High School Admissions Process

Reflections on High School Admissions for Families

lascuolablog IB Programme

A lot can happen in a year and for our Grade 8 students, it is doubly true. During middle school, we watch as our children mature into young adults. The high school admissions process marks the transition from middle school to high school, another decisive step towards adulthood. It is with bated breath that families navigate the high school admissions process and it is during these moments I share my guidance.

Peter Kim and students, 2019

Let your child lead the process:

Families play a large role in the admissions process. After all, each time your child has a school visit, a family member most likely takes time out of their day to pick up and drop off. Understandably, families can become entrenched in the process emotionally as well. However, where your child goes to school is ultimately their choice. You may also find that if you push your child towards one school, it paradoxically pushes them in the opposite direction. Don’t forget that this is your child’s choice.

Be mindful of stress and anxiety:

Even the most even keeled child is susceptible to the stress and anxiety that comes with high school admissions. As much as adults can emphasize that the process is not a reflection of an individual’s inherent value and that test scores are not a reflection of scholastic achievement, adolescents are keen on comparing schools and scores. Discuss the merits and necessity of public education and be mindful of the high achievers who apply the greatest pressure to themselves. Lastly, each year students get waitlisted or rejected. Provide your child the grace, sensitivity, and care they need to navigate moments of heightened emotions. 

Make time to talk about high schools:

Parents can emphasize the importance of an early start and organization but those are precisely the blindspots that adolescents need additional support with. However, you will quickly find if you are inquiring frequently, high school admissions is not something your child may want to talk about. Find a time once a week to discuss the process. Make it a routine your child can prepare for. I would also suggest conducting these conversations during car rides. It may be easier to get an answer from your adolescent if you are not looking at each other but facing the same way.

Photo of Grade 7 and 8, 2020, La Scuola’s first and second pioneer graduates

Each year, I communicate to students that any school would be lucky to have them. The high schools only know your child as a piece of paper and at most, a brief interview and school visit. There is a tremendous amount that is outside of our individual control which leads me to my final point: let go. We have all prepared our children for this moment – to become independent and choose their own path. Let the moment be as liberating for you as parents as it is for your child. In bocca al lupo!

Peter Kim
High School Advisor
La Scuola International

Additional Practical Points to Keep in Mind:

  1. Sign-up on Ravenna and Online Management Platforms: Most high schools use online platforms for the entire process. This includes nearly all the Bay Area Independent High Schools. Please check the school’s website, sign up for listservs, and register to their online management systems.
  2. Remember that different schools have different requirements and dates: Many schools will share similar dates for application submission but deadlines may vary such as 5 PM vs midnight. Most schools have their own questions for short answers and may even require a portfolio or short video submission. Aim to finish before the deadline and give yourself time to edit and proofread.
  3. School Visits and Interviews: These events will be published on the school website as well as the Online Management System. Remember to register for these events as they fill up fast. If you don’t get into an event, contact the admissions office directly. Talk to your student about dressing for success and conduct mock interviews in preparation.
  4. Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) vs High School Placement Test (HSPT): SSAT was suspended for all BAIHS schools during the pandemic years and may come back next year. HSPT continued throughout the pandemic and was taken in December by students interested in parochial schools.
  5. Letters of Recommendations: These are not standard letters of recommendation we use in our workplace. It is closer to a survey or form that teachers fill out online. In order for teachers to fill out the form, you typically must add the teacher name and emails on the online management website.

La Scuola is the only International Baccalaureate World School in San Francisco to offer both the Primary Years and Middle Years Program. The IB Program provides a focus on developing strong academic, social and emotional skills– using language and cultural studies, students develop empathy and a global mindset. This combination of skills and attitudes leads to success in higher learning and careers.

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