Getting Ready to Choose a School
Essays are written, interviews are (mostly) done, and your applications are now in the hands of admissions committees across the city. It’s time to take a deep breath, but remember: the process isn’t over yet. This month, you should be focused on ranking your school list in order of preference and preparing to make a decision about which school to enroll in.
Though preparing to commit to a school should be your top priority for January, there are a few other tasks that you shouldn’t forget:
- Follow up with an “I love you” letter to your first-choice school: If you have a clear first-choice school that you would definitely enroll in if accepted, send them a first-choice/”I love you” letter this month. The letter should be authored by a parent for nursery and elementary school, and by the student themselves for middle and high school. Emphasize the aspects of the school that align well with your child’s goals or your family’s priorities, and make clear that you would definitely enroll if given the opportunity. If you don’t have a first-choice school, don’t worry about sending a letter: students are routinely admitted to schools without explicitly stating a first choice.
- Communicate your preferences with your ex-missions director, if you have one. If you’re working with an ex-missions director at your current school, don’t forget to let them know your preference rankings for schools on your list as soon as possible. This information will help your ex-missions director advocate for your child at your top-choice schools. It’s particularly powerful if you send an “I love you” letter to a first-choice school, and your ex-missions director reinforces to the admissions committee that this school is your top choice.
- Continue to monitor the status of your application materials. Admissions offices at each school are beginning the process of logging all of the documents they’ve received and updating application portals with application statuses. Remember: it may take a while to update all of this information, and receiving an automated notification from a portal like Ravenna that certain materials are “missing” does not necessarily mean that materials are actually missing: they may not have been logged by a busy admissions department yet. By the third week in January, you may begin calling schools to troubleshoot if your portal still lists missing materials.
We’d be remiss not to mention the unique decision-making process that families will face this year during the ongoing pandemic. Normally, January and February are full of events, tours, and revisit days to help families understand the differences between schools and make an informed decision; this year, all events will be virtual, and families might feel less in touch with their options. Here are a few suggestions to get a feel for schools despite these restrictions:
- Take a driving/walking tour. You may not be able to enter schools this year, but that doesn’t stop you from touring campuses and buildings from afar. It’s often helpful to get a sense for a school’s location and surrounding neighborhood if you haven’t visited yet. Carve out a day or two to drive or walk around the city, stop by each school, and tour the surrounding blocks.
- Talk to a current family: Some schools are offering to connect applicants with current families directly, which is particularly easy. Even if a school isn’t offering that program, feel free to scour your network to find a current family at your school of interest and ask whether they’d be willing to chat briefly. Prepare a list of questions that cover their experience at the school. Two of our favorite questions to ask a current family: “How would you describe [school]’s community?” and “If you could change anything about [school], what would it be?” Remember, their answers reflect one family’s experience, and may not represent all perspectives: take these conversations as just another data point in your decision-making process.
Attend events and speak with admissions teams: Schools are continuing to add creative events and resources to their admissions websites. Even if you have already attended a virtual open house and gotten to know the school, there might well be another event offering that can provide a different perspective on school programming and community. In addition, don’t hesitate to reach out directly to school admissions teams. They’re more willing than ever this year to chat one-on-one about any outstanding questions you may have.