1. Decide What’s Important to You
Before you start researching schools, or crafting your list, make a list of what is important to your child(ren) and family. Is it a short commute? Fencing? Latin? Group work? Advisories? Out lunch?
2. Narrow your Search
Use your list of priorities to narrow down your search.Insideschools.org has a helpful guided search tool that you can use as a starting point.
3. Be Over-Inclusive
Your initial list should be over-inclusive; try to expand your idea of what defines a "good" school and make sure your list contains schools that have fewer applicants per seat.
4. Research, Research, Research
Continue reading about and researching each of the schools on your list, and attend tours and open houses where available. If you are sure you would not send your child to a school, take it off your list, but it is ok to have a lot of maybes!
5. Safety Schools First
Try to choose your "safety" schools first. This is often the hardest part of the process, and it is harder to love a school when you are comparing it to your child's top choices.
6. Get the Full Picture
Don't finalize your list until we have a clear idea of how individual schools will be admitting students. Your child's chances of being admitted at a school may shift as we learn about these metrics, and that may affect the overall makeup of the list.
7. Be Strategic
Be very intentional when choosing your safety schools. Is your child strong in the arts? A strong writer? Have excellent (98% or higher) grades? Those qualities may make a school a more realistic (or appealing!) safety for your child.
8. Watch Out for Red Flags
When reviewing the school list, check for 5 major red flags:
- Do you have more than 3 schools that are 6-12s, 7-12s or K-12s? Remember that 8th graders at those schools have an automatic seat, and usually 80% of the class will stay for high school.
- Do you have more than 8 schools that have many, many applicants per seats?
- Do the majority of your schools have a very high diversity in admissions set-aside (i.e., over 66%)?
- Do the majority of your schools use the same admissions modality, i.e., batch ranking, to admit students?
- Does your list look like everyone else's that you know?
9. Ranking : Have a Conversation
Once you have a clear list of 12 schools, engage your child(ren) in conversations around ranking, if they have not been involved already. Create index cards with the name of the schools and pros / cons on the back, and have a conversation about how they should be ordered. The schools should be in true order of priority - first choice first, last choice last.
10. Trust your Instincts
Finalize the list, check it over, and then submit. Don't overthink! Trust your first instincts. They are usually correct!