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3 application tips for parents COMPLETELY NEW to the world of boarding schools

PrepDad2018PrepDad2018 65 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
There are numerous and long threads you can find telling you ALL about the boarding school process. As a parent without any prep school experience, and with my son being accepted at the end of the process, here are the big 3 items I wish I knew last fall. We nearly ruined his application twice.

1. You are going to be focused on the Gateway (or other) online application. REMEMBER TO KEEP CHECKING the school web pages for deadlines and unique requirements. Gateway becomes all consuming, but remember to double check school pages.

2. There is no ribbon for completing the process first. Wait as long as possible for the teacher recommendations. They need to be for the CURRENT year even though last year's teachers could write a more detailed letter. We started the applications in September so my son initially spoke with his 7th grade teachers.

3. Financial aid requests are due PRIOR to acceptance. Because I was so focused on the Gateway common application I nearly missed the deadline.

Three quick positives: Have your child email the coach/advisor of a team/organization they are interested in such as the robotics advisor, theatre director, or hockey coach. Do this NOW. It is nice to have someone on the inside pulling for you and to meet with on interview days. Explain to your child the odds (even with a "perfect" application) are only 20% for the top schools so they likely will NOT get in and that is OK. And if at any point your child becomes nervous, let them know if it doesn't work out, they can leave after the first year (or sooner if it becomes a serious metal health issue). No pressure/no disappointment is key.
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Replies to: 3 application tips for parents COMPLETELY NEW to the world of boarding schools

  • Happytimes2001Happytimes2001 1386 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I'll add another:
    Buy a cheap notebook, preferably a five subject. Divide by the schools you plan to apply to. Add all of your comments, notes and to do's in that notebook. Keep it in a large file with other pieces of paper ( the application process produces a lot of paper). We had a general file with all the report cards, tests, etc. That way, we could pull it up as needed. We also could add simple things we needed to do to the notebook. I use the word "We" because there was no way my 8th grader could have filled out all the info and gotten it done in time ( not to mention many requests have to come from the parents like a transcript). Give yourself plenty of time.
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  • Golfgr8Golfgr8 1038 replies19 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    1. Start conceptualizing and drafting your essays early in the process. You can get the essay prompts and take notes, get ideas, think about topics you will choose from, and give yourself time to formulate the best reflection of you.

    2. Submit requests to teachers at/just before Thanksgiving time. They can begin completing their recommendations in December. You don’t need the stress of a missing teacher recommendation or a late one.

    3. Keep a separate file on each school that includes their viewbook, notes about your visit, people you met, etc. Staple the admissions officers card on the file. Write thank you notes. Do talk to the tour guide and express your interest. Tour guides are often asked to submit notes about their tours.
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  • PrepDad2018PrepDad2018 65 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Yes, definitely a "we" effort. With the parent essays, family info, and endless uploading, it is not a case of being a helicopter parent. Do not recommend 100% independence for an 8th grader with the process.
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  • 24beacon24beacon 5 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Thank you for taking the time to write this important tips.
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  • amumof2amumof2 4 replies0 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Great advice.... we did it all electronically with a google folder.
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  • TheHappinessFundTheHappinessFund 36 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I know that this thread is pretty old by now, but I just have a quick question about the parent statement.
    How important is it, really? My mom sent it in, and I wasn't able to check her grammar/things she said, and there are a few things in there I would have changed. She didn't say anything that would raise a red flag, but there are some issues with grammar (English isn't her first language) and I don't feel that she represented my interests accurately.
    Would you say that the statement is equal in importance to my essays/ test scores? Just a little worried..
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  • CateCAParentCateCAParent 199 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I am no expert, but I wouldn’t worry about it. They are admitting you, not your mom. They are used to parents for whom English is not their first language.

    My guess is they use the parent essays mainly to determine whether your parents are going to be annoying. If she didn’t put up red flags, you are fine.
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  • gardenstategalgardenstategal 5727 replies10 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @TheHappinessFund , don't worry about it! My sense is that this is used mostly to get additional perspective on the family. In your case, they may learn that you express yourself in English better than your mom. And then they'll know that your mom didn't write your essay!
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  • dogsmama1997dogsmama1997 460 replies29 threadsRegistered User Member
    Agreed. They do not care that your mom doesn't write perfectly in English. There are tons of boarding schools with parents who don't speak any English. Your essays mean far more and if you represented your interests accurately, that matters a lot more than what your mom said.
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  • RedLionessRedLioness 111 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @TheHappinessFund ah, the parent statement. I actually had the opposite problem of what @gardenstategal mentions - I wrote the parent bits as well as the student bits, with input from my parent (is this allowed, actually? I don't think anyone noticed, but...). It was an interesting exercise to write in my parent's voice, to be sure.

    And no, it definitely matters much less than the essays and a little less to the test scores since they don't matter that much (contrary to popular belief, the SSAT actually isn't as critical as everyone thinks it is).

