If the School Fits
It’s the time of year when acceptance letters are mailed out across the country. 6th grades, 8th graders and college hopefuls wait with great anticipation beside their mailbox hoping for the fat manila envelope instead of the trim number 10 with a kind words, a colorful letterhead and firm rejection.
The issue of admissions has always been tricky because we often see a wait list or a rejection letter as failure. Our kids didn’t meet their standards or they just didn’t look at the whole picture. In reality, the entire admissions process relies on a much more predictable factor: you. We at Davidson Tutoring emphasize again and again how important it is to choose a school that is the best fit for your child.
US News and World Reports also emphasizes the importance for high school seniors to pick a school that is the best fit, rather than a school that is closest or most prestigious: “Yes, you start the process of choosing a college with a careful look at yourself, not with a list of colleges. For it is your own assessment of your interests, your attitudes, and your abilities that is central to finding a college.” Many times, if a student attends a school for its academic merit, they may end up unhappy without the extracurricular activities that fulfill them. They even boast a college personality quiz to help filter through the hundreds of choices.
What, then, should students and parents do as they sift through brochures, college recruiters, and peruse school websites? We’ve compiled a small list of questions that you and your student can use to concretely hammer out a few specifications for a school that would meet your student’s needs.
– Do I want to go to a school that is rigorously academic? How much time do I spend studying now? Can I transfer to a school where the work load is double?
– Just because a student is getting straight As doesn’t mean they are ready for the Ivies. Are you able to do the coursework?
-A name brand school won’t guarantee your success.
Second, school credo!
-Do you want to attend a religious, secular, non-denominational, coed, highly structured or academically flexible school?
Third, location and other logistics!
– For college students, how far are you willing to move? Is it ok if you don’t make it home for holidays or do you want to drive home on the weekends?
– For Middle School and High school students, how long is too long for mom or dad to drive you to school in the morning? Be practical about geographical location when considering schools.
-Financial assistance, does the school offer scholarships.
-Will siblings be able to attend at a later date?
Fourth, outside programs!
– Does your child play the oboe? Don’t send them to a school with a great sports program! Use extra-curricular activities to narrow down choices. A track and field student at a performing arts school may feel out of place and not be happy. Do they need a big school that can accommodate all of their myriad talents? Then look for that.
– Does college or high school need to be quadruple the size of Alaska? No! If your student wants to be a big fish in a small pond or a big fish in a bigger pond, you need to take this into account. Shy students need a community that draws them out of their shell and large schools, no matter how prestigious, will overwhelm them.
Sixth, what feels like home?
– In all of these factors, what campus feels like home? The culture of the school makes a huge difference for each and every student.
– Attend sporting events, concerts, plays (now is the perfect time since end of the year usually means spring concerts and events!). Don’t just visit the campus for an interview and a tour. See if you can clandestinely attend events and talk to other students and parents. Sneak into the dinning hall for a meal.
– College and high school should feel like a home away from home. Really, this will be a full-time job for these students, so it is important that they eagerly anticipate each day. This is huge for each individual student since