Secondary School Planning
This handbook consolidates information that Foote School families have found helpful in the secondary school admissions process.
We invite you to enlist us as your active partners in this endeavor. The more we know about your thoughts and plans regarding secondary school, the better we can serve you and your son or daughter throughout the admissions process. Foote School has a successful track record in enrolling students at a variety of secondary schools and our students are well prepared for their secondary school experiences. For most students, more than one choice would be appropriate. As you learn about the various school options and determine which schools might serve your child best, we will be happy to provide names of Foote parents who have previously enrolled children at schools of interest.
Carol Maoz 203-777-3464
|Starting Off: Where to Apply?
A Student and Family Decision
Some students and their parents may already have identified the schools to which they will apply. Nonetheless, a meeting with Liam Considine may provide helpful information about those schools or others the family has not considered. In most cases it is useful to consider a range of options before finalizing a list.
For students within the traditional commuting distance to Foote, there are a limited number of day schools that prove to be a reasonable commute. When considering the viability of a day school commute, it is also helpful to take into account factors such as the location of a parent’s workplace. Detailed information about day schools is available from the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS).
Basic questions students and parents should consider as they draft their list of schools.
1. Are you considering boarding at school or will you live at home? If you will live at home, your choices have necessarily narrowed to a small group of independent schools in the immediate area, your community’s high school and the local parochial schools.
3. Have you considered the possible advantages of a single sex school?
4. Are there special academic programs, activities, or sports you hope to pursue in secondary school?
Based on the answers to these questions, and with suggestions from the school, parents and students can begin to develop a list of up to half a dozen schools that they are interested in visiting and learning more about.
Most students applying to independent and parochial schools file three to six applications. Some are encouraged to apply to more for various reasons. A few applicants can select a single school, apply, and be accepted. In general, this is not a recommended strategy. Because it is not possible to predict with 100 percent accuracy which students will be admitted to a particular school, families generally develop a plan that includes at least one application to a school at which they believe their son or daughter is likely to be admitted (“probable accept”), and one to a school that is desirable but where the student’s record would make acceptance much less certain (“reach”). The other applications are submitted to schools at which they have a good chance of acceptance.
Admission directors tell us they rely on the following criteria to determine admission decisions, though they may weigh different elements differently. In our experience it is critically important to pay careful attention to all aspects of the Candidate Admission File, from formal application materials to thank you notes and student tour guide comments.
The following items will be part of each school’s consideration:
1. The transcript
Transcripts consist of grades and courses taken.
2. The School Recommendation
3.English & Math Teacher Recommendations
Most independent schools require interviews. They provide an opportunity for students to put a more personal and unique stamp on their candidacy. Students should be sincere and candid during interviews. Practicing interviewing and anticipating questions is worthwhile preparation. Even students who characterize themselves as shy can use the interview setting to advantage if they prepare for it. Foote students participate regularly in classroom discussion and may have spoken before the school community at assemblies, in drama, and at ther events. These experiences are good preparation for interviewing, and Mr. Considine is able to provide a practice interview experience so that students have a sense of what to expect.
7. Extracurricular Experiences
Secondary schools are looking for evidence that a student has interests beyond classroom work, and that he/she has sought opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities at school or in the community.
8. Other factors
There may be elements in a student’s profile, including connections or family history, that make him or her a particularly attractive candidate for a given school. In general, these are the last considerations a school will weigh, but they can definitely make a difference. If a family believes that special factors might play a role in an admission decision, it is wise to discuss that information with Mr. Considine. Occasionally a connection or other information assumed to be a positive factor for an applicant becomes a negative one because of the way it is presented.
Secondary school admission directors have assured us that students and parents should not worry about “too many Foote School applicants” to a particular school. There is no cap on admissions from a single school and the admission standard is not changed because a large number of applications are received from one school. An individual applicant will not be disadvantaged simply because many classmates are interested in the same school.
