Independent High School Admissions Policies

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Mid-September is the time of year when independent schools update their admissions policies, and this year, there is much for schools to consider as they endeavor to balance public health concerns, equity and access, and the admissions models that they have come to rely on. One of the primary questions that parents (and admission officers) have is how to handle standardized testing. The policies can come in many forms, so here are a few key types of testing policy that you’re likely to see as you research schools for your family. If you’re in the DC area, you may want to start your research here.

Testing required

This means that the school has, so far, confirmed that they will indeed require the SSAT or ISEE to consider your child’s application complete. Applications will not be considered without test scores; however, some schools will waive the requirement on a case-by-case basis. And along with everything else, these policies could change at any time, especially if it turns out this year that standardized testing doesn’t go as smoothly as the SSAT/ISEE hope.

In-house assessment

These schools have opted to offer its own assessment in lieu of requiring SSAT/ISEE scores. Each school is responsible for administering the assessment itself, and most have indicated that they will conduct them one on one and virtually after a student has submitted their application. As our name indicates, preparation still matters! Much of the work a student will engage in while preparing for the SSAT/ISEE should overlap considerably with the kind of skills assessed in these new testing options. In some cases, a school will still consider an SSAT/ISEE score as an optional supplement. In other cases, they won’t. Our advice? Anytime an applicant has an opportunity to send more data to contextualize their application, they should attempt to do so.

Test-optional

The majority of schools have chosen the simplest solution: if a student has scores, great, and if not, no need to send them. It’s completely optional. Because most of these schools have for years relied on testing data to help them make admissions decisions, it’s a good idea for a student to still pursue scores that will add value to an application. If a student achieves such scores, then including them in the application – even to a test-optional school – gives admissions one more piece of evidence to help build context about the applicant. More context means a clearer picture, and creating a clear picture for admissions is the real goal when applying to schools. You and your child can also rest easy if testing doesn’t result in scores you wish to share with these schools. If that’s the case, simply don’t send them.

Test-blind

It means what it sounds like. Test-blind schools will not accept scores at all of any kind and do not plan to offer an in-house assessment. You can’t even send them in, and even if you could, they won’t look at them while evaluating an applicant. Still, the work that you student has put into preparing for these kinds of tests offer benefits that extend far beyond just increasing a score. As they get ready for high school coursework, their focus on reading comprehension, math abilities, testing confidence, independent work and self-discipline will prepare them well for the next chapter.

Jeff Knox

Director of Educational Planning

With more than a decade of experience in education and admissions counseling, Jeff Knox is a trusted adviser for students and families, both in the DC Metro Area and around the globe. As Director of Educational Planning, he manages the pedagogy, curricula, logistics, and quality of PrepMatters’ Educational Planning Department range of services, including application and essay assistance, inte...

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