imagine my astonishment when my turn came, and I learned my daughter had chatted away for 40 minutes.

When we left, the admission officer gave her a rubber mascot of the school and a pen with the school's name. Our daughter was delighted. That night she e-mailed her tour guide a thank you and received an immediate reply offering to answer any further questions and wishing her luck. She sent a prompt thank you to the admission officer and received a lovely note in return with a magnet shaped like the school's pennant. The feedback from the school through the consultant was that the interview had gone well. Our daughter was so warmly received at this school that she definitely wants to apply and indeed feels she should go there if accepted because they have been so nice to her.

I am so grateful that she had a positive first interviewing experience to build her confidence as we go forward. We'll see what the next ten interviews bring.

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: "A Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal" will move to a regular Thursday publication schedule. Check-in each week to read the Boarding School Mom's latest entry.

By this time we felt like professionals, our son was more confident; and we were more knowledgeable. We realized that the first impression gained in the admission office can tell you a lot about the school. We also learned to chat up the tours guides more. The best tour guide, the one from the school our son now attends, happened to be the student council president and his enthusiasm for the school and his thoughtfulness about the strengths and weaknesses of the school were most engaging. Many were memorable however. There was a school where our son had competed and didn't get that "friendly feeling", but we thought he should consider where the tour guide confessed in the chapel (I am not kidding.) to being on probation for alcohol abuse but as she hadn't been drunk very often, she appreciated the school's several strike policy. This was not what I wanted to hear as the mother of a then 14 year old. There was the tour guide who gave us a long tour of the gym and the multiple rowing tanks but just walked us by the outside of the academic buildings with the comment that he was at the school because his sister went to another school on our list, and she said he wouldn't be able to do the work at her school. This is the same school where the admissions representative told our son the kids in the dorm would think he was weird because he reads books. One school my husband and I really liked, our son ruled out; because the tour guide pointed out another tour guide and said "if you come here, don't talk to him; because he's weird."

Two of the best experiences were at smaller schools. At one school we were given a tour by a member of the faculty while our son went out with a member of the cross-country team, which is one of his sports. While our son was being interviewed, the headmaster made a point of introducing himself to all the parents in the waiting room. When we met with the admissions staff, other members of the girls and boys cross-country team introduced themselves to our son. The other really positive experience also paired us with a runner for a tour guide, and the cross-country/track coach visited with us in turn while the other was being interviewed.

The actual writing of the applications was no less stressful for doing it the second time only the pain was condensed as he had to get them done by the end of Christmas Break by mandate of his school's placement office. There was no delaying until the deadline. He reapplied to the two schools where he had previously been rejected and which remained his first choices. These were the long shots. He applied to two schools which seemed likely and two which we were pretty confident would take him.

This time when the day of determination arrived, he was accepted at the two "back-up" schools, wait-listed at the two "likely" schools, rejected at one of the competitive schools and accepted at the school he had wanted to attend since seventh grade. This school which is large and as our son says, "doesn't have to have a lot of rules, because there is so much work there's no time to get in trouble" seems to be a perfect fit for him. He's been there a month and loves it. He is stimulated and challenged by the academics, enthusiastic about the sports and gamely exploring new activities from debate to break dancing. In retrospect, it was a blessing that they did not accept him initially as his year at a junior boarding school gave him the confidence and study skills to succeed in this relatively unstructured and academically challenging school.

Recognizing and Understanding the Best Fit for our Daughter
Now we are embarking on the same adventure with our daughter.

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: "A Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal" will move to a regular Thursday publication schedule. Check-in each week to read the Boarding School Mom's latest entry.

One of the benefits of working with a consultant is that she was able to provide feedback from the interviews. Some of this was positive, but from others we learned that our normally voluble son had been uncommunicative and distant. I was also dismayed when sometimes he would hardly speak to the tour guide. Nevertheless, I made sure he followed-up promptly with a thank-you note, and we proceeded confident that he would be accepted at a competitive school. In fact against the advice of the consultant, he only applied to four schools.  Of these schools, three he would have been happy to attend and one we would have been happy to have him attend.

Then came the dark day when the consultant called to tell us that he had been rejected at two schools and wait-listed at two schools. As we recovered from the blow, she was terrific at helping us explore our options. One, we could push to get off the wait lists. By this time we only considered one of the wait list schools an option based on some things we had learned about the other school, but our son felt the school's strength - outdoor winter sports- didn't align with his interests. Two, she felt some of the schools at which he had interviewed but to which we hadn't applied, might accept him. We considered this as we had liked the feel of these schools very much, but felt that if they were the right fit, we would have applied there initially. Three, she suggested he attend a junior boarding school for a year and reapply the next cycle.

