Is It Too Late?
Over the last couple of weeks, I have received multiple phone calls from parents in the public school system who have finally decided to look at independent school options for their children. With most independent school application deadlines set at some point in January, they call asking me, “Is it too late to apply?”.
These isn’t a simple answer, especially for the Fall of 2021. So many uncertainties remain and no one is quite sure what the opening of schools will look like in Fall 2021. To begin, I let these parents know that it will be more challenging to apply at this point in the process. Schools post an admission calendar and set deadlines and they do view on-time applications in a somewhat more positive light. However, admission staff also understand the intense pressure parents face trying to do what is right for their children.
Right now, admission directors are looking at multiple enrollment scenarios. Will students still need to be 6 feet apart this fall? Can we move desks to 3 feet apart, or no space at all? Admission directors face a daunting task of trying to fill an unknown number of spots in their schools.
Independent schools across the country are facing a record number of applicants from individuals unhappy with how the public schools have handled the pandemic. According to NBC News, 76% of private schools are open for in-person learning, while only 38% of public schools are in-person.
If you choose to continue on with the admission process at this time, I would make the following recommendations:
First, as always, focus on the schools you feel would be a good fit for your child. Just because any independent school with in-person learning may be appealing in the current environment, Admission Directors are still searching for students and families who will be the “right fit” in the institution. Admission Directors are keenly aware that families will apply to an abundance of schools, hoping to increase their chances of getting accepted anywhere. Spend time, though not too much time at this stage in the game, creating a list of the schools to which you would like to apply. This should be the same list you would create at any point in the process, adding in perhaps a backup or two.
Next, reach out to the Admission office at each of these schools to find out their policy on late applications. Some schools will ask a few probing questions to determine if the interest is real or simply driven by anxiety. Others will tell you directly that there isn’t a chance this year, which will allow you to move on and focus your efforts elsewhere.
Finally, for those school which have invited you to have a conversation and continue with the application process, be respectful and submit your materials in a timely manner. Remember that Admission Directors are overwhelmed and doing their best to work with you in this process despite record application numbers and an unknown number enrollment spaces.
I won’t say it will be an easy process, but it isn’t impossible. The school, the grade, and the fit will all play a large factor into your process.
Attrition does occur at many schools as currently enrolled families make life and educational decisions. The pandemic has caused many people to rethink how and where they live. How and when a vaccination is rolled out for students will also play into how many children a school can enroll. It is a year of many unknowns and only time will tell.
If finding a space for your child in your ideal independent school setting doesn’t happen this year, do not give up. Private tutors and coaches may be something to consider in the coming year and will allow you to participate on-time in the admission process the following year. What you make of the situation between now and then will show your commitment to finding the right place for your child, which will happen, even if not this fall.