Before starting it is useful for students and parents to identify three to five characteristics that should be conveyed to the admissions committee at each school for them to “know” this particular student. She loves science? He has been active in community service for several years? He has a strong interest in writing? She has particular skill at languages or at a sport? Interest in world issues? Love of children?
Next consider how best each of these characteristics can be conveyed through the various parts of the admission process. Some may be evident in the school record, or could be communicated in teacher recommendations, the essay, the interview, or in the response to a short-answer question on the application form. If you can’t determine a way to communicate one of these important characteristics, talk with Mr. Considine. He can offer suggestions or may be able to communicate or reinforce a particular interest or strength directly in his communication with the school.
The application form affords students and parents an opportunity to provide the school with important background information about the student. Some advice before you begin:
• To allow for brainstorming and organizing ideas, students should photocopy each application and prepare a draft of all information requested before they write or type directly on the original application.
• Students should give attention to special instructions for completion:
1. Guidelines for Completing Secondary School Applications
• Read all parts of the application thoroughly prior to beginning
• Pass on recommendation forms to appropriate teachers
• Submit school report form to the Registrar’s Office by November 25.
• Complete a draft of the application on a photocopy.
• Complete several drafts of your essays.
• Review “advanced drafts” and, later, the final copies of your
• Complete the actual application form, and have it proofread by an adult.
• Photocopy all completed applications and essays before mailing,
• Mail your application well before the deadline for each school to
2. The Application Essay
An application essay should be a sincere and well-crafted representation of a student’s best work. A good essay should:
a. represent the student’s academic and intellectual development.
Mr. Considine, Mrs. Maoz, Ms. Neitlich and Mr. Milburn are all happy to work with students to fine-tune a draft of their essay. Students may schedule an appointment with any of these faculty and come prepared with an advanced draft. Choosing a topic and developing the ideas of the essay are the responsibility of the student, but we are happy to talk with students about their ideas at any point in the process.
3. Graded Writing Samples
Many schools require or request a graded writing sample as part of the application. Again, read the instructions carefully. Some schools specifically require an English paper; others accept a sample from another academic subject. Obviously, a paper that has received high marks from the teacher and is an example of the student’s best work should be submitted.
Most secondary schools require recommendations from a student’s CURRENT English and math teacher. In some cases, the school will require a supplemental or allow an optional recommendation from a teacher or another adult. Optional teacher recommendations should be requested from a member of the faculty who knows the student well and has taught him or her in a subject of interest or strength, or a subject in which the student may have struggled, but through perseverance finished well. Optional recommendations may be requested from an adult who knows the student well, such as a coach, music teacher, scout leader or a clergy member.
Keep in mind that admission committees look for recommendations that not only praise the inherent capabilities of an applicant, but also speak to examples of the student’s potential for hard work, perseverance and acceptance of challenge. Secondary schools expect students will encounter areas of difficulty in their high school years. One goal of the admission process is to identify students who will be able to meet and grow from these challenges.
6a. Teacher Recommendations
Foote faculty take the task of writing recommendations very seriously, committing a good deal of time and thought to the task. Teachers use their evenings, weekends and vacation time to write recommendations on behalf of their students. It is thus customary and fitting to include a brief note to the faculty member asking for a recommendation for the secondary school admission process. Be sure that your note expresses gratitude for their efforts on your behalf.
• Print neatly or type your full name in the appropriate space on each form, and sign forms that require your signature before you pass them on to teachers.
• Check to see which forms require parent or guardian signatures. They should be signed before they are given to teachers, who will submit them directly to the schools.
• Note due dates on each recommendation form.
• Hand-deliver recommendation forms to the recommending teacher. Do not leave the form on the teacher’s desk or ask someone else to deliver the form for you.
• Enclose a brief, polite note with the form asking each teacher to write a recommendation on your behalf.
