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Let's Talk About Admission Decisions

Daren Worcester
Mar 24, 2023
50 minutes
A hand-drawn doodle of an asterisk.

#admissionchat episode 10 welcomes Randie Benedict from St. Anne's-Belfield School in Virginia and Kitsana Salyphone from the Enrollment Management Association. Together, they field live questions from parents mulling admission decisions.

Questions discussed include:

  • How does one decide between top-choice schools?
  • Is it okay to ask schools for an extension?
  • What can a family do that's on several waitlists?
  • What is the possibility of getting financial aid when on the aid waitlist?
  • What is the etiquette for financial aid appeals?
  • What is the difference between financial aid and tuition assistance?
  • What are the options for students denied admission at their top-choice schools?
  • Is re-classing frowned upon?
  • Should families purchase tuition refund insurance?

Listen to the episode above, ask your smart speaker to play #admissionchat, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform: Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Pandora, Spotify.


Daren Worcester: Welcome to #admissionchat. Let's talk about admission decisions.

Greetings. I'm Daren Worcester. In this #admissionchat episode, you'll hear the recording from one of our family webinars initially titled, "Accepted, Waitlisted or Denied: Deciding What to Do Next." The webinar featured Kitsana Salyphone from the Enrollment Management Association and Randie Benedict from St. Anne's-Belfield School in Virginia. Throughout the webinar, Kitsana and Randie fielded questions from parents and students recently receiving admission decision letters from schools. The questions ran the gamut on everything from getting waitlisted and what to do about it, to the etiquette for making financial aid appeals. Randie and Kitsana delivered so much great advice that sharing the presentation with you here was an absolute must.

So, without any further ado, let's roll the recording.

Kitsana Salyphone: I'd like to welcome you all to our family webinar. I'm Kitsana Salyphone, director of Member Success at the Enrollment Management Association. I have more than 20 years experience in independent school as a faculty and administrator wearing many hats in diversity, admission, enrollment management, financial aid, marketing, communications and advancement.

I'm delighted to share what I know with you today, along with Randie Benedict, assistant head of enrollment management at St. Anne's-Belfield School in Virginia. With the independent school spirit in her DNA. Randie has been head of school, coached, teacher, dorm, parent advisor, and more. Randie says being able to spend time each day with students is what she enjoys most about her job. Helping parents to consider the possibilities for their child or children is what is most compelling about creating the next St. Anne's-Belfield community each and every year. And with that, we'll get started.

Many of our families have the fortune of being accepted to a few schools. Randie, how does one decide between their top choice schools?

Randie Benedict: Thank you so much, and I just want to say hello and I'm thrilled to be here with all of you today. So deciding between things that are good are the hardest decisions that we have to make in our lives. And so I often encourage families to really think about lists, about what you know about what's current about the school. And then what you might know that are the hopes and dreams you have for your child, what are you hoping might happen over the years ahead. And are there other things you need to ask beyond what has been presented that might be more about the grade level you're considering for entry, as opposed to where you'll be by the time you finish. Those details can be important in trying to distinguish between two very strong choices.

Kitsana Salyphone: Absolutely. And a lot of schools offer revisit days too. So when students and families are having a tough decision between two schools and they're both tied, I would recommend requesting a visit day with the admission office. Is it okay to ask the school for an extension on my enrollment decision, Randie?

Randie Benedict: So it is important to be interacting with the school about the timing that you are considering as a family, as you're making these decisions. And so if there is something that you need to ask for, you should be in touch about that. You should also realize that many of the schools that you're considering had a very firm announcement date and a firm reply date because they have put other families in the waiting pool and have made a promise to those families that they will be in touch in this case shortly after the 10th of April about the possibility of a change in their original enrollment decision. So I would be in touch but also realize you might find out that there isn't an opportunity for an extension because of the pre-plan that school already has for filling their class.

Kitsana Salyphone: You mentioned waitlist. We have some families placed on the waitlist. What's the difference between on being on a waitlist and wait pool?

Randie Benedict: Oh, I think that's it can seem like a subtle difference, but it can be important to explore that with the school. So for instance, at our school, we have a waiting pool. There is no candidate that's first or last. There are a set of candidates who are waiting on the possibility for admission to that particular grade level. And so if there is then a space at our school, our committee revisits every application where the family has indicated they'd like to stay in the waiting pool, we reread all those applications to make the decision about the one space that we might be able to offer at that time. A list can mean that there is a top or a first candidate, and then someone that might be lower on the list. So that tiny difference for letters in each word can make a difference in terms of how that school is actually managing that particular aspect of their enrollment process.

Kitsana Salyphone: So would it be wise to talk to the school directly?

Randie Benedict: It would absolutely be wise. You have nothing to lose. You know your status, and you're trying to determine what's your strategy now for your child as you consider where you are and there might be other schools that you've been accepted to. And so you're trying to have an understanding of how do you balance these pieces and what do you need to know. It also lets the school know that you actually are an interested waiting list or waiting pool candidate as opposed to someone who might not have actually been truly interested in the program. So there are lots of details that schools keep track of in terms of your contact with them, and it can give them a sense of who in that group might actually be someone who would matriculate because you have been in touch to ask more and to learn about next steps.

Kitsana Salyphone: Absolutely. And if I get admitted from the waitlist or wait pool, will financial aid still be available?

Randie Benedict: So that is a really important question from all levels in terms of your planning, excuse me, as a family and having a sense of how things play out, that might be a question that you would ask the school when you were calling to ask about your status in the waiting list or the waiting pool so that what's typical at that school. Is there still financial aid available? Or is the school only able to consider families who are able to pay the full cost of tuition at that time?

