Selecting boarding schools which fit your needs and requirements takes a lot of time and effort. Once you have made your shortlist of schools, then you need to focus on the admissions process. The admissions process consists of testing, recommendations, the interview, financial aid, and making sure your child's admssions file is complete. Use this admissions checklist to keep you and your child on track. There are plenty of forms to fill out and a standardized admissions test to prepare for.
I have put admissions testing at the top of my checklist simply because it needs as much advance preparation as your child can give it. While standardized admissions tests are just one of several tools which the admissions professionals at each school will use to assess your child, they remain an important part of the assessment process. Most schools use the SSAT and ISEE. But there are other tests out there as well.
Once you have narrowed your choice of boarding schools to three to five, review the admissions requirements for each school carefully. Hopefully, all the schools on your list will use the same test. That will simplify matters enormously for both you and your child.
If, on the other hand, you end up with two or possibly three different tests, you will have to schedule, register, and pay for them. Scheduling these admissions tests works best when you start as far in advance as you possibly can. The SSAT opens its registration on August 1 and offers test dates in October, November, and December. It does offer dates in the winter and spring. But if the schools on your list have fixed admissions deadlines, you will need to shoot for one of the fall test dates. On the other hand, schools with rolling admissions offer you some welcome flexibility.
The ISEE offers its testing through Prometric. That's the organization which administers tests for just about any certification you can think of. You can schedule your child's test virtually anytime. If the schools which you have selected for your shortlist use the ISEE, you will have great flexibility scheduling the actual test. https://www.prometric.com/
The next step is to purchase a test preparation book or the online test preparation materials as soon as you can. Schedule a mock test for your child. This will accomplish two things: give your child a feel for how the test is organized and paced; show you which areas you might want to remediate.
This video offers an overview of the SSAT examination.
Regarding the test itself, it is very important that your child be comfortable and completely at ease with the test format and test conditions. She will be stressed out enough just having to take a test. Make sure she works two or three practice tests under conditions as close to actual test conditions as yo can emulate.
Once you identify any deficiencies, arrange for the extra help she needs. A couple of tutoring sessions usually does the trick. This extra help will build her confidence so that she will do her best on the actual test date.
Recommendations don't seem like something which needs to be dealt with much advance notice. But they do and here's why. Your child isn't the only student asking for teacher recommendations. You should allow a week or more depending on the time of the year for the teachers to do these. You will never see the recommendations mailed. All you can to do is to ake the teacher's word that she has filled out the form and mailed it in the envelope which you so kindly stamped. Try to hand out teacher recommendations in late September or early October. November is problematic because of the Thanksgiving holiday and all the school activities which take place at that time of the academic year.
This video explains how teacher recommendations work.
There are at least two parts to most interviews: the actual interview and the writing sample or essay. Even if the schools which you are looking at happen to be in your local area, interviews need to be scheduled in advance. Allow plenty of time for each interview. Work that planning into your list of admissions tasks. Yes, you could schedule back to back interviews at schools near you. But that is going to create huge amounts of stress for both you and your child. Space the interviews out. That will allow plenty of time for discussion and debriefing after the interview.
Always arrive at the interview as rested and relaxed as you can be. It is important to be able to read the admissions officer as best you can. While you can never be sure until you receive the acceptance letter, there will be telltale signs that they like you and your child.
Will you need some help with boarding school expenses? Then begin the financial aid process as soon as possible. Most schools use the PFS or Parents Financial Statement to understand financial need. While the application can be done online and the instructions are clear, make sure that you gather all the documentation you need in order to complete and submit your PFS application as soon as possible. Most schools have allocated a specific amount in their budgets for financial aid. Once those funds have been spoken for, there probably will not be any more money forthcoming for financial aid.
This video explains the basics of a personal financial statement.
Additional Items for International Students
Complete and submit your school application as soon as you can. Follow the normal admissions process for each boarding school. Do not hesitate to ask if you have questions or are not sure about anything. Once you are accepted by the school, it will give you a Form I-20 which allows you to apply for a student visa. The Form I-20 is part of the Student and Visitor Exchange Information System (SEVIS) which tracks information about all students coming to the United States.
Complete and submit your visa application. This is a very time-consuming process, especially if you live far from where the United States Embassy is located. The student visa application and interview is a detailed process requiring your child to attend an interview with a U.S. Consular official. You will have to complete many U.S. Immigration Service forms. Check with your local U.S. Consulate for details of payment information.
Schedule your visa application interview. The student applying for the visa must meet with a U.S. Consular official. That means that you must spend time preparing for that interview. Know what questions will be asked. Understand how serious this part of the process is. It is often necessary to schedule visa interview appointments well in advance depending on where you live. Allow several months advance time to complete this part of the process.
Have all documentation in order. A passport valid for at least six months after date of entry is required. Academic documentation such as TOEFL test results, SSAT scores, and transcripts of your high school work will also be reviewed. Documentation of adequate financial resources is required. Since your child might be traveling alone when she enters the United States, take time to coach her on the kind of questions she should expect when she is interviewed by the United States Immigration officers at the border.
Pay attention to visa restrictions. Student visas have strict time limits. You must adhere to these. Overstaying your visa by even one day can void your visa. In other words, you cannot decide to change anything about your visa terms without serious consequences.
Complete the admissions file
Your child’s admissions file is not complete until all the forms have been submitted. No decision can be made unless the file is complete. Don't relax until your child's file is complete. Make sure that you beat any deadlines by several days at a minimum. Several weeks or a month in the case of domestic applicants is a good idea. The point of this admissions checklist is to help you stay organized throughout what is a rather lengthy and detailed process.
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