6b. School Recommendation
Foote sends an enthusiastic letter of advocacy on behalf of each applying eighth and ninth grader to every school to which he or she applies. The letter is a profile of the student and discusses the strengths, passions and areas of growth of that student. It reflects a thorough knowledge of the student based on reports from a variety of teachers the student has worked with at Foote. This school recommendation, signed by Mr. Considine and Mrs. Maoz, is submitted as a cover letter with the school’s portion of the application packet.
7. The Role of Parents in the Process
8. The Admission Package
Foote School’s Responsibility:
Student/ Family Responsibility:
Common Application Form
Many schools accept the common application form as a convenience to students who are applying to several schools. You can find the application at the Gateway to Prep Schools and the Standard Application Online.
Note that many schools now provide an on-line application option.
1. Read all the directions carefully.
Timeliness is critical in the financial aid process. Financial aid is limited at most schools and is distributed first to those admitted applicants whose forms are received on time.
Need-Blind vs Need-Based Admission
In a need-blind admission process, applicants for admission are evaluated without regard to their ability to pay. After admission decisions are made, applicants who have applied for financial assistance receive a separate letter from the school financial aid office outlining how much financial assistance, if any, is offered. In this process some admitted students will receive a financial aid award calculated on the basis on family need. Other admitted students, however, may receive a letter indicating that no financial aid is available. Schools elect to use this process because they seek to separate the admissions and financial aid processes and wish to communicate to candidates that their record has earned them a place at the school, even if the school’s financial aid budget cannot fulfill their financial need.
In a need-based admission process, ability to pay is considered during the admission process. The admissions committee is authorized to spend a budgeted amount as it admits students to the incoming class. Some applicants requiring financial aid are admitted and financial aid awards are provided to those students. Other strong candidates may be wait listed or denied admission because the school has expended its budgeted financial aid. During the past decade many schools have moved to a need-based aid policy. They seek to anticipate and control financial aid costs, and believe that it is not helpful to offer admission without financial aid to students who will require financial aid to attend.
Parents are encouraged to ask admission officers about the financial aid policies of the schools to which they are applying and to discuss their questions or concerns with Mr. Considine or Mrs. Maoz.
The fundamental preparation for standardized testing is to read, read, read! Reading is effective preparation for all subtests, even mathematics.
Kaplan SSAT & ISEE Upper Level:
The Princeton Review: Cracking the SSAT and ISEE:
Peterson’s SSAT/ISEE Success: Elaine Bender.
Special SSAT Administration
Special testing accommodations for the SSAT are available with submission of the appropriate form (in the back of the Registration Booklet) and documentation to SSAT. A licensed evaluator* must complete one section of the registration form.
* licensed evaluator: “a neuropsychologist, psychiatrist,
Students with documented learning differences who would benefit from accommodations specific to their needs are encouraged to seek “Special Administration” from the SSAT. Be aware, though, that such status must be reapplied for prior to each test registration, even if it has been granted for an earlier test date. The ISEE (see below) has similar requirements. Visit www.erbtest.org for details.
ISEE ( Independent School Entrance Exam)
The ISEE is administered by the Educational Records Bureau (ERB), and is accepted by many of the schools to which Foote Students apply. The ISEE is similar to the SSAT in format, but may be taken only once in a six month period and must be taken in conjunction with a formal application to secondary school (no practice tests). More information about the ISEE is available through the ERB website. You may download their annual Student Guide.
Foote administers the ERB (Educational Records Bureau) test in annually to students in grades 5-9. We use the results of the test as an internal diagnostic tool and to provide Foote students with practice taking standardized tests. ERBs include national and independent school norms, and provide useful information about where Foote students stand in relation to their peer group nationally and at other independent schools. When families meet with Mr. Considine they review and discuss ERB results for the individual student and respond to questions parents have about testing. ERB scores provide information about specific subtest areas a student may need to study prior to taking the SSAT or ISEE. ERB test scores are not inclued on the transcript, nor does Foote School send ERB results to secondary schools unless they are specifically requested by a school or parent.
