Tower's Secondary School Placement Workshops Prepare Students for a Successful Process
Secondary School Information Sessions
In September, the Director of Secondary School Placement teaches workshops that cover topics relative to Secondary School Placement. Topics include:
1. Creation of “Interest and Activity” sheets on which students record their extracurricular pursuits
2. Development of a “Brag Sheet” to be used as a basis for applications and interviews
3. Discussion of each student’s set of criteria for a school, and the development of a spreadsheet to evaluate schools based on these criteria
4. Presentation of typical interview questions plus a few good questions for students to ask during interviews. We also provide helpful hints to take the anxiety out of the interview process.
5. Practice interviews and mock interviews with administration
6. Receive feedback from interviews
SSAT Prep Sessions
In October and November, eighth graders take SSAT prep classes. Basic test-taking strategies (Should I guess? Should I skip questions?) will be discussed. Sessions will also be devoted to math review, practice with analogies and the writing sample component.
- June-August | Parent Meetings
- August-Early September | Schedule School Visits
- September | Attend Secondary School Fair, Finalize Schedules with Schools
- October-November | Visit Schools, Determine Application List, Request Recommendations
- November-December | Complete Applications, Take the SSAT
- January | Submit Applications
- March 10 | Admission Decisions
- April 10 | Enrollment Decisions
- April-May | Course Options and Registration
- Financial Aid
During the spring and summer, parents meet with the Director of Secondary School Placement to discuss placement possibilities. The first meeting is for parents only. It is helpful to meet several times in this early stage of considerations.
At these initial meetings, we will discuss the types of secondary schools each family would like to consider. School size, location (urban or rural?), degree of academic competitiveness, emphasis (sports or arts?), distance from home, single gender or coed, boarding or day, will all be discussed as factors. A list of 6 to 8 schools will be developed based on these determining factors.
Select Schools to Visit
Review secondary school websites. They are a convenient place to make an initial inquiry and to have printed information sent to you. Of course, you may also call the school directly to initiate contact. Students and parents should review the websites and print catalogs, talk to families with children currently attending these schools, and with any other knowledgeable people. Using this information, families should generate a list of 4-6 schools to visit.
Schedule School Visits and Interviews
Parents call the secondary school directly to schedule visits and interviews. If a family is sure of their interest in the school, scheduling an interview can be done during the first call to a school requesting a print catalog. The earlier these appointments are scheduled, the more likely the school will be able to accommodate the student’s schedule. Interviews may be scheduled on Saturdays (except day schools) and should not be scheduled on days with science labs or games. Mention your child’s interests when scheduling your visit and request a tour guide who is involved with these activities.
Important Notes: School visits should be made on or after October 15. By mid-October, 8th grade students will have completed an Interviewing Strategies class at Tower, participated in a mock interview, and experienced a solid month and a half of school, allowing them good fodder for discussion with the interviewer.
Avoid scheduling an interview with your “favorite” school first. Practice with the schools that are not quite as important to you.
Each school visit lasts approximately 1½ to 2 hours. Visits typically include a school tour followed by 30-minute student and parent interviews. The interviews vary between individual or joint interviews.
Students should write a note, either handwritten or an email, thanking the admissions person who interviewed them. This note should mention specific things about the school that the child found appealing and mention if an application will be forthcoming.
Develop a Final School Application List
Meet again with the Director of Secondary School Placement (in person or by phone) to develop a list of schools (usually no more than 6), to consider for applications. This list should include a range of probabilities for acceptance. Generally, two “reach” schools, two “target” choices, and two “likely” accepts should make up the final application list. If accepted at every school to which applied, there should be a real possibility for the student to attend. Applying to schools you, as parents, do not truly support as reasonable options, risks over burdening and confusing your child.
Students should ask their teachers for recommendations in early November. It is the student’s responsibility to give recommendation forms to the appropriate teachers. If you are applying to a school that uses an online application, the students will be provided a Form, created by Tower, that allows the student to list the schools where the recommendations should be sent.
