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If You Could Do It All Over Again

CanadaDadCanadaDad 1 replies1 discussionsRegistered User Forum Champion
As a parent starting to think about the BS process, I would like to hear from other parents (or current BS students) about the following:

1. Certain things that they think they did well during the application process to BS (how they selected schools, number of schools applied to, what they considered in making decisions etc.);
2. Things that they would do differently if they could; and

3. For those parents whose kids have completed at least a couple of years of BS (or students who have completed a couple of years of BS) what you are thinking now - has it been worth the expense, would you have chosen a different BS if you had the opportunity, would you have forgone BS entirely seeing what you've seen

edited May 2013 in Prep School Parents
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Replies to: If You Could Do It All Over Again

  • SevenDadSevenDad 14 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Junior Member
    Im' a parent with daughter wrapping up second year at St. Andrew's School (DE):

    1. What I think we did well:
    - Started looking at schools very early (late spring/early summer of app year)
    - Was very candid about daughter's strengths and weaknesses (fortunately, she was a very strong candidate academically)...I think this is more natural for "Tiger-ish" parents. Frankly I think many candidates who come on the forum are deluded about their relative strengths in the rarified applicant pools. Toto, you are not in Kansas anymore. (Though coming from Kansas could be a strength!)
    - Did not stick exclusively to "brand name" schools when in "to consider" mode
    - Focused heavily on fit vs. prestige
    - Visited every school daughter applied to, some twice
    - Only applied to schools in which we were genuinely interested and felt she had a good shot at admission (stats higher than average)...were fine with outcome if she got rejected at all schools (had more than acceptable back up).
    - Cultivated good relationships with AOs at all schools she applied to.

    2. What I think we'd do differently:
    - This may come as a shock to anyone who's been following our story for the past few years, but I think I'd have my daughter apply to Exeter despite what we felt was a lukewarm visit experience. Here's why...I think Exeter (and perhaps Andover?) cultivates a more truly **** student body than the other schools often named here. Or at least a higher percentage. SevenDaughter is a bit of nerd herself, so perhaps she would have fit in there despite her parents not getting the best vibe from the school.
    - Thacher...Thacher...Thacher. I'm not here to increase their app numbers, which are outstanding (as is their yield). Frankly, I think Thacher is one of the finest BS experiences in the country. If you are already sending your kid a plane ride away for school...put Thacher on your consider list. We were not ready for that two years ago, but would be now...especially after having visited the school. Wow. Your kid not into horses? Too bad, suck it up and get with the program...;-P

    3. Has it all been worth it?
    Yes. This answer is going to vary from family to family and student to student of course, but in our case, with our older daughter...St. Andrew's has been a true blessing. We are proud to be part of the SAS family and feel fortunate that she was admitted and gets to be part of such a great student body and among such great teachers and leaders.

    In case you don't know the backstory, SevenDaughter was admitted to both St. Paul's and St. Andrew's and choose the "lesser known" school. I know of other families (at SAS and other schools) who have made a similar choice and I think all are happy with their decisions to put fit over a brand name.

    Here's the thread I wrote documenting our entire process:
    edited May 2013
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  • GMTplus7GMTplus7 60 replies3 discussionsRegistered User Junior Member
    GMTson1 has been enrolled for a couple of years now. GMTson2 will be applying in this next cycle.

    These are the “regrets” we have from the prep school placement experience for S1:

    REGRET: We started the process VERY late
    We decided at Xmas time to pursue boarding school, because of impending move to another country. That gave us 3 weeks to select schools, register as a ‘standby’ to take the Jan-10 SSAT, ambush teachers for urgent recs, walk in cold to take the SSAT, do skype interviews, and stay up into the wee hours with him to write essays.
    LEARNING: If you value your sanity, start early

    REGRET: We picked schools purely by numbers
    Not knowing anything about boarding schools, we went online, sorted the schools by SSAT scores and picked the top handful on the list. S1 applied only to those far reach schools. Lol, we had never heard of any of them. We did not even know until a week before March-10 whether his SSAT score would even be in the ballpark. Miraculously he got accepted by a few of the schools, but they were not the one we predicted.
    LEARNING: If you don’t have an acceptable fallback school, cast a wide net. Don’t underestimate the difficulty (and randomness) of getting into the most selective schools

    REGRET: We didn’t give enough attention to logistics
    We are int’l, but are Americans living abroad. The school dismissal time for breaks does not jibe well with flight schedules to our side of the world. It would be a lot less hassle if his school was closer to a mega int’l airport like JFK, or at least close to our family members who live in the U.S., so he could stage for flights the next day. A lot of airports call themselves an “international” airport, but that could mean it has one cargo flight a week to Canada.
    LEARNING: Visit the school and find out how easy/difficult it is to get to. If you are domestic, consider how often you would like to visit school/home, and draw a driving-time radius on a map. If you are int’l, try to pick a school near JFK or LAX.

    REGRET: We bought too much new clothing for son before he started at his new school
    After he arrived on campus and saw what the other kids were wearing, half the new stuff we bought never left his suitcase. Memo to self: teenage boys won’t be caught dead wearing linen.
    LEARNING: You can always supplement stuff after your kid assesses the situation on campus a couple of weeks. And there is this thing called online shopping.

