The transition from Tower to secondary school is an exciting opportunity for parents and students. In discussing and considering the options, parents get to know and celebrate their children in new ways. As with all transitions, this one requires many decisions: boarding or day school, large or small, coed or single gender, and/or within an hour radius or more distant? This guide intends to help families begin to focus on the questions that should precede the search process, describes the application process, and offers the School’s collective wisdom about this important transition. It is general, in nature, and does not even begin to replace the critical and specific discussions that will occur between each family and the Director of Secondary School Placement, parents of students currently attending schools of choice, and other knowledgeable people.
Role of the School
Throughout the secondary school admission process, the Director of Secondary School Placement will provide advice and support to students and their families. Tower meets annually with many secondary school representatives, visits various schools and consults with Tower graduates and their families to remain current about the strengths and special features of secondary schools. This information allows the School to recommend schools that are likely to match a student’s strengths and interests. Each family should schedule a meeting with the Director of Secondary School Placement during May, June, July or August. During this initial meeting, the student’s profile and interests will be discussed. If requested, a range of schools will be suggested. The Director of Secondary School Placement will keep in contact with families during the fall and winter as visits are scheduled and applications are made.
Role of the Family
It is the parent’s role to talk with their child and make the decisions that determine the parameters of the search. Once these are established, and schools that seem to meet these criteria are identified, the parent’s role becomes investigative. Visiting schools and taking careful notes, talking to people with first-hand information, and engaging in open exchanges of opinions are important. Try to avoid “getting your heart set” on any one school. (This is especially important for the student.) Organizing the paperwork involved in the application process and encouraging and checking your child’s efforts, is the next stage. The School will be encouraging and advising throughout the process, but of course, the identification of wants and needs, investigation, application and decision all rest with the family.
Establish Family Guidelines/Limit the Decision Space
Set ground rules for decision making before you begin this process with your child. Know what you, as parents, will and won’t support as options and be consistent. Creating clear parameters about who will make the ultimate decisions, early in this process, will serve everyone involved. A child who feels this decision is “totally up to me,” will be heavily influenced by the decisions of his/her friends, and may not be able to separate out what is best for him/her. The child who feels no one is listening, runs the risk of not being invested in the process or the final decision. A balance of parental wisdom and understanding is critical. Assign roles of involvement and responsibilities. Set timetables for action in advance. Always reserve the parental veto, and never permit your child to make an application to a school at which you will not permit he/she to enroll.
It has been our experience that children who seem to resist talking about other possibilities are probably telling us that they are not yet ready to go. Be sure to listen to what is said and what is not said. Expect inconsistency. Just when you think things are decided and you understand how your child feels, he/she will say something that completely contradicts that assumption. This may happen quite frequently. Eighth graders are very young to be making such important decisions and will need your patience as well as guidance.
One piece of advice…
If you really do not want your child to go to boarding school, don’t take him/her to see one. The Pandora’s box principle is at work here.