The application process at a private day or boarding school can be overwhelming. In this series of articles, Rectory School's Associate Director of Admissions, Jacob Guertin, walks you through the process step-by-step. In this first article, he discusses the importance of understanding what you are looking for in a new school, researching schools, and starting a dialogue with a school by submitting an inquiry.
The first day of each school year always comes with a unique, intangible feeling in the air. Students are up early in the morning planning their outfits for the first day of school, there is excitement, anxiety, and some fear, but most of all, they are eager to see what new opportunities lie ahead of them. Much has led to the first day, especially for independent school students whose applications have been in the works for up to a year in advance. This article is the first in a series that will aim to be your guide for private school and boarding school applications.
Where do you start?
Each student has a unique reason or a particular need that has led to the search for a private--and sometimes a boarding--school education. Students looking to sharpen their social skills find comfort in sit-down meals with peers and faculty. Others searching for a specific program find options beyond what their local public schools can offer. The critical thing to remember is that your reason for applying will be a little different than every other applicant. So the first step, even before applying to schools, is to consider what you are looking for and which schools will best suit those needs.
Your self-assessment could start with something simple: "I want to experience life away from home to challenge myself academically and meet new people." If this is your goal, you know you are searching for a boarding school and will want to ask specific questions to ensure that the culture and environment are a good fit for you. During your visit or research, discover what programs will challenge you and how many countries represent the student body. The pace of learning at a typical private school is more flexible than in most public schools because they can better respond to the class's--and even the individual's--needs. There may be specific programs you are excited about that meet your criteria for challenging courses. For example, Rectory School has the Bigelow Scholars program, only available to the upper tier of academic achievers. These students can exchange their study hall period for an additional class; for example, a student may add another math or English class to their schedule, depending on their area of interest.
The main takeaway: Be very honest with why and what you are looking for in a school. Ranking websites help learn about schools, but they are for the average student, not your specific needs! Create a list of what criteria is non-negotiable. You will likely find a school with the programs you are looking for may not be the one with the biggest gymnasium.
Start the Inquiry Process
Private day and boarding schools plan enrollment five or ten years in advance. Your family, like many others, has probably discussed the idea for some time and planned out primary, secondary, and post-secondary goals. When you are ready, the inquiry process is the primary means for how schools sort and communicate with the hundreds and thousands of students that apply each year.
Go to any school's website, and usually on the homepage, in a frequently used area like the top or sides of the webpage, you can find the inquiry link. Essentially, it is a way to tell the school you are interested in learning more about them. It will ask for basic information like your name, interests, and reasons for applying. You can give as much or as little information as possible, but know that this is the first step.
The inquiry allows schools to communicate directly with you; you will start receiving information about events and specific programs in which you might be interested. When you get a link for a new event or opportunity to talk with a member of the admissions office, the best thing you can do is engage with them. Sign up for events and attend with questions; know that this is your first impression and shows you are committed to learning more about them and sharing yourself with them.
If you are interested in learning more about Rectory, we have monthly events that can be found here.
Reading through the article and creating a game plan is a great start. I encourage you to put a lot of emphasis on the research phase as there is so much available information online. You can narrow your search about what school will be the best fit for you early. Next month, we will discuss the nuts and bolts of the application and some tips and tricks for your visit and interview.
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