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By this time we felt like professionals, our son was more confident; and we were more knowledgeable. We realized that the first impression gained in the admission office can tell you a lot about the school. We also learned to chat up the tours guides more. The best tour guide, the one from the school our son now attends, happened to be the student council president and his enthusiasm for the school and his thoughtfulness about the strengths and weaknesses of the school were most engaging. Many were memorable however. There was a school where our son had competed and didn’t get that “friendly feeling”, but we thought he should consider where the tour guide confessed in the chapel (I am not kidding.) to being on probation for alcohol abuse but as she hadn’t been drunk very often, she appreciated the school’s several strike policy. This was not what I wanted to hear as the mother of a then 14 year old. There was the tour guide who gave us a long tour of the gym and the multiple rowing tanks but just walked us by the outside of the academic buildings with the comment that he was at the school because his sister went to another school on our list, and she said he wouldn’t be able to do the work at her school. This is the same school where the admissions representative told our son the kids in the dorm would think he was weird because he reads books. One school my husband and I really liked, our son ruled out; because the tour guide pointed out another tour guide and said “if you come here, don’t talk to him; because he’s weird.”
Two of the best experiences were at smaller schools. At one school we were given a tour by a member of the faculty while our son went out with a member of the cross-country team, which is one of his sports. While our son was being interviewed, the headmaster made a point of introducing himself to all the parents in the waiting room. When we met with the admissions staff, other members of the girls and boys cross-country team introduced themselves to our son. The other really positive experience also paired us with a runner for a tour guide, and the cross-country/track coach visited with us in turn while the other was being interviewed.
The actual writing of the applications was no less stressful for doing it the second time only the pain was condensed as he had to get them done by the end of Christmas Break by mandate of his school’s placement office. There was no delaying until the deadline. He reapplied to the two schools where he had previously been rejected and which remained his first choices. These were the long shots. He applied to two schools which seemed likely and two which we were pretty confident would take him.
This time when the day of determination arrived, he was accepted at the two “back-up” schools, wait-listed at the two “likely” schools, rejected at one of the competitive schools and accepted at the school he had wanted to attend since seventh grade. This school which is large and as our son says, “doesn’t have to have a lot of rules, because there is so much work there’s no time to get in trouble” seems to be a perfect fit for him. He’s been there a month and loves it. He is stimulated and challenged by the academics, enthusiastic about the sports and gamely exploring new activities from debate to break dancing. In retrospect, it was a blessing that they did not accept him initially as his year at a junior boarding school gave him the confidence and study skills to succeed in this relatively unstructured and academically challenging school.
Recognizing and Understanding the Best Fit for our Daughter
Now we are embarking on the same adventure with our daughter.
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@example.com.