The Secondary School Decision

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On March 10th inboxes and portals all over the world will be filled with secondary school admissions decisions. For a generation who ran to the mailbox to receive college acceptances, parents now anxiously wait for their children to log on to see what the future holds. As someone who has gone through this with my students as well as my own child, I would say it is not what the future, but simply the next four years, hold.

There are a variety of options that could exist in the email. Your child could be accepted, waitlisted, or denied at a school.  At the outset, this is a teachable moment about perspective and sensitivity. You should instruct your child to be thoughtful as to with whom he or she shares the decision.  This is increasingly difficult with Instagram and Snapchat where all news is posted  moments after it is received.

There are so many factors to consider when the actual acceptances are received. If you are looking for a traditional college prep experience, consider the breath of the core curriculum as well as the electives. It is never too early to think of  the types of colleges in which your child might be interested. You should examine the secondary school’s matriculation list, where the graduating students actually attend.

Another area of interest is the school’s athletic programs. If your student is interested in competing in a college sport, you should have met or plan to meet with the secondary school coach. You can inquire about his or her coaching philosophy, whether he or she has coached in college and the prior history of recruiting in the particular sport at that school. Having a secondary school coach’s assistance in the college recruiting process is invaluable.

With the increasing cost of tuition, financial aid packages are often a determining factor. Even if your student receives an award, is it enough to pay for the tuition of four years at a day and/or boarding school? This is often when the religious private school becomes a very desirable option given its high quality education and affordability.  If your child plans on being a day student, rethink the day/boarder ratio. Being a day student at a boarding school has its advantages and challenges. A day student will reap the benefits of a school day, filled with performances, lectures and social events, which extend far beyond the school day. He or she  can be part of the boarding school community while also enjoying the benefits of living at home. This is especially true if the school is within easy commutable distance to their home. The challenge is that being a day student at a boarding school puts the impetus on the student to stay socially connected to the school well beyond the typical day.

Many families also place a great emphasis on the location of the school. Does your child prefer the calm, serene atmosphere of a school in a rural setting, or would he or she prefer the faster  pace of a city school. This will be home for four years, so location and ease of travel to and from the school should be strongly considered.

If your child is waitlisted, the story is not over. It is simply time to write the next chapter updating the school on your child’s accomplishments since the date of the application. This can include recent grades, sports and/or arts accomplishments or simply a genuine email pointing out why a particular school is your child’s first choice. Be thoughtful, really considering what school attributes make it a great fit for your student and how your student can positively impact the school.

If your student is denied, there is always the option to re-apply as a 10th grader. This gives the student time to show he or she can do well in high school through the first two semesters grades, updated SSAT or PSAT scores, as well as summer or community service work.

Whatever lies in the inbox on the 10th, please remind your child that this decision does not determine much more than where he or she will be attending school. He or she still needs to embrace the challenge, be open to new experiences and appreciate the wonderful opportunity that this next chapter will bring.

Cynthia