First time user of Gateway to Prep Schools

Dear all, We just started filling up the part 1, candidate profile on Gateway to Prep Schools and noticed the option to “Unlink School from other Schools”. Not sure about whether to do this or not. Is there a benefit to unlink all the schools (we have 7 BS on Gateway for DS)? My understanding is that the candidate profile is general information about the applicant and his/her family. Any thoughts and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

@Lanco1465 We went through the process last year and are doing it again this year for my next daughter. So, I’m not an expert, but can share our experience and my understanding.

Unlinking would be something you would want to do if you want to send schools something different. I would NOT unlink the schools unless you can think of a compelling reason why you would want to send a different profile to one school.

Note that by unlinking I do think you would end up making the recommendation process a little more complicated for your recommenders. And it’s a lot more pieces for you to manage. (And you will have lots of pieces of the puzzle to manage come December and January as you confirm all is completed!)

Thinking about reasons you WOULD want to unlink – I’m only imagining scenarios here, but what if you had a really specific recommendation that you were submitting to one specific school (say, from a prominent alum or something?), then maybe someone might unlink? But even then, I would send over the main application through Gateway and then have that one recommendation just emailed directly to your AO at that one school.

Or what if you had two addresses and you wanted different addresses to go to different schools for some reason (FA or merit qualification reasons maybe?), then maybe unlinking makes sense?

@Lanco1465 I’ll add that I DO think there is a big advantage to doing SAO applications if you can for at least a couple of schools. And, I would write those essays first, and then use that battery of essays as a starting point for cutting and pasting and creating the Gateway essays. So if you have a few schools on your list who also accept SAO, I might consider doing them in SAO, not Gateway. The process sneaks up on you and suddenly those essays can really add up, and it does not seem as though anyone is penalized by using SAO over gateway. (We originally thought: oh but they must prefer gateway because they get their own preferred essay questions!). The advantages to having a least a couple of SAO applications outweigh the disadvantages if you ask me. (I wrote more about this last year in a post about gateway vs. SAO). The TLDR of this is: do the SAO first, and have it in place to capture schools who accept SAO if you start to run out of time. Also, much easier to add in a new school in SAO than Gateway later in the season, which gives a lot more flexibility in case you need to widen the net or something. It is MUCH easier to go to all your recommenders and tell them: OK so there will be two links that you will need to fill out, which they can do at the same time. Much harder to go back to them in December when you realize: oh shoot! I want to add two more schools to our list! And now it’s kind of an ordeal. I hope that makes some sense? For us, DD had much softer SSAT scores than we expected to we were super glad that it was VERY easy to add a couple of schools in December to her overall list. In the end, I actually ended up switching a couple of schools from Gateway to SAO because we had so many balls in the air. (note you can’t do that once you pay the fees. We paid later in the game on purpose to keep options open. There seems to be zero advantage to paying early.)

Really appreciate your input @Calliemomofgirls. Yes, we have a couple of only SAO schools and I believe one/two that accept both. For DD in 2017-18 we just used SAO, which was well organized and intuitive. And I don’t recall an option for “unlinking” schools. Anyhow, at the moment, I cannot find a reason to unlink the schools.

It seems that Gateway allows schools to use their unique prompts for short and long essays, which was a question I intended to ask but you’ve addressed. From our earlier experience, that certainly means a lot more work/time on the essays! DS is registered for the SSAT in November, so if we need to revise the list late in the game, we should have a few weeks before J15.

@Lanco1465 you’ve called out the biggest difference between Gateway and SAO: Gateway – the schools get to choose their own essay prompts. SAO – it’s a basic battery of 4 essay prompts. That’s why I say to start with the SAO prompts – get that battery of essays really solid. THEN, go and deal with the Gateway essay prompts, and wisely select essays that can use some SAO essay components. (The key is really: feel super great about the SAO suite of essays.). I know some folks don’t love the SAO prompts, but having 4 (last year it was 5) of them allows for better expression of layers, in my opinion because you don’t need to “fit it all” in just one or two essays. You can have a little nuance and dial in a little more with four different essays, which is more than many of the Gateway apps. (not all. Groton is super detailed and lots of opportunity to be narrow/deep vs. broad/big in a question. Also IIRC HK also was hearty. I like hearty so you can create an energy – some shorter, pithier answers. Some broader. It’s nice to convey richness through the various essays rhythms.)

