When should you apply for US boarding school?
As I say to many parents, getting into the renowned US boarding schools is probably as difficult as getting into the Ivy Leagues, with many schools having an acceptance rate of less than 10%. That’s why you want to give yourself the best chance possible through selecting the best application year.
By Patrick Ho | Senior Admissions Counselor, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions
Knowing when is the best time to apply for boarding schools is critical. Sometimes families come in to inquire about wanting to leave for American boarding schools and find out that they only have one month left until the application deadline, leaving lots of application items under-prepared or having already missed out on the golden application time where spaces are the most vacant. Getting into boarding schools is already a difficult process in itself. As I say to many parents, getting into the renowned boarding schools is probably as difficult as getting into the Ivy Leagues, with many schools having an acceptance rate of less than 10%. That’s why you want to give yourself the best chance possible through selecting the best application year.
Unlike schools in Hong Kong, boarding schools in America aren’t normally through train schools (KG – Grade 12) so it’s not a matter of applying at the earliest age that you deem your children to be ready. The majority of families will be looking to send their children to secondary boarding schools, which usually runs from Grade 9 to Grade 12 (Y10 to Y13 if your children are currently in the UK system). Contrary to UK boarding schools, US boarding schools don’t necessarily restrict you to a certain grade according to your age, rather, in your application, you can identify whether you prefer the option of naturally progressing to the next grade level or repeating. Normally, most families prefer the option of naturally progressing to the next grade but repeating a grade level does have its advantages by giving the student more time to adapt, especially if their academic ability is not as strong since transitioning to a new learning environment will take time.
Going back to the optimal entry time, since secondary US boarding schools starts at Grade 9, then naturally the optimal entry time is Grade 9 since that’s where the school needs to fill a whole grade with new students. If you missed out on applying to Grade 9, applying to Grade 10 is an alternative, however, it is tougher. There is significantly less student intake as vacancies are primarily determined upon how many Grade 9 students transitioned out of the school, thereby leaving vacant spots for the schools to fill. Furthermore, testing requirements such as the TOEFL and SSAT will be consequently evaluated on a higher level. As for entry into Grade 11, you can imagine it only gets more difficult. Some schools don’t have any openings for Grade 11, meaning they don’t even encourage you to apply! Also, for some schools, instead of the SSAT, you have to submit a SAT or ACT score as a replacement. For those that don’t know, SAT or ACT is used to apply for U.S. universities, which makes the requirements all the more difficult.
Now that we’ve identified Grade 9 (Year 10) as the optimal entry point, when should you start preparing? To give yourself the optimal amount of time to complete all the tasks required, which include, but are not limited to:
- SSAT/TOEFL preparation and testing
- campus tour and interview
- student essays
- parent essays
- school selection and research
- teacher and supplemental recommendations
- multimedia portfolio compilation
Ideally, it’s best to start the process 1.5-2 years before the official start date of your new life in an American boarding school. That means, starting from Grade 7 (Year 8) you already want to start planning and by the end of Grade 7 (Year 8), start making inroads into the elements I’ve listed above. So, is now the right time for you to get started?
Mr. Patrick Ho
Associate Member of IECA | TEFL
BCom(Finance), University of Sydney
- 7+ years of experience in admissions consulting service with 100% success rate
- Proven track record helping students gain admissions to prestigious boarding schools including Blair Academy, Choate Rosemary School, Loomis Chaffee School, Kent School, Peddle School, Stevenson School, The Webb Schools, CA and Westminster School.
- Had over 75% if his students accepted to a Top 50 U.S. College including Yale University, MIT, Boston University, University of Chicago.
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