Application - timeline

Please help me with scheduling:

  1. Do I need to pay for application fee first to schedule interview? I tried with 1 school but after submitting info, it didn’t send me confirmation email.
  2. When is the good time to ask for teacher’s recommendation? I’m thinking some teachers are new this year, if I ask now when school has just started, teachers may not know my child well.
  3. My 2 children are thinking about taking SSAT in November and December(in case Nov was not good). They are practicing at the moment and will do the long test some time this month.
  4. We are doing research on individual school together, looking over their websites and start taking notes.
  5. I plan to have them look at essays and start working on them this month.

I welcome any input and thank you so much if you could add to my plan.

At some schools you do need to start an application to schedule an interview, its school by school.

You need to ask for teacher recommendations ASAP. They are not going to write them now but they need to know that you are going to want a rec. Teachers get super annoyed if you wait till last minute for this.

I would do an earlier SSAT. Most kids seem to take it more than once. Waiting for the last two seems iffy.

Some essays take a long time, I don’t know what your school intensity is. Plan to work over breaks to get a lot done.

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Now that I’ve gone through this with 26 schools over the past couple of years, I can say that I cannot recall one school where we paid before interviewing. (I think that later in the season, like January, you can’t get an interview unless you’ve applied, but in general, you can interview and visit first.). (Oh wait…maybe…maybe Westover we had to submit an app first? Or they “prefer” it.).

You can give the heads up now if you want to get it on their radar, and say that you would love to set up a meeting to connect about it in a month or two once the school year is in full swing. (And BTW – I’m saying “you” but I mean “your kids” – I think you said “I” but I’m going to guess you didn’t mean that you would actually do the asking. But just in case, this should definitely come from the student. With your pre-meeting coaching and help of course.)

SSAT – if needed, then yes you are wise to plan for more than one seating.

Just our approach: Instead of “working on essays” for months on end (since they are due in January/February), maybe now is more of a time to survey kids’ lives and who they are and what themes to their lives seem to be centered around. Getting a deep sense of oneself will drive both essays and interviews, so personally I would brainstorm around the deeper questions of “who are you” and really know is super special about your kid. And what their dreams are. This is a great exercise that will pay off also in school selection. Because all these schools are amazing, but if you know who you are and what matters deeply to your child and family, then it’s easier to figure out which schools are fits.

When it is time to write the essays, my advice for folks applying to a large number of schools is to write the SAO essay battery first. Get it amazing. And THEN, you can attack all the other schools using those SAO essays as a base. It really isn’t all that crazy overwhelming if you are super clear on who you are and what you want to say (meaning: what questions do you have for me to hang my key messages on?), and if you are smart about leveraging the SAO battery.

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I think this is what I will do:

  • Approach the teachers before the end of this September to let them know we will need recommendation. Most of you are advocating the children to drive the application process but do I ask them to talk to their teachers or do I as parent do this? As I’m writing I’m thinking it is more appropriate for me to write a request while having the children talk to their respective teachers.

  • Essay, yes that is what I have in mind. Brainstorming, take little notes of what they can talk about instead of really trying to finish it at the moment. You made an excellent point that by doing this exercise, we as family may know which schools are the best fit. Ahh, thank you! There are so many good advice here.

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It is 100% your child’s job to speak to their teacher about writing a recommendation. You can do busy work behind the scenes - I certainly did - but that is the limit.

I made initial contact with the teachers about writing recommendations, and then had kiddo speak with them as well. Most set up a specific time to speak with her about it before writing.

Also, we have never had to pay for the application before scheduling a tour or interview. But, every school we have visited has required the submission of their inquiry form (found on their admission page). Our initial timeline for both kids has been: submit inquiry forms, create profiles on SAO and Gateway, add schools we are interested in to that profile, schedule tours/interviews and schedule SSAT.

In terms of essays, we will look at the essay questions after tours/interviews, print them out, and allow for some time to brainstorm.

And while I think it’s important to reach out sooner rather than later to ask if someone will write a recommendation letter, I wouldn’t actually send them the recommendation link for a few more months. It’s important they have the time to really get to know your child.

One way you can tell if your child is ready for boarding school is to have him/her/they drive the process. Your child should contact the teachers/counselors/etc. You should step in only if there is a problem, such as nonresponse.

I visited boarding schools this summer with the initial inquiry form already filled out. It helps the admissions department track all contact and visits, as well as look up your child’s specific interests. As a result our visits were more focused and productive. I never paid any fees for the initial form.

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@Siv Just to clarify a bit – I am not of the camp that a 12-year-old should be driving this bus. (Others will disagree.) I do not think that any of my kids could have driven this application cycle at the age of 12/13. And they are all wonderful, competent, successful kids.
But, for the recommendations, yes that is a conversation that needs to happen, with a meeting, between student and teacher. Ideally, student would ask for the meeting, and then show up with a document that talks a little more about their background, hopes, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. (Every part of the application should be pointing the arrow at the same target.). So that document, by the way, would come out of the “who am I” brainstorm that would also lead into essay writing.

The goal is for admissions officers to pass what I call the cafeteria test which is this:
one admissions officer is sitting down with other admissions officers in the cafeteria for lunch, and casually chatting, he says: oh so I’m reading the application of the kid who…XYZ." That XYZ should be really easy and clear to communicate, such that the other colleagues are like “oh yes I read that one yesterday!”
So what is XYZ? Well – if it’s a really long list of school activities (even impressive ones), and great SSATs and top grades, and teachers who say great kid good grades…well…that’s not passing my cafeteria test.
You want someone to be able to say: I’m reading about the kid who plays basketball and was the MVP even though he is the second shortest person in his class, and so he created an event called Underdogs Win that celebrates people overcoming odds.

Or XYZ is: I’m reading about the girl who played tuba her whole life and discovered that she was great at carrying heavy objects so she became a volunteer at goodwill in the furniture department, so now she wants to grow up to be a social worker.

(Obviously I am making up random things. But my point is: understanding who you are, and why, and what that means for the future and then communicating that in a clear way will help AOs talk about and remember your kid in a compelling way.)

Back to the kid having the recommender meetings:
if you want to pave the way a bit, I think it’s totally fine to reach out to a teacher and say something like just wanted to give you the heads up that Timmy will be reaching out next month to talk to you about doing a recommendation for boarding school. It’s been his dream for years, and I wanted to let you know that we fully support him, and I will be available to answer any questions you might have about the process. I know he’s looking forward to telling about all this himself, so I’ll let him do the talking, but I wanted to put this on your radar. (or whatever).

Finally: you know your kid. There are definitely kids who drive the entire bus who go to boarding school successfully. There are also kids whose parents hire consultants, who are paid very well to drive that bus slickly and smoothly, and they go to boarding school successfully too. And everything in between. So, I don’t personally think that the app process is some great test of how ready they are to head out to boarding school. (But of course, if they seem to resist all of it, then of course, that might be a yellow flag.)



Totally totally agree with @Calliemomofgirls! There are lots of reasons kids apply to BS, and not all kids will be 100% the driver of that bus when the time comes. I contacted teachers first about recs to make sure they understood the process and purpose of recs (LPS where everyone went to our regional high school). DS followed up. It gave them a chance to get to know him before putting pen to paper.

Done right, this process can help teach kids how the bus is driven, and more important, get them engaged in where it’s going. It’s really a gift to think at this point in life about what you want your high school experience to be, who you are, and who you think you want to be.

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