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‘Tis The Season for Admission!

by Holly McGlennon Treat

As the holidays rapidly approach, so do application deadlines for independent boarding and day schools. The already hectic season becomes even more complicated by the editing of essays, tracking down teacher recommendations, and online application snafus. Applications include many pieces and parts, and submission does not always go smoothly. Here is an overview of where this exciting journey will take you in the coming months.

January Application Deadlines

The most important pieces to submit by or on the deadline are student and parent essays, along with basic application forms. Then there is a short grace period for other elements. Be sure to communicate with admission offices (email is best) if you encounter difficulties. In most cases, admission offices are very understanding. 

Reading Season

With applications in hand, admission committees sequester themselves to read files and discuss each candidate. Schools weigh aspects of a completed file (interview, application and essays, teacher recommendations, standardized scores, extra-curricular pursuits) differently. Predicting outcomes can be difficult because only the school can know who and what it needs to build a balanced class that is a mission-oriented fit for the institution.

Notification Day

Most boarding schools announce acceptances on March 10th, and many day schools also share news in this timeframe. Most schools email decisions, but some require students to log onto their admission accounts. Advance research about how and when information is released on this important day will allow you to make a plan for digesting the news. Some schools notify just after midnight, so families wake up early that morning to check before school. Other schools send word at the end of the day, so it is wise to ensure that students have family support during the evening as well.

Some applicants will be asked if they want to remain on the waitlist. If this is the case, respond immediately. If the school is a “first choice” and the student will enroll if accepted, now is the time to make sure the school fully understands this in a letter from the student.  

Re-Visit Days

Accepted students are invited onto campuses at the end of March and beginning of April.  For students not certain of their first choice, these days are a valuable opportunity. All the self-reflection and personal growth that students have gained throughout their school search helps them view schools with a fresh perspective. They can decide which environment and culture feels like the best ‘fit’ by meeting students, observing classes, socializing in dorms, and speaking with teachers and coaches. These events offer separate informational programs for parents.

Enrollment Decisions

Acceptances must be communicated to schools by April 10th. When students have trouble deciding, encourage them to ‘follow their gut instinct,’ even if they can’t articulate why one school stands out over another. Each campus has intangible subtleties that make schools unique and good fits for certain students. This might sound wacky, but when choosing between two options, encourage students to flip a coin and see how they feel about the result. If they want to flip again, maybe the wrong school won the coin toss. If they are happy, then that’s the school for them!

Holly McGlennon Treat specializes in helping families interested in independent junior and secondary boarding schools. She can be reached at