We’re delighted to introduce a new series of expert advice about private school admissions from our private middle and high school counseling partner, Glasofer Educational Consulting.
Applying to Private Schools this Fall? Here’s Your Summer To-Do List.
Boost your child’s academic and extracurricular profile while minimizing summer stress!
Congratulations on reaching the end of the school year! After the tumultuous year we’ve just endured, summer could not have arrived sooner. Whether your child learned remotely, in person, or both, we can all agree that the past year was emotionally draining. Fortunately, summer is the perfect season to unwind and recover. At the same time, summer is an optimal time to boost your child’s candidacy for private school admission—and these goals are not mutually exclusive. By planning ahead and adopting a thoughtful approach, it’s possible to recharge and strengthen your child’s academic and extracurricular profile. To help get you started, we’ve created a summertime to-do list—several tips that you don’t need to skip the beach to achieve. Read on to learn more!
1. Assess the Past School Year
Because this year was so unusual—particularly in terms of school schedules, student experience, and content coverage—we encourage you to thoughtfully review the net effect on your child and reflect on his or her specific needs. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach—what makes sense for your child might differ from what’s best for your child’s friends. For many students already enrolled in private school, there’s a good chance they completed most of the material covered in a typical year, but that may not be the case for your child. You may want to consider summer academic enrichment, particularly if your child struggled academically, teacher feedback warrants it in a particular subject, or your child is requesting academic enrichment.
Another reason you might seriously consider structured summer academic enrichment is content related, i.e. if your child’s school had shortened or primarily remote school days that significantly detracted from the typical coverage of material. Getting up to speed on key concepts and skills that were not taught this year will help ease the transition to the next grade in the fall and better prepare your son or daughter for future academic success, not to mention admission applications. If this is the situation your family finds yourselves in, rest assured, it is possible to find summer academic opportunities that are engaging and fun. Seek out project-based, hands-on learning experiences in the summer—there are a number of local schools and camps offering these types of in-person, experiential opportunities. Also, consider combining an academically-oriented program with a non-academic activity that excites your child (or alternate the experiences to provide variety and reduce fatigue). Fortunately, there are a number of great local summer programs to consider:
- Pingry Summer
- Delbarton Summer Programs
- Gill St. Bernard’s Summer Institute
- Newark Academy Summer Programs
- Kent Place Summer Camp
- Wardlaw+Hartridge Summer Adventures
In addition to school or camp-based programs, depending on your child’s unique needs and temperament, you may also consider one-on-one academic support through Summit Prep’s individual academic tutoring.
2. Nurture Your Child’s Interests through Extracurriculars
When it comes to day and boarding school admissions, extracurriculars (i.e. athletics, arts, and community service) play an important role in admission decisions. Schools care about what experiences, talents, and perspectives applicants will bring to their community and how new students will make positive contributions to the life of the school. In addition to considering students’ extracurricular skill levels, private schools seek to understand why students are involved with their particular activities, their level of engagement and commitment, and what all of this reveals about the student’s personality and identity. It’s obvious to an admission officer when applicants genuinely enjoy their activities, and, on the contrary, when they engage in an extracurricular largely or solely out of duty or a desire to “build their resume.”
If your child already participates in an activity that he or she is passionate about, provide further opportunities for engagement and continue to focus on improvement during the summer. However, if your child is unsure about what to do this July and August, or if she or he participates in activities that are driven more by obligation than passion, consider a different approach. Talk to your child to understand his or her curiosities and desires and work together to seek out opportunities to explore them. Beyond assessing through application questions and essays, private schools will ask applicants about their interests during admission interviews, and it’s much easier—not to mention more compelling for the listener!— for children to talk about pursuits they genuinely enjoy as opposed to an activity that parents think will look good to an admission committee. Team up with your child to network with friends, family, or local organizations. Be creative in identifying engaging opportunities, including volunteer work. Encourage an adventurous spirit and support trying something entirely unfamiliar—this could be the summer that your child discovers a new, lifelong passion!
3. Set Specific Goals
You know your child better than anyone, and during the private school admission process you should expect to answer questions about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Some areas for improvement will be obvious, while others are more subtle, and the proactive reflection recommended above will help immensely as you adopt a “whole child” perspective, looking beyond academics to character traits, typical responses to success and failure, and overall temperament. Regardless of age, everyone can benefit from goal setting related to self-improvement. It’s important to approach this type of reflection with realism and humility: review comments from teachers and coaches, feedback shared by others who have gotten to know your child well, and your own observations.
After identifying a few opportunities for growth, select one or two to focus on, with the goal of making measurable progress by the fall. For example, if your child excels academically but encounters difficulty when engaging collaboratively with peers, consider a group-oriented activity or camp that focuses on interpersonal skills and team building. Discuss with your child a specific target for the camp in advance, and identify behaviors and actions that will help reach the goal. Not only will your child be more likely to experience the sweet taste of success, but efforts to address an area of weakness will demonstrate self-awareness and an applicant’s willingness to respond positively to feedback—prized qualities to an admission committee.
4. Encourage Summer Reading
Whether your child already loves books or is a reluctant reader, everyone can benefit from summer reading! Beyond the advantages of improving vocabulary (especially for the ISEE, SSAT, HSPT, or Delbarton Entrance Exam) and preventing “summer slide,” reading can be a pleasurable and relaxing activity. Summer reading shouldn’t feel like a chore; be sure to allow your child to take the lead in deciding what to read. If you’re feeling stuck about which books to recommend, ask your librarian for suggestions based on what your child has enjoyed reading in the past or visit a local bookstore. Also, depending on your child’s interests, think beyond books to other types of publications, whether print or online. Reading regularly helps foster curiosity and intellectual engagement, makes your child a better conversationalist, and prepares him or her to articulate reading choices if asked this (common) question during a private school admission interview.
5. Fit in Time for Fun
Don’t forget that it’s summertime, and we can all benefit from a break—children and parents alike. There are myriad positive social and emotional benefits associated with finding enjoyment in daily life. Make a conscious effort to fit in time for unstructured fun! Joy and laughter are most often found in community, and many children missed out on a range of social activities this past year. Talk to your children to find out what they find enjoyable and what they missed most due to the pandemic, so you can incorporate some of these ideas this summer. September will be here before we know it, and facilitating a summer that serves to recharge, fulfill, and ignite passion will best position your child for a successful back-to-school transition—as well as a successful admission application.
Dina Glasofer, founder, and Dale Seabury are former admission and marketing professionals who worked together at The Pingry School. As former members of the Pingry School’s admission committee, both Dina and Dale understand what personal qualities resonate with admissions officers, partnering with clients to present themselves in the most authentic, polished way possible to bring their candidacy to life and maximize admissions success. They are focused on demystifying the admissions process and helping families find the right-fit school for each applicant, with as little stress as possible.
Interested in working with Glasofer Educational Consulting on your upcoming private school applications? Summit Prep clients will receive a special discount on admissions counseling services. For more information, please contact Dina directly: firstname.lastname@example.org, (917) 804-0070, or glasoferconsulting.com/contact.