In an earlier AQ article looked at the admission process, we focused on the notion of long-term process and small steps. For this installment of our admission timeline, we assess where your student might stand and how to go forward.

Private School Information
I expect that you now have troves of data to guide and direct you through the admission process. You probably have called schools, requested admission packages, taken an admission test (students), done some on-line research, spoken with an educational consultant if needed, and your child has earned a fall semester report card (students).

The good news is you have a lot of data. The hard part - now each family must sift through the data and begin to understand how their student fits academically and socially with the independent schools he/she might like to attend.

Bluntly, an average student will not make the acceptance grade at a most competitive boarding school or day school. This would be a bad match for family, student, and school; schools work to avoid setting students up to struggle and possibly fail. Positively, there is an independent school for everyone. The trick is finding the match - the right balance of academic, social, athletic, and extracurricular challenge for each student.

Students and Families
Students, put the information to work and learn about yourself. Are you an honor student? Are you a budding musician, an outstanding athlete, the next great young novelist? Look at your record, your test scores, your extracurricular likes and think about school settings that offer you appropriate challenge. Not everyone needs a setting that allows you to take five advanced placement courses during your senior year. If you’re overreaching, looking for too much challenge, consider looking at a school with less academic rigor and more of the traits and qualities from which you might benefit.
“What kind of school will help me grow and develop most as a student and as a person?”

Parents, assess strengths and weaknesses. Does the student need academic support? Will my child benefit from a structured school? Single gender or co-education? Are we considering a religious affiliation? After this assessment phase, the question before students and their parents is “what kind of school will help me grow and develop most as a student and as a person?”

Short Term Planning
After assessing where your student stands and the qualities that will prove most beneficial to him or her in a new academic environment, we offer the following plan for the next month:

  • Parents know your student.
  • Students know yourself.
  • Narrow your school list based on the types of school that offer you a chance to grow and do well.
  • Request admissions packages from these schools.
  • Begin to connect with admission officer/offices.
  • Visit boarding school fairs that might be scheduled for your area.

Longer Term Planning

  • Begin winnowing the list to the schools to which you want to apply. We recommend a final list of 2-4 schools.
  • Begin thinking about when you can schedule your interview. Consider a tour of schools over several days if your choices are located within reasonable drives of each other.
  • Parents, if applying for financial aid is part of the process, apply early and have your financial information in order for the financial aid form and officer.
  • Start thinking about teacher recommendations. Many schools require English and math teacher recommendations. Some schools leave some leeway as to who can author student recommendations. Communicate with your authors. Tell them about what you are doing and give them time to write well.

I realize that this is a complex list with lots of pieces and steps. But, we haven’t forsaken our belief in process. Break your steps into small bites and take them in an orderly succession. Knowing your students and making contact with appropriately challenging schools will help the process take an organic shape and direction.

In this complex process, directions and answers do not always come easily. As always, if you find yourself mired down or confused or simply need some objective help, we recommend contacting a member educational consultant from the Independent Educational Consultants Association. To learn more about consulting and educational consultants in your area, visit