    REGRET: We bought airline tickets a year in advance for school breaks
    After elated parent patted himself on the back for booking a good deal on tix, son wants to visit new school friends during break.
    LEARNING: I’ll let you figure this one out…

    A RECENT OBSERVATION: This past March-10, we observed that S1 has many classmates whose siblings were WL at S1’s school
    LEARNING: We cannot take it as a given that S2 will going to the same school

    No, but overall it's worth it.
    edited May 2013
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  • QuennQuenn 1 replies0 discussionsRegistered User
    SevenDad, I quite agree about Exeter. Having had children at Exeter, SPS and SAS, and being intimately familiar with the significant strengths and weaknesses of all three schools, I will say that Exeter offers an **** experience that is unmatched. Our family did not apply to Exeter for two of our (academically qualified) children because it is a school where the consequences of a poor fit can be perhaps harsher than other schools. I believe that the segment of the applicant pool that would be a good fit for Exeter is narrower than most people realize.
    edited May 2013
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  • ChoatieMomChoatieMom 2 replies0 discussionsRegistered User New Member
    ChoatieKid is finishing his second year (where, oh where, has the time gone?).

    REGRET: Didn’t know until recently about the one local option that would have been an academically acceptable choice—high school within a local CC where DS could have graduated at 18 with an associate’s degree.

    REGRET: Thacher, Thacher, Thacher (or Cate) — Not a plane ride away.

    REGRET: [post=14478203]The Sanity and Morality of Spending $200K on High School[/post]

    REGRET: [post=14879417]Losing my Kid too Soon[/post]
    edited May 2013
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  • patronyorkpatronyork 3 replies0 discussionsRegistered User
    1. What we have done well

    We started very early. I visited all the schools in March, met admission directors and maintained communication since.

    We tried to focus on school culture and fits more than academics and reputation.

    We didn't apply to a large number of schools, instead focused on targeted schools that would seem to have better fit. (I visited 6 schools, family visit 5 schools and son applied to 4 schools, accepted by all)

    When choosing where to go, we as parents tried not to influence my son's decision. He chose Thacher over Cate, which was very fine by us.
    We liked both schools and I loved Cate very much but son loved Thacher more with his equestrian experience.

    2. What we would have done differently

    We ruled out the East coast schools. We wanted our son to be close to us. (We live in CA) So we applied to schools only in CA. I personally loved Choate since my grad school days. (I went to grad school close to Choate). Perhaps my son could have applied to Choate.
    edited May 2013
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  • 2prepMom2prepMom 19 replies0 discussionsRegistered User New Member
    1) Done well:
    Glad we visited schools. They are so different in person but pretty much look alike on paper.

    Glad we stayed very organized while applying early, with files, copies, tables. Stuff got lost and getting everything submitted in December gives lots of time to track it down, and the schools answer the phone then too.

    Glad we chose Exeter - it has been a warm, welcoming environment and my D loves it. The kind words posted above are true in our case, it has been a rich **** environment for her.

    2)Would do differently:
    Sent way too many clothes. Dress is casual, jeans and shorts. Send less and add things as you go. They all borrow from each other anyway.

    Consider the disadvantages of boarding more carefully. Boarding school is challenging for kids and families. We miss her and it is tough not to be as involved and supportive "on the ground", like helping with ECs, transport and projects. If you have good local options, they may well serve better than boarding for that reason. (The best option may be to live in Exeter and commute as a day student, which surprisingly many families move there to do, and those kids do seem to have an edge academically, with less distractions, and have more individual support for ECs outside the mainstream).
    edited May 2013
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  • IntlDadof2IntlDadof2 2 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Forum Champion
    I documented our process and its aftermath here - http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/prep-school-parents/1419371-asking-parents-advice-ahead-interview.html

    Done Well

    1) Visited all schools we applied to. Established good rapport with the AO's. We had good give and take with them during the application process, which helped our stress levels. If you get to know the AO "code" you should have a pretty good idea of where to focus your energies during the admissions process.

    2) Getting the kids ready for the interviews. We had them do mock interviews with friends and family who are familiar with the process. By the time we arrived they were comfortable and knew what to expect.

    Done Poorly

    1) Scheduling the SSAT at the end of a week of interviews after a six hour time shift and international travel. See my post for a synopsis of the results. A good SSAT score will not guarantee admission, but a poor one will exclude your child from many of the more competitive schools unless you have a special connection or EC.

    2) Underestimating the competitiveness of the process. Although many will soft-shoe the admissions process, understand that it is a competition. If you are applying to the more competitive schools, you have about a one in five or six chance even if your child is a straight A student with stellar SSATs and a variety of ECs.

