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4 Strategies for a Successful School Search This Year

By Camille M. Bertram

From every direction—students, faculty, and parents—we are hearing reports that this school year is off to an excellent start at boarding school campuses nationwide. Throughout last year, these schools demonstrated their ability to keep students safe and to fulfill their educational missions. That success, along with the availability of vaccines, brings a confident outlook to the launch of this academic year. Meanwhile, the immersive communities that boarding schools create are a balm to students whose social circles and connections to teachers have been disrupted during the pandemic. Surrounded by friends and mentors, students are enjoying the golden days of fall with joy and gratitude.

It is no surprise, then, that even more families than usual are exploring the opportunities boarding schools offer. Last year saw record numbers of boarding school applicants, and we expect to see high numbers again during the coming season. As your student prepares their application this year, keep the following tips in mind.

  1. Make use of on-campus and virtual tours.
    Many schools have brought back on-site campus tours, alongside the virtual programming they have developed since the pandemic began. Visiting a campus in person is a wonderful way for students to gauge campus culture and visualize themselves in a new environment. Virtual events include general sessions, as well as targeted conversations around arts, athletics, and academics. Investigate both options to find the balance that is right for you.
  2. Plan ahead and track details carefully.
    For everyone’s security, boarding schools continue to adhere to key safety protocols and are tracking pandemic conditions on their campuses and in their surrounding areas closely. As a result, each campus is managing admission programming differently. Some campus tours may occur only outside; some schools are hosting in-person campus tours, but only virtual interviews; some schools are opening tour dates for only a few weeks at a time. Whether you are planning for in-person or virtual activities, keep a close eye on websites to access the full range of opportunities.
  3. Research a well-rounded list of schools.
    As happened in the college admission cycle last year, boarding schools with the highest name visibility received the most increases in applicants, making an already selective process even more so. When building a list for this year, explore how a variety of schools can serve your child’s academic, social, and extracurricular aspirations.
  4. Develop a unique project, activity, or talent to share.
    This year, many candidates are wondering what to write about in essays, discuss in interviews, or add to their application portfolio because opportunities for volunteering, athletics, arts, and other extracurriculars have been so restricted for so long. Rather than worrying about what you have not been doing, brainstorm a list of what you have been doing, whatever it is. It’s not too late to develop an exciting project to demonstrate your initiative and talents. Perhaps you can build a website about an important cause, take beautiful photos of the dinners you have learned to cook, or teach your younger cousins how to dribble the soccer ball. What is most important is that these activities be authentic to you and reflect the enthusiasm that you will bring to a school community. In a competitive admission cycle, thinking outside the box and sharing what makes you uniquely you can help your application stand out.

As always, we at The Bertram Group are here to help guide you through what can be an exciting and rewarding process.

Cammie Bertram, Founder and President of The Bertram Group, is highly respected within the educational community for her dedication to helping families accomplish their educational goals. She has more than twenty-five years of experience assisting students through both traditional and therapeutic advising at junior, secondary school, and college levels. She can be reached at