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Admission professionals have been telling us the same story throughout the school year. Applications and inquiries are steady. Financial aid requests are up.

Using interviews at a few schools and with the National Association of Independent Schools, the New York Daily News ran a piece (Private schools see more financial aid requests during recession - but applications hold steady) documenting this exact situation.

Families are making tuition a priority and schools are increasing their fund raising efforts and aid budgets. Everyone in the school business seems to be exhaling deeply that we've made it though this year. But, if things say like they are next year, too, will be tough.

Chris Seeley, upper school admissions director at the Trevor School in Manhattan told the Daily News:

"We are tightening the belt...We are bracing for the possibility that we may have fewer students next year. But we are trying to cut the budget without affecting programs, and we haven't been forced to do any major tightening yet."

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.

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].  

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

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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


A Podcast Conversation About Affording Private School in an Economic Downturn

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Addressing the admissions notification and financial aid season, we produced a podcast today discussing financial aid in tight times.

Peter spoke with Martin Peyer, CEO of Tuition Data Services and Jamie Miller, Director of Financial Aid at the Blue Ridge School. They explored financial aid and tuition payment strategies for families as they make their private school commitment for 2009-2010.

Suggestions to families include:

Opening a dialog with admission and financial aid officers at the start of the application process

Prepare to document your financial condition

Explore tuition payment plans and lending options

Ask the financial aid officers about resources. They know the foundations and sources interested in supporting their students.

Please share their commentary and suggestions as we work through then enrollment and financial aid process in this difficult environment. The episode is available below, through our Boarding School Podcast directory or AQ's iTunes channel.

Approaching Financial Aid in a Recession Download the .mp3 (Audio) (16.9 MB)

Get it on iTunes Get it on iTunes!

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

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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
team.

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."
"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.

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

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AdmissionsQuest's blog dedicated to boarding school admission & schools.

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This page is a archive of recent entries in the Boarding School Applications category.

Alumni is the previous category.

Boarding School Atheltics is the next category.

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