Last Updated On: April 12th, 2023
By Priya Nambiar, Nambiar Advising (www.nambiaradvising.com)
Come April, after the K-12 admissions season, it’s time to take a deep breath. The previous nine to 12 months have been a flurry of open houses, school tours, campus visits, sporting events, and plays. Then there were the actual applications, which demanded essays (from students and parents!), interviews, standardized tests (for some), letters of recommendation, and countless other elements.
Yet for families whose students were not accepted at any schools (or remain on waiting lists), that deep breath is short-lived. If that’s the case, what’s the plan of action? Here are some tips to help alleviate the stress and plan for next year.
If you are on a waitlist …
Throughout spring and summer, a school may have openings. This can occur when an enrolled family decides to leave (e.g. if they are moving out of the area), or when a prospective family opts for a different school before tuition is due. It’s rare, but it happens. If that is the case, the school will go to the waitlist to fill that space.
Make sure that the school knows that you are still very interested in a spot. Send the school an email letting them know that you are willing to stay on the waitlist as long as they will have you. Offer to send any supplemental materials if it is helpful (extra grades or any other achievements, such as being elected to student council, awards, recognition in sports or extracurriculars, etc.). Then wait patiently. Also, ask the admissions office when you can check back in with them, so that you’re not pestering but staying in front of them.
If you were not admitted to any schools …
If you were not admitted, you still have options.
Not every school fills up, though they may want to. Depending on the grade to which you are applying, you can call other schools and see if they have spots open and are willing to accept an application in spring or summer. If this route opens up for you, the process can happen very quickly.
Otherwise, gear up for the next admissions season. You will need to decide if you want to reapply next year or wait for the next entry point: 6th, 7th, or 9th grade. Make sure your student continues to do the following:
- Keep up their grades!
- Move forward with extracurricular activities.
- If your student is a strong standardized test taker, consider whether or not it will help to take the ISEE. With practice, can they increase their score to become a stronger candidate? Does your student have the time to commit to practicing for the test? Some schools have done away with the standardized test requirement altogether, while others have maintained it as an optional part of the admissions process. Make sure to check school websites for their policies on these exams.
- Read, read, read! Reading will help your student’s writing, which will make next year’s admissions essays and writing samples even stronger.
- Broaden your list of schools. 2023 was an extraordinarily competitive year–by many measures, the toughest in recent memory! If you decide to reapply, make sure that you apply to enough schools. I recommend applying to four or five.
Lastly, as hard as it is to be denied by a school or to endure the uncertainty of a waitlist, this is an important time to have perspective–and to model empathy and grace for our kids. Ultimately, life is a long, long journey. If your student doesn’t get into their desired middle or high school, it will be okay. In fact, sometimes children who experience rejection develop resilience and grit that helps them succeed well into adulthood. When kids see their parents handle admissions rejections and stress with poise and perspective, it helps them cultivate their own sense of maturity and confidence. In the end, it’s our children’s happiness and ability to thrive that matters, not their alma mater.