    3) Too narrow a field. Although our end result was good, looking back we would have expanded the number of schools we applied to. Don't rely on reputation. Visit the schools and get to know them firsthand. We were surprised by a couple of schools, both positively and negatively, after visiting and talking with staff and students.
    edited May 2013
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  • NYCMomof3NYCMomof3 4 replies1 discussionsRegistered User
    IntlDadof2...what do you mean by AO code...examples?
    edited May 2013
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  • london203london203 6 replies0 discussionsRegistered User
    I have read this thread with interest. I guess we took a completely different approach to the application process -- but then again we did not apply to any of the GLADCHEMMS.... and we had 2 strong local options.

    But, basically my daughter only applied to 2 boarding schools. One because it was a terrific fit and we LOVED the AO when we met. The other because it was a reasonable choice and the essays were very similar so the application took about 25 minutes to complete.

    I guess we went more with the "natural" approach. She applied "as she is" and did not prep or practice. I felt like this was a good way to go, since it meant that if she was accepted, then she would be in a good "fit" situation, as well as be solid on an academic basis (if you assume that AO's know what kind of kid will be OK at their school).

    My daughter was fortunate to be accepted at the local option as well as both boarding schools. She narrowed the choice down to the local vs. one of the boarding schools.

    I do wonder occasionally whether we should have had her apply to one of the GLADCHEMMS just to see what result she might have gotten there.... but the reality is that we have a child that is smart, but loves to try new things and meet new people. I worried that the sometimes crushing pressure of a GLADCHEMMS school would prevent her from doing that. She is an only child so a component the reason we entertained the "going away" idea was for social and emotional growth reasons as well. It was not just about school and college acceptances for us. But that is OUR reasoning.... not to say any other reasoning is not valid -- this is just how WE approached it.

    I do think that if we had another child, we might have a different process... mostly because I think that each child has a different set of strengths to offer and, therefore, not all schools would fit both.
    edited May 2013
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  • classicalmamaclassicalmama 17 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Junior Member
    Such a good thread.

    Done well: Choosing, in the face of crazy odds, to apply to boarding school because our kid so very clearly needed it. Choosing NOT to send kid 2 to barding school even though his brother has done well there because other options will work as well or better for him.

    Done poorly: Faced with an overwhelming number of schools to apply to, we narrowed our son's choice down based on a sport that was his Big Thing back then. By the grace of God, at the very last minute, and over the grumbling of one parent, added another school without the sport because it sounded, from the website, like exactly the right place for our kid academically.

    Needless to say, the 13 year old's Big Thing sport is no longer a Big Thing. Fortunately, the kid had the smarts to know where he wanted to be. But if we had to do it again, we'd look more seriously at a wider variety of schools and not use one crtieria as a narrower--and SAS would have been on the list.
    edited May 2013
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  • SevenDadSevenDad 14 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Junior Member
    "If you are applying to the more competitive schools, you have about a one in five or six chance even if your child is a straight A student with stellar SSATs and a variety of ECs."

    THIS. I think many candidates and parents think that their straight A kid has better than average chances at even the most selective schools. This is actually not the case, which is another reason I bang the "Cast a wide net" drum so loudly.
    edited May 2013
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  • IntlDadof2IntlDadof2 2 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Forum Champion

    In our case we had a couple of AO's who kept in close contact, had follow up questions, responded immediately when we sent questions or comments.

    A couple of the AO's would respond in curt replies, often after several days or a week had gone by. Questions went wholly or partially unanswered.

    Perhaps I should have used another word than "code". What I meant is that an AO can give you some idea of the chances your child has simply in the way they behave.

    Our read of the AO's proved fairly accurate so we were not surprised much by the acceptance/rejection letters.
    edited May 2013
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  • soxmomsoxmom 7 replies0 discussionsRegistered User
    I had the same question NYCMomof3 had about "AO code" but a broader one too. I have often seen references from people on this board about establishing a good rapport or relationship with the AO. Can people give me some examples of what they mean by this? I never had any contact with the AOs after the day we visited the school and they interviewed us and our son. I encouraged my son to send a thank you email to the AOs (though frankly, I think he probably never actually did it). But beyond that, I would have felt very uncomfortable reaching out to the AO later myself -- do people actually do that, and if so, about what kinds of things?
    (I ask because we'll be doing this again for the next kid in two years)
    edited May 2013
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  • classicalmamaclassicalmama 17 replies0 discussionsRegistered User Junior Member
    My son didn't do anything more than the follow-up thank you (though we made sure it got sent and it was handwritten). I actually think too much contact might work against a kid--AO's are busy, busy and probably don't appreciate contact for the sake of contact. That said, I'm convinced that his rapport with his AO (he had an "awesome" interview) probably helped tip the scales in his favor. I'm not sure he could have prepared for that though--as London said, just being who they authentically are is probably most important. Exeter, for example, is an amazing place for kids who want to learn through active discussion and not so great for kids who learn better by listening to an authoritative voice. The AO's do their best, I think, to discern one from the other, and portraying yourself as someone you're not to get in is a path to unhappiness down the road, I think.
    edited May 2013
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  • PhotographerMomPhotographerMom 5 replies0 discussionsRegistered User
    The best thing we did (with both K1 and K2) was not let one sport drive the admissions process. We insisted that academics and comfort were paramount to everything else.
    edited May 2013
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