Exciting and intimidating — that’s what most parents feel as they search and apply for the right school for their children. For many, there can seem no end to the forms, tests and events to attend. Effort is mandatory during this journey — rightly so as you are not only picking a school, but seeking a pathway towards a bright future for your loved ones.
Fortunately, Kristen Mariotti of Emma Willard School, a private boarding and day high school for girls in Troy, New York, and a leader in girls’ education for over 200 years, can help. Below are her tips to make the application process easier — and even fun.
1. List, list, list
Make a list of not just your one “dream” school, but your many dream schools. This is to prepare for the possibility of not getting into your top choice. As the admissions process at independent schools is highly competitive, this means even straight-A, award-winning artists, athletes and musicians need to have “back-up” schools in mind. Try to aim listing five schools, ranked from what is most important to what’s nice to have and what’s not necessary.
To do this, start by understanding each school’s unique offerings. Learn more about its student community, co-curricular offerings, campus feel and of course, academics. These are its core DNA — and every school has one.
For example, Emma Willard is one of the oldest girls boarding schools in the nation and is today home to students coming from 36 countries including China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somaliland, Turkey, Vietnam and Thailand.
At this independent school for girls, students follow a curriculum with over 130 courses to choose from and benefit from personalised study programmes — Practicum and Signature. Students can also join clubs and activities such as music performance, Mock Trial, and Science Olympiad; creating products like the school newspaper The Clock or Triangle literary magazine; and many more.
The next step is to get a proper feel of the campus. The rule of thumb is that if you feel like your child fits in during this visit, that’s a good sign. While some schools have traditional open house events, others host tours for families or may only have virtual tours. It’s advisable to do your research and sign up as soon as you can, especially if you’re coming from out of town.
During these visits, there are usually three approaches – campus tours, classroom visits and presentations. On a guided campus tour, you’ll get to see classrooms, common areas, and residence halls, as well as meet faculty members and staff. During classroom visits, you’ll have the opportunity to peek into classes and experience for yourself how they are conducted. Presentations are more straightforward and may only cover the programmes and offerings available at the school. It’s less experiential compared to campus tours and classroom visits.
Remember to ask questions. You can even reach out to students and teachers to get deeper insight.
After plenty of consideration, you’ve finally decided which schools to apply to. Here is where the real work starts. There are several ways to apply to multiple independent schools with The Standard Application Online (SAO) being the most widely accepted. Other platforms include TABS and Gateway to Prep.
You can apply to Emma Willard School for free! Check out this application checklist as a guide.
To make your child’s application stand out, make sure you fill out the application carefully and completely. Essays should show a clear reason for choosing the school — let your child’s accomplishments be known, with supplemental materials such as art portfolios, athletic awards and personal recommendations attached. Check for grammar and spelling errors before submitting.
Almost every independent school requires an interview. Sometimes, these may happen before the application is complete whereas in other cases, it is scheduled upon submission of your application. These interviews can be in person or virtual via zoom or other online platforms. Check with each school to see how they will conduct interviews.
Be aware of application deadlines. Avoid procrastinating and apply as soon as you can! Believe it or not, the admissions departments at independent schools feel equally as stressed as you are about enroling students they want. Once you’ve been accepted to a school and decide to attend, let the other schools know right away. They’re as eager to hear from you.
We wish you all the best in your applications. To apply to Emma Willard School (for free!), click here.