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  • janehoyajanehoya 24 replies0 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @PrepDad2018, thanks for starting this valuable thread. I would like to add the following:

    1. When you are told by a variety of people that "SSAT scores are just one piece of the pie" believe them. Meaning, of course you should study and do your best, but don't obsess if you don't score as highly as you hoped.
    2. Be yourself. Truly.
    3. To add to what someone said upthread, there is no benefit to submitting your application super-early. We were told by an AO that they don't open an applicant's file until every single piece of required information has been submitted by all sources. So don't rush to submit essays or recommendations.
    4. Yield matters. If you have a first choice school let them know.
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  • cinnamon1212cinnamon1212 439 replies6 threadsRegistered User Member
    Re the ssat -- but you have to be close to the average for accepted students. If the school's average is in the 85th percentile, sure, someone in the 80th, or 75th percentile is probably in range. Someone in the 40th is not, barring some other extraordinary piece of the application, like being a recruited athlete (and even in that case I doubt a 40th percentile ssat score would be admitted).
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  • CaliMexCaliMex 1770 replies34 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Don't assume that the most famous schools are necessarily the "best" schools. They might just be the oldest, largest, or the ones that have spent the most on marketing. There are fantastic teachers at all of these schools.

    Also: Admissions officers will always ask why you chose to apply to their school. They will be disappointed if your answer is generic and could apply to other schools ("Because of your strong STEM program and athletics") or if the answer is based on rankings you saw published online. Do your homework. Figure out what makes each school's culture and community unique/special and the right fit for YOU.

    Also: If you need financial aid, it is especially important to apply to a larger number and wider range of schools.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 99 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    CaliMex wrote: »
    Don't assume that the most famous schools are necessarily the "best" schools. They might just be the oldest, largest, or the ones that have spent the most on marketing. There are fantastic teachers at all of these schools.

    Conversely, do not assume that the top schools are going to have great teachers across the board. We have unfortunately learned that even at the tippy top schools there are terrible teachers and its bum luck when your kid gets them.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 99 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Re the ssat -- but you have to be close to the average for accepted students. If the school's average is in the 85th percentile, sure, someone in the 80th, or 75th percentile is probably in range. Someone in the 40th is not, barring some other extraordinary piece of the application, like being a recruited athlete (and even in that case I doubt a 40th percentile ssat score would be admitted).

    I think we would be surprised how far a school is willing to bend for a recruited athlete. BUT that is for athletes being looked at by D1 schools as freshmen. If that is your kid a 40% will likely get them in. There just aren't that many kids like that and I doubt their parents are on CC.
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  • PrepDad2018PrepDad2018 65 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    edited October 7
    @one1ofeach from my experience talking with several coaches from the TSAO N.E. areas schools, they have no input in the admissions process. I personally worked with a top goalie (and I mean regional quality/future D1 player) with PERFECT grades, ECs, and application....but 50s on the SSATs and it was a no. My own son (high athletic prospect) was waitlisted due to the aid request (well, I would assume that was the reason based on his stats) and the coach there again confirmed it was fully out of his hands and seemed genuine.

    At the same time, another non-TSAO NE school offered an above average, but not spectacular, applicant something close to 50K in grants per year for sports. That boy I worked closely with on his application process. Good for him but I was stunned. Another school out of the blue offered a seat to a local public school hockey player who was not even looking at prep schools as a sophomore.

    So, with my limited pool of info, I'd say generally TSAO schools don't flex much, but other schools have less of a focus on the SSATs. But that is just my own experience.

    edited October 7
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 99 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    My experience is with ISL schools, not TSAO. One well known on CC with a good reputation but not a "tippy top" another considered a "tippy top. One said if an athlete could make a score that was below 50% they would take the athlete, another bent far below their average to take an athlete. The coaches had big pull in both cases and the kids would have had no shot without the coaches pull. BUT like I said these are kids with verbal D1 *offers* after their freshmen year (pre rule change), not prospects, actual offers tweeted out. As I said, I don't think that is likely to fit anyone's profile on CC.

    I know several kids right now being recruited "out of the blue" by ISL schools. As in the coach goes to local showcases and cold emails the parents. So ISL recruiting is a real thing and some coaches are going at it hard.

    My son was also a recruited athlete but he also had top grades and top scores so it just isn't the same thing. I wish our coach was recruiting as hard as friends I know. Bums me out as I look down the line at how bad our team will be.
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  • TheHappinessFundTheHappinessFund 36 replies5 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Just a question, but what do the acronyms stand for? (ISL & TSAO)
    Also, I just got my SSAT score back and it was in the 86th percentile. I'm a bit disappointed, because I took a diagnostic with A Better Chance back in May and I scored 87th. I studied a lot in between the tests, so I'm just a little angry at myself. (Though not ungrateful in any way) Does anyone have any tips on how to make me stand out more as an applicant, since my SSAT scores aren't extremely high?
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 99 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    ISL = Independent School League (basically no PG players but they have so many grade repeats its a moot point imo)
    TSAO = Ten School Athletic Organization (allows PG players)

    Neither means much other than the league they play in. The schools all play schools from both leagues depending on geographic location anyway. So my kid is at an ISL school but plays several TSAO schools that are in our state.
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  • one1ofeachone1ofeach 99 replies7 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @TheHappinessFund What schools are you applying to? For many an 86% might be just fine.
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