“School Record,” “Head of School Report,” or “Guidance Counselor” forms should be given to the Director of Secondary School Placement. Be sure to use an “optional” recommendation form. The Director of Secondary School Placement will have suggestions if you are not sure whom to ask for an optional recommendation.
The Director of Secondary School Placement will send all completed teacher recommendations, transcripts, and test scores, accompanied by a Guidance Counselor letter, to the schools.
Parents frequently ask if additional unsolicited recommendations from people outside of Tower, (a coach, music teacher, family friend, etc.), would be helpful in this process. In general, if this recommendation will add something substantive and specific, which would not otherwise be mentioned in the required forms, it would be helpful. It is not a good idea to ask admission committees to read additional letters that are redundant or too “general” in nature. One or two (at most) may be included. Recommendations written by people outside of Tower should be mailed directly to the secondary school.
Students should make photocopies of blank application forms in order to practice filling out applications. Note carefully if schools require essays, etc., completed in student’s own handwriting, or if sections may be typed. Parents should proof all writing for mechanics, but should avoid “reworking” essays. Admission professionals are highly skilled at detecting parental involvement. If a picture is requested, it’s a good idea to include one. A letter from parents is sometimes requested. It is advantageous to provide this heartfelt view of your child – be sure to limit these to one or two pages.
Take the SSAT
All 7th and 8th grade students take the SSAT at Tower on a Saturday in November.
Application Due Dates
There are several different application due dates. Many schools want applications in mid-January; some schools require their applications at the end of January. Although it may be the same school, due dates for day and boarding applications may vary. Due dates for applications requesting financial aid may also vary. We strongly recommend that students complete their part of the applications before they return from winter vacation.
Families should photocopy and mail completed applications (or submit via an online application) directly to the schools in which they apply. The Director of Secondary School Placement will assemble and mail SSAT scores, transcripts, and all teacher recommendations.
Applications are completed!
Students should tell the Director of Secondary School Placement which school is their top choice or which schools they most prefer.
Once the applications have been submitted, it is always nice for students to take this time to personally thank the teachers that wrote recommendations, or helped them with the process. While certainly not mandatory, this is a teachable moment for adolescents to understand the scope, and time, that has been spent supporting their candidacy.
Schools will notify students of their decisions.
Schools will either “accept,” “wait list,” or “deny” the student.
If the student is accepted at his/her first choice school, it is helpful to the process to let this school know right away that the student will be attending. Similarly, if accepted at a school that the student is sure he/she will not be attending, tell the school that the student will be going elsewhere so that others may be accepted.
If the student is “wait listed,” the school will want to know if the student wants to remain on this list. If this school remains important to the student at this point, return the card or call to keep the student on this list. The student should also write to the admissions person, with whom they interviewed, and express their continued interest in the school. Soon after the April 10 Accept Date, schools will begin to offer any available places to students on their wait lists. It is also important for you to let the Director of Secondary School Placement know that you are pursuing a wait list.
Families are given a month, until April 10, to make their decisions. If you are not sure, do not rush this decision. Schools provide “revisit” days for students who are still deciding. However, please use this option only if the student is truly “undecided.”
- February-March | Contact Guidance Counselor, Attend Shadow Day
- March-April | Schools Host Curriculum Meetings and Placement Tests
- May-June | Schools Notify Families of Course Placement
Contact Guidance Counselor and Select Courses
Parents should contact the school for an appointment with the guidance counselor (after the high school’s February school vacation), and put your name on the mailing list so you will be notified about meetings, dates, etc. The Marblehead High School guidance counselor visits Tower. After meeting with the guidance counselor, students bring course offerings home, then back to Tower where teachers will make recommendations and sign forms. The Director of Secondary School Placement returns forms to the high school.
Many public schools will offer shadow days for 8th grade students. To take advantage of this opportunity, parents should contact the guidance office to set an appointment. The Director of Secondary School Placement can suggest a Tower alum to shadow, at your request.
The schools will have meetings for parents of new students to explain curriculum.
Most schools require foreign language, science and math placement tests. The Director of Secondary School Placement will coordinate with the high schools to obtain and administer these tests. A student’s grades and teacher recommendations will also determine placement.