The biggest challenge will probably be fitting the important elements from 4 essays on SAO into the 1 or 2 essays that many schools ask for on Gateway. My daughter literally printed out her SAO essays and put a checkmark on each critical thing – the things that would be a big mistake for any one school not to know about you. And then, before submitting ANY Gateway schools, she printed out and did a physical checkmark to make sure that no one school didn’t know about her XYZ points. (it’s easy to start thinking you’ve mentioned something when you are cutting and pasting so much into portals and such. Also, character and word counts in the portals are fussy so leave yourself plenty of time for some last minute editing. Which I highly recommend doing in word or somewhere external and then copying and pasting.)

There are other differences in SAO and Gateway, such as the number of recommendations allowed, the categories of recommendations, etc. For instance, I remember Deerfield called the extra teacher recommendation something slightly different than the other schools “extra recommendation” so that resulted in two different links being generated, which meant more work for that “extra teacher” recommender. Not the end of the world. But stuff you need to manage. Gateway – the teacher can either allow their recommendation to be shared with added schools or they can choose not to allow that. So if you add schools later, it may turn into you needing to contact recommenders again. SAO – once the recommendation is in, it’s up to you to decide who gets it. Also, SAO does not have a slot for any “extra recommendations” but some schools allow that (check school website – also you can see if they have that as an option on their gateway app, assuming they are a school that accepts both). Anyway, in that case, we had to ask the recommender to email the recommendation to the AO directly. (NOTE: if you do that, you might want to point out kindly to please either send a separate email, or do a blind copy to all of them at once — you don’t really want a recommender announcing to all your schools exactly who is getting what.). Another difference: the transcripts – one of them (I think gateway) only allowed for one transcript upload. Another round of direct emails I needed to manage.

Also, I suddenly remembered this – my daughter’s extra teacher/EC recommender – he researched each one of my daughter’s boarding schools and wrote a separate recommendation specifically for their mission statement and priorities on their website. And I remember he asked her if she could please go unlink the recommendations so he could submit customized versions to each school. (!!! she applied to 12!). I had forgotten that until I started writing this.

Anyway, feel free to take advantage of our experiences and ask away. Bottom line: this year, we will only use Gateway for those schools that truly require it. All the others – going straight to SAO for us!

Whether you use Gateway or SAO, do not rely on either to keep an accurate checklist of items that each school has received. The SAO website will not reflect test scores if you use the ISEE, for example. And neither site may reflect that they have received the correct transcripts. You’ll need to keep on top of the individual school checklists, which are usually available through their unique portals.

We are getting different advice from a friend (who is a hired consultant to help with BS and college admissions) and our school counselor (who worked in admissions for years at a well-known boarding school.

One is saying stick to SAO, the other is saying if you really like the school it will show more interest if you use the school-specific application.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Will you have ANY in SAO? In other words, are you stuck doing that 4-essay battery no matter what?

If so, then maybe get that done.

Then move on to the 7 you mentioned before in Gateway (assuming they don’t also accept SAO).

And then see how much steam you have left in you to do the others in Gateway? (Just don’t pay for any of those schools in either portal quite yet.)

I think there is some validity to the idea that all things being equal, I would love to submit on gateway, giving each school some specialized love in the essays. That was our plan last year – all in Gateway! We can do it and plan ahead!

But I also know that those applications sped up and the logistics were pretty crazy, and I was really, really glad we had SAO to press SEND for a few applications. (She got into all the SAO schools, so it didn’t seem to impact her negatively.). I should also say we had some negative SSAT suprises we needed to deal with so we may not be the example family.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before – if there is any part of you that might want to do a last minute application in case march 10 comes up empty, then gosh you will be super glad you had at least one SAO app!

OK one last thing – I don’t know your whole list, but assuming you’ll want at least a couple of less competitive schools on your list anyway, so maybe those are the ones that go into SAO?

I think if schools really preferred you to do their unique application the rumor would get out. Once you’re in, you’d be shocked at how frank AO’s will be with parents when we are all watching a game together. I’ve been told straight up how much or little they are valuing ssat. I’ve been told the four most important questions they are planning to ask this year. I’ve been told exactly how they view the interview and what jazzes them about a kid. If they really wanted one portal vs another, one of us parents already in a bs would have caught wind of it. At a certain point you have to trust that they are being honest and other people aren’t getting a secret advantage (even though I totally get the urge to get every advantage you can because some of these schools seem to be a total coin toss!).

Both SAO and Gateway have school specific components, if the school chooses to ask for them. If the school preferred one more than the other, they’d only use that one (and many do so). They are not using it as a test of commitment to the school.