VI. Visiting Schools
Visiting schools can be a rewarding experience for students and their parents. Parents have the primary role in the choice of a secondary school for their child. The process provides an opportunity for parents to teach good decision-making skills their child will use for rest of his or her life. Spending time together visiting, interviewing and evaluating schools can be an exceptional learning experience. For many parents, it is an unusual opportunity to learn more about their child’s self-knowledge. For students, it offers a chance to work with parents in a different role, that of partner and advocate.
Many students find it helpful to make brief notes about their impressions of each school, noting features they liked and disliked. This helps later when student and parents sit down to decide on a final list of applications, and is especially useful when families visit schools over several months.
Open houses are scheduled by most day schools and provide an introduction to a school, its programs and values, without actually interviewing. Generally held in the evening or on weekends, open houses usually include tours and opportunities to speak with faculty and current students as well as admissions staff.
It is a good practice for students and their parents to cross-reference their school calendars and other planners in order to determine several convenient visiting days. Flexibility is important, since it may not be possible to schedule an appointment on your first choice date.
Interviews are an exchange. The admissions officer can learn more about a student and his or her family, and the family has the opportunity to learn more about the school. The typical admissions officer truly enjoys meeting students and getting to know them, and earnestly strives to avoid scaring or embarrassing admission candidates.
Everyone involved has a stake in doing his/her part to ensure that the time involved in the interview is well spent. The admission officer has the responsibility to be knowledgeable about the school and interested in the candidate. Many schools allow time for the applicant to talk with an admission officer and, afterward, for parents to talk with the admission officer, either with the student or separately. The student should be prepared to talk about his/her own interests and experiences and should be ready with school-specific questions for the admissions officer. Parents should have questions as well and be prepared to discuss their child.
During the interview students or parents may be asked to list other schools being considered. It’s fine to provide this information, which indicates that you are involved in a thoughtful process. It is not necessary to rank the schools or to swear that one school is your first choice if it isn’t or if you haven’t determined a first choice. Students and parents can report the schools they plan to visit without ranking them. Even if your feelings about a particular school are undecided or ambivalent at the time of the interview, it is important to project a strong interest learning about the school. If, later in the process, this school becomes a top choice, it would be unfortunate if the admission officer remembered that you seemed uninterested or expressed little enthusiasm during the visit. This advice applies to both parents and students.
It is helpful to inquire about the dress code of any school you will visit, and students should dress in a manner that is consistent with school policy. If in doubt, boys should wear a jacket and tie, and girls should wear a skirt or slacks and a blouse. If the school does not have a dress code, a polo shirt and khakis for boys and nice trousers or a skirt for girls are good choices.
Student Interview Preparation
1. Prepare three school-specific questions based on careful and thorough research. Don’t ask questions that can be answered by reviewing the first few pages of the school’s viewbook.
2. Spend some “quality time” thinking about yourself before the interview:
Some Questions Students May Be Asked
• Please describe your favorite teacher of all time. What made him or
Some Questions Students May Want to Ask
Parent Interview Preparation
Some Questions Parents May Be Asked
• How would you describe your child?
Some Questions Parents May Want to Ask
• Do the students come together as a whole during the week?
Boarding School Questions
• Are there structured study halls in the evening? Where do they
To Accept an Offer of Enrollment
When a student has been offered a place in any school, the response should be prompt and polite. Sign the enrollment contract and return it with the deposit as soon as possible. If you need additional information in order to make a decision, call to get that information or make plans for a second visit soon after receiving your acceptance letter.
To Decline an Offer of Enrollment
When a student is accepted at a school and chooses to go elsewhere, it is polite to write a prompt and brief note of thanks to the Director of Admission. The note should thank the school for the offer, and inform them of the decision to go elsewhere. Most schools appreciate hearing where you plan to enroll. Promptly declining an offer of admission may make room for a student on the wait list.
Wait lists are perhaps the most unpredictable part of the admission process. Each year admission from the wait list varies greatly from one school to another, and the number of students admitted from wait lists varies greatly from year to year. There really is no way of predicting wait list outcomes.