By Ann Miller
Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid
It seems like yesterday that GFA was welcoming you and other families to our Fall Open Houses, and the admission team was beginning the interviews and tours process. Now we have turned the corner (and the calendar) to a new year and a new stage of the admission process.
Independent schools across the Fairchester league are collectively aware of the complexity of the application process. It takes a lot from both the students and the families. Many schools, including GFA, are making strides to simplify these steps including the adoption of the SAO, a common application used by many of us. We maintain that there is no better way to understand the student experience and community of a school than to come take a look —schedule an interview, take a tour, attend classes, games, plays, open houses and connect with local GFA families. Yet, in the same breath, we encourage students to continue to get good grades, which requires not missing too many days of school. Don’t forget to layer in the standardized tests. I fear we have made applying to independent school as complicated as applying to college, yet the applicant rarely has the benefit of maturity a high school senior enjoys.
At this point in the season, many families and students are exhausted by the process. And now comes the time when you need to hear some good and some disappointing news, make a decision in a fairly short period of time, all the while continuing to keep those good grades up!
We understand where you are right now and want to offer some tips on navigating the next few months.
- Give yourself a break. Literally, take a break from talking/thinking/worrying about what you (or your child) will do next year. The same questions and decisions will be there when you return to thinking about it — but it is nice to introduce new topics of discussion to the dinner table, when you are with your friends, or even in your own inner conversations as you walk the dog!
- Trust your instincts. You know your child (and yourself). You are better served following your heart than the advice of your best friend, neighbor, or random surveys floating around the internet. (Of course, speaking to current families at a school is a good bet — that is how 80% of independent school families make their choice!)
- Keep an open mind straight through until March 8. While all of our schools try to follow the February 22 notification date, some schools, for schedule reasons, are not able to do so. That means you may hear from schools as early as January, and as late as February 22. And of course if you are looking at boarding school, you will have to wait until March 10 (but that is a whole other story!) There are many bad reasons to pick a school, but right up there for me is because you heard from them first.
- Revisit Days are key. You may have not visited your ultimate first choice since early fall, and you have learned a lot about yourself and the process since that time. In my mind, there is nothing more important than the revisit day. But don’t go to 10. Limit yourself to your top 2–3, and focus on those. Otherwise, you will have too much data to manage. (Hint: the GFA Revisit date is March 5!)
- Use admission directors and staff as the professional resources we are. We do not want you to come to our school if it isn’t a fit, so ask the hard questions and we will give you honest answers. (That is actually the fun work of admission!)
- Buyer’s remorse is a thing. It is a very long time between March 8, when you make your decision, and September 1 when school starts. There will be lots of opportunity to rethink your decision. Don’t! There is a reason why you selected your school, and trust that decision.
I hope this list helps. Remember, a school would be lucky to have you, and in the end, it really is all about fit.