We knew next to nothing about junior boarding schools but our consultant gave us background information on the three she felt were most appropriate. All were within two hours of home and all terrific schools, but one she felt would be the best fit for our child. She arranged for us to visit on short notice. The tour guide was an intelligent, friendly boy and our son said that despite the rain, the school had a happy feel. The paperwork was submitted immediately, facilitated by the brevity of junior boarding school applications in comparison to the many essays required by prep schools. In one of the nicest touches we've experienced in our admissions journey, the school's Director of Admissions called shortly thereafter to tell us personally that our son had been accepted.

That Speed-bump Worked-out for the Best
He had a great ninth grade year at that school. In a supportive environment that truly understands boys, he studied with bright, engaging teachers, was coached by enthusiastic, talented adults who encouraged good sportsmanship and dedication, had terrific opportunities to participate in theater and the academic team and had the fun of living with boys from all over the world and this country without the pressure of trying to impress girls. He was able to prove that he could thrive in a boarding environment and that he could succeed at sports he had never been exposed to in his small school at home. He also had a fresh set of references from a school well-known to the high schools to which he next applied.  

The school has a great placement office with which we worked, but we also chose to retain our consultant again. She knew our son better than the placement office and also was supporting a smaller pool of kids. This time we again looked at nine schools, six of which were new to us. Although we understood the benefit of looking farther afield, we were clear that we wanted him within two hours of home.

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: bwats2
Our son attended a small, private, K-8, day school in our rural area. There were twelve kids in his graduating class. He had had the opportunity to sit in on a history class and have a tour of one, highly-competitive, boarding school in seventh grade and was sure that's where he wanted to go. His school didn't really have a high school placement effort, so we made a wise investment in hiring an educational placement consultant. We are now on our third cycle with her and have found her support and counsel invaluable.

She interviewed our son and provided us with a list of schools to explore via view books and web-sites and, from which, we narrowed the list to nine at which we would eventually interview. She wisely advised us to consider schools considered less competitive along with the "name" schools. She also encouraged us to look beyond the 100-mile radius we had initially imposed as schools seek geographic as well as ethnic diversity.  

By mid-September all nine visits were scheduled and the navy blazer had been purchased, and we set forth sure that our son, being the great kid that he is, would have many choices.  We were astounded by the facilities of many schools which seem to rival college campuses. A strong sense of community and caring embraced us at some schools, while at others we were dismayed when we saw athletes injured on the playing fields whose teammates couldn't be bothered to give them a hand up and ask if they were o.k.

We saw schools with more structure and restrictions than we impose at home, and we saw schools with what seemed like such little oversight, he might as well have his own apartment in the city. At some schools the admissions staff clearly were pleased that we were considering their school and made every effort to make us feel welcome, but at some we had the impression we were wasting the admission officer's time.

In my next post, I'll talk about a speed-bump and how the consultant helped us work through the process.

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].

As the parent of two children, a tenth grader who has gone through the admissions process twice (more on that in my next post) and an eighth grader who is in the process of applying to boarding school, and having visited 16 schools in the last two years; I was excited to be asked by AdmissionsQuest to share a parent's view of the admissions experience. The highlights are that you meet a lot of interesting people, visit many picturesque parts of the country, and get to spend a lot of quality time with your child.

As we assessed how the qualities of a school would be a fit with our son's strengths and weakness, we got to know him better. The downsides, as I'm sure any of you who are undergoing the process now understand, are the pain of having your child judged as "good enough" for a school, anxiety over finding the right school and how much it's going to cost and having Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation fraught with tension as your child gathers "inspiration" for his essays by watching movies and you turn into a harridan because application deadlines are looming.

Perhaps the hardest part is feeling that your child is competing for spots against their friends. Try as you might, it's hard not to think about how many from your school will get in where or to keep from panic when you hear a certain coveted school only has six spots for tenth grade boys. I have experienced the lowest lows and the great satisfaction of having our son find exactly the right school for him twice. Of course experience gives me some composure as we launch into the admissions cycle with our daughter, but I still feel a gnawing in my stomach as I contemplate the journey ahead of us.

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: bookgrl

A Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal

We're excited to welcome a new blogger and series to onBoarding Schools. The title, "A Parent's Boarding School Admission Journal," will be written by a parent who's currently going through the school search process. This great new voice- rich with perspective and insight- will be a regular feature of onBoardingSchools during the 2008-2009 school year.

"Boarding School Mom" will share, comment, and reflect on her thoughts and experiences as she works to find the best boarding school fit for her youngest child. onBoarding Schools readers will enjoy an open, frank parent's take on everything from settling on a school list, to school visits, and interviews to working with an educational consultant. If a family has to work through it while finding a school; she'll probably talk about it.

She brings a wealth of experience and dose of good story telling to the onBoarding Schools audience. This is her family's third boarding school search and they have worked with the same educational consultant for each child's admission process.

To maintain privacy and confidentiality, our author writes under the nome de plume "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].

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