Originally posted October 4, 2019; updated September 22, 2021
by Senior Director for Enrollment Management & Student Outcomes Sarah Jallo
Getting ready to apply to a new school can seem daunting and full of unknowns. You may be asking yourself questions such as, “What do I need to do to prepare my child? What is my first step? What should I be looking for in a school? What are schools looking for in my child? How do I know if the school is the right one?” Those are all great questions that I want to answer for you!
With the admission season just underway, I thought it best to focus first on what I would say are the two most important things to keep in mind as you embark on this process. While there are many questions still to answer, when I whittle it down to the core pieces of advice that I really wish families would take to heart from the very beginning, here is what comes to mind:
1. It truly is all about the right match.
This is #1 by a long shot. I know that from the outside this can seem like a platitude, but it is quite the opposite―it is key to the entire process. Finding the right match for your child is the most significant factor in your search. Every child is different and so is every school. The goal is for your child to be in an environment that best sets them up to learn and grow in confidence and skills―and that is found in a place where they feel they belong, experience success in their learning, and can thrive through opportunities and in areas that matter to them.
There are many excellent schools, so it’s important to look past reputation to focus on the learning and social environments that will serve your child’s specific learning style, interests, and goals. Understand what motivates them and gets them excited about school and then find places where that can happen on a consistent basis.
This is not to say there is a perfect school out there—there can and should be a handful of matches that are right for your child, not just one perfect match. There will be ups and downs for every child in every institution, but on the whole, identifying a good match will make their educational experience more meaningful and beneficial, which best prepares them for life after graduation and beyond their school walls. And it will also foster a good relationship between the family and the school that is important when we help students work through challenges together.
2. Honesty is the best policy.
Be your authentic selves in the admission process and be honest with the school about what you are looking for and who your child is. You should expect the same level of honesty and authenticity from schools about who they are and who they serve. No school can be all things to all people, nor can your child. Being in “the best” school won’t matter if your child is feeling unsuccessful or unhappy (something that will only make students feel incapable, disconnected, and unable to take full advantage of their educational opportunities). Again, it is all about the match, so rather than focus on the end-goal of getting your child into a particular school, start by asking the questions that matter to you and determining if it is one of the schools that will serve your child best. The school can’t answer questions that aren’t asked. And the last thing you and the school want is to start the year thinking “we wish we had known that.”
Since I first wrote this post, my title has changed from director of admission to senior director for enrollment management and student outcomes. As much of a mouthful as that is, it goes to the heart of what this blog is about. School admission, for families and the institution, is about much more than the offer of admission itself. It’s really about helping students to thrive throughout their academic career. So, while I still oversee admission, today I am deeply involved in academic and student support issues to ensure that we are connecting all that we do from admission through graduation—that we do all we can to deliver the experiences you expect of us after getting to know us as a prospective family.
Thanks for reading. My hope is to have our admission team post throughout the coming months—some topics we’ve tossed around are:
- Everybody loves a procrastinator, except in the admission process
- Interviews: It’s a two-way street
- Decision time: How do I know if I’m making the right choice
Please feel free to let us know in the comments below if you have other topic ideas to discuss, or your own burning questions we can address, in a future blog post!