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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

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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
kids.
 
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]. 



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