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Making the Decision to Enroll: A Leap of Faith

By Audrey N. Ludemann      

The recent announcement of boarding school admissions has brought exciting news to families. Kudos to all students who received acceptances in a year that is especially competitive due to extremely high application rates. Your ability to keep dreaming and to diligently complete a school search process despite the challenges of a global pandemic is generating wonderful rewards. So, what comes next? It is time to take a leap of faith.  

In any year, choosing to attend boarding school is about taking healthy risks. Students step out of their comfort zones to explore interests, make new friends, and build independence. Being able to picture themselves on a campus helps new students feel confident as they embark on this adventure. This year, many more students than usual will take this leap of faith without ever having set foot onto campus. Use these strategies to help students visualize their future at a particular school: 

  • Focus on top choices. Begin by honing in on the two or three acceptances that most excite you. As soon as possible, let other schools know when a student won’t be attending. This information lets schools reach out to waitlisted students for whom that school may be a first choice.
  • Take full advantage of revisit experiences. The format of revisit days varies widely this season. Some schools are allowing on-campus visits for the first time in a year—although those tours may be limited to times when classes are not in session, or do not allow visitors inside buildings. Some schools may only allow visitors to drive through campus. Most schools offer some form of virtual engagement, which may include faculty and student panels, or attending sample classes.
  • Double check curriculum. Are you particularly interested in a specific subject or signature program? Reviewing the descriptions in course catalogues can help students dig deeper into what the academic experience will be like at any school.
  • Engage in conversation. Reach out to admission offices in schools to which a student has been accepted and ask to be connected with families of current students. An informal chat with students, parents, or coaches may answer any questions and spark a sense of connection. Asking questions about culture may help a family better assess where their student is mostly likely to thrive.

More students than usual this year are finding themselves on admission waitlists. Rather than a ranked list, think of this limbo status as being among a pool of candidates, any one of whom could be contacted if a space opens. Unfortunately, waitlists can be large compared to the number of students who are contacted. Some schools have a philosophy of waitlisting any candidate who would be a good match. To maximize the chances of being admitted from the waitlist, students can write a thoughtful email to the admission officer with whom they interviewed. Students can say with sincerity that this is a top choice school and elaborate on an interest or accomplishment that they did not fully cover in their interview.

The best role for parents in this situation is to help students keep perspective. Once that email is sent, students—and their parents—should focus on the knowledge that candidates have put their best foot forward throughout the application process. With this in mind, families can also celebrate and invest their attention on reviewing the admission offers that are already on the table. Candidates and their families should know that each acceptance represents a sense of connection and genuine enthusiasm to welcome that individual to a school community.

When the time comes to make an enrollment decision, students and parents should trust their gut instincts. Each boarding school offers something unique that attracted students to apply. What truly makes any school transformational is how students engage with these opportunities after they arrive. That is the reward for taking the leap of faith.


Audrey Noyes Ludemann helps families seek independent school education, including day schools and boarding schools, from elementary to secondary grades. She also is an invaluable resource for addressing different learning styles—serving families whose students are gifted and/or have moderate learning differences. She can be reached at