Being known, as an individual and as a student, is essential to academic success at GUS. This is also the most important factor in determining life after GUS. What’s next? For parents, this can be a scary question, but for us, it is a question we love to think about. Preparing our students for the next step, and making sure that step is the right one, is a labor of love with implications that are actually far greater than the needs of any one individual student. While the process may seem overwhelming at times, we work hard to help steer our students and families, not just to a positive result, but more importantly, to the right fit. This process can be a real emotional roller coaster for families, but not one they have to ride alone. We are here to help, guide, and advise.
First of all, always consider your public options. We live in an area with excellent public school and with GUS preparation, it might be the best choice for your child and your family. Your local town may have offerings you hadn’t considered. Afraid the school is too big? What if your child is in a much smaller honors track or what if a larger school means your child has more access to art classes or AP choices? These are all things to think about before ruling out the local option. In addition, school choice means you may have options within a small radius. While school visits might not be possible, we have had many graduates attend local public high schools with great success and are happy to help advise you.
As GUS families already know, there is a right school for every student. It may be the local public option in your backyard, or, it may be an option your family hasn’t considered. Finding the right fit for your child sometimes means being open to an option you maybe didn’t think your family wanted. Boarding is most often an option that parents say they don’t want. As a former boarding school teacher, I caution parents not to rule these schools out without considering their benefits. Boarding schools, within an appropriate radius that allows parents to go to games, be involved, and take students home when they are sick, offer exceptional education programs for students with a variety of interests and learning preferences. For families concerned about financial aid, some of these schools have more resources to give opportunities to a large pool of students.
Parents and guardians often ask what can they do to help their child prepare for this process, and our answer is: don’t do too much! It is very important that the child take ownership of most aspects of the process. Families can set up tours and help narrow the list, but all other aspects of the process must authentically represent the student. While a quick review of admissions essays is always a good idea, the best way to help a child is by building their confidence around the interview. Asking questions around the table at dinner time like describe an assignment that really helped you learn something, who was your favorite teacher, what book is your favorite. Practicing answers, and hearing others, will help prepare them for meeting school admissions officers. Another good option is to have them talk about GUS to family members or adult friends. This is quite often an interview question and practice always helps.
One mistake parents sometimes make is signing their child up for activities or making the child read a certain book to help them impress an admissions team. Not necessary. If their interest is real, then by all means, but there’s no need suddenly pick up piano or learn a new language just to get them into school - and in the wake of the recent college admissions scandals, it probably won’t help! This is where a GUS education really helps out. Aside from academic preparation, GUS offers many opportunities for your child to learn and grow. Many secondary schools report that GUS students are active community members, taking part in sports, the arts, and community service. Our students go on to be school leaders and difference makers simply by doing the things they have always done at GUS. They are involved, they speak out, and they value giving back. These are values that are developed and encouraged during their time at GUS, especially in their upper school years.
While finding the right secondary school fit for your child may seem overwhelming, the most important thing to know is you aren’t in this alone! We work hard to find the right match for students and families by making sure our students are prepared for wherever the next phase of their life takes them. Public, private, day, or boarding, GUS graduates are articulate speakers, respectful listeners, and thoughtful thinkers. We often hear that a GUS graduate stands out in a high school setting by the questions they ask in the classroom that represent a sincere desire to learn. GUS students are assets to their high school community and attractive candidates for admission.
As we prepare to part with our eighth grade students and send them off to high school, it is clear to me that they are ready. The growing pains are real and as hard as it can be, this time is an essential part of the process. It is a sign of readiness. They are outgrowing our small school at just the right time. Soon they will don their graduation attire and march around the campus and into the tent for a fond farewell. As they stand to receive their diplomas we will watch with confidence because we know the process - not just the school selection process but the full GUS experience - has prepared them well for their next steps. And though we will miss them, as soon as the process ends for one class, so it begins again for another.