Processing High School Admission News (No Matter What)

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Over the next few days, private schools will notify families about their admissions decisions. I’ve worked with hundreds of families through this process and am no longer surprised by the immense importance parents put on the outcomes. For some, they truly believe whether or not their student “gets in” to their first-choice private school will forever change the course of their lives.

True, school placement is important, but experience has also taught me over and over again that life unfolds even better than ways we would have designed for ourselves. Whatever the results, our job is to support our kids and help them take full advantage of their surrounding resources, which many abound in our area of the country. Here are some ways you can do that when you receive your notifications from school.


A denial means that the applicant was not qualified for admissions or something got in the way that makes it impossible for the admissions office to admit or even waitlist. Know that private school admissions is a lot more arbitrary than people realize. For example, an admissions officer at a very selective and prestigious local private school told me that they admitted a student based on his family’s ability to carpool with another currently enrolled student’s. That was the deciding factor! Is it fair? Probably not, but there really isn’t any way to control for that. Take a look at your other options and, of course, your local public school.


This is actually more common than denial. Most private schools have to watch carefully as they build an incoming class and wait for students to accept their spots in the school. If an admitted student decides to attend elsewhere, the admissions office can start moving down the waitlist. If you are waitlisted at a school you want to attend, then immediately accept your spot on the waitlist and update admissions with any new information that has come up since you’ve applied. Depending on your current school, it may be possible for administration or the counseling office to advocate for you. Being offered a spot on the waitlist means you are a qualified candidate but, for now, something is in your way. It’s not over ‘til it’s over though, so keep communications with the school.


Congrats – open a bottle of sparkling grape juice and celebrate. Next step is to finish out the academic year strong, making use of the upcoming tips in our Rising Freshman Tip Sheets and getting a plan in place for freshman year. We’ll want students to put good habits in place now to feel confident and strongly positioned later.

In any case, we’re here to help, whether that be choosing the right school or responding to a waitlist offer. Remember, it’s not where the student attends that sets him or her up for success. It’s how . No matter where they go, creating a plan to fully embrace all that’s available to your student will be an important next step.

Jeff Knox


As an education planning resources counselor, Jeff Knox guides both middle school and high school students through their educational careers with an aim toward admissions to selective institutions. His resourceful one-on-one approach to admissions planning encourages students to strategically develop their academic interests and talents and to create a compelling narrative, whether applying for...

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