Kitsana Salyphone: Great. And since we're on the topic of financial aid, what's included in a financial aid packet? Are there other expenses to consider? And if the financial aid offer isn't enough, what do we do?

Randie Benedict: Yeah, so there are many parts to this important planning part of the consideration process. And so I would say first of all, you want to try to understand what is in your financial aid offer and what are the full costs at that school. So that would be a conversation you might want to have. Some schools do have particular members of their staff who are the financial aid specialist or a financial aid officer, and so there could be an individual that you're speaking with then who might not be the primary admission officer that you've worked with. But these questions are important to ask. Some schools are in a position to cover additional expenses and some are not. And so you actually want to know what is typical in a family's bill at that particular school. Some schools will have that well articulated. Others you might want to ask more, and you want to ask beyond your first year. So you're looking for your child to matriculate and have a terrific experience at the school. And so your planning as a family is more than just year one. And so you want to be sure you're asking that longer question about those expenses and what you can expect.

Kitsana Salyphone: What's the difference between financial aid and tuition assistance?

Randie Benedict: Tuition assistance can be just connected to the actual tuition cost for that school. While financial aid could include the varying costs at the school. And so sometimes those particular words are interchangeable, and sometimes they're very specific as to what the package might be including or addressing in terms of costs at the school.

Kitsana Salyphone: Yeah, I think it's really important for families to make sure what your financial aid package includes. Does it include class trips, yearbooks, school uniforms? Is that an extra cost that you would have to consider in an independent school education?

How do I write a financial aid appeal letter and what should be included in a letter if I need more financial aid?

Randie Benedict: You might first ask if the school has an appeal process. At schools that I've worked in, we do have specific processes for families that might be asking to appeal their financial aid decision. And there is a little bit more of a reveal in terms of your, for instance, monthly expenses that we might ask for then that are not typically articulated in your previous application. So you should first ask what the process is. If there isn't one, what the school is interested in knowing is what are you able to afford from your point of view and why is that where you're coming from as a family? And so being able to articulate that in a letter if there is not a process is what the school will be interested in knowing more about. They may have additional questions, but it's important for you to be divulging where you are in your thinking process to figure out is there a match here? Can the school meet you where you are or come halfway? How much of a difference is there involved in this process so that the two of you can have that on honest conversation?

Kitsana Salyphone: Absolutely, and I think it's important for families to understand that schools have a limited budget for financial aid. So something that we take careful notice and consideration being prudent for the fiscal health of the school, and of course ensuring that every family that attends the independent schools to be successful. So with that, if our financial circumstances change for better or worse, are we supposed to let the school know right away or wait until next year?

Randie Benedict: Oh, well I appreciate the honesty of that question. So as a person who has sat on financial aid committees in five different schools, it's really important to remember how honesty is a key piece of this exchange. And so having a family contact you during the year who might indicate we've had an unexpected bonus and we just want to be sure aware of that. Often a school is not then going to change your financial aid package during the middle of the year, but appreciates your honesty. At the same time, with what we've all been through since 2008, there are circumstances where suddenly your financial situation has taken a turn for the worse. And this absolutely important to be in touch with the school during the year because every student we've enrolled, we want to have finished that experience. And we need to know about a family stress in terms of what's happening for them financially.

So it's important to contact the school and to make them aware. Every school is not going to be able to come to your aid, if you will with everything you might be looking for, but perhaps there's some tweaking they can do to make it possible to respond to that circumstance. And you do in most schools, apply for financial assistance each year. And so the school would have the opportunity ,if that situation didn't bounce back in the one that we're talking about right now, they would be able to respond to you in a more significant way hopefully the next year.

Kitsana Salyphone: Absolutely. And I tell families that I've worked with in the past that this is the partnership. We want to ensure your viability to be able to attend the schools that your child is happy at, right? It's important to be communicative and open with the schools that you're working with.

If my top choice gave me less financial aid than other acceptances, can I leverage that to the school to match the financial aid? What do you think?

Randie Benedict: Yeah, so I think the most important part of this conversation that we're having today is about guidance in this process. And so I would say that you should call the school and you might say, "I have a dilemma on my hands. You are absolutely our first choice school. We would love to have our child there next year, but we are also weighing the financial commitment that we're going to make for our child to be in this particular experience. And we're finding that some of the other schools that we've been accepted to have asked us to pay less than your school has. And so we'd like to be able to have a conversation about that. Is there any wiggle room here? Is there something that we can do to make this more of an opportunity? Because we really would like to be at your institution."

Kitsana Salyphone: I want to go back to some of the waiting list questions here. "I'm on six waiting lists, how can I maximize my chances of being admitted into at least one school? I'm applying for grade 11 and I'm also applying for financial aid."

Randie Benedict: And so six waiting lists. So that's a lot of time on the phone if you're calling all those places. So you might want to come up with a communication that you're sending to each school that is about your interest in that program. And all of us send a lot of things in writing. Sometimes we get a video from a family that's about their interest in our program.

Kitsana Salyphone: Well that's interesting.

Randie Benedict: Yeah. So think a little bit about what's the delivery you want. But I think with that many waiting list decisions, you want to be sure that you are communicating with all of them. I wouldn't try to prioritize. I would start and see who do you hear back from? You do want to ask about financial aid because you again are trying to figure out does this look like it's going to come together for me? And so being sure that you are trying to explore that at the same time is important.

Kitsana Salyphone: I would certainly check in with the schools periodically because they do have so many families that they're working with so that they know that you're still interested and really are interested in their program. I have a family here asking, should I call or email them instead?

Randie Benedict: I would call because I think it's much more personal. And so what you might do is send an email that would say, "I'm available at the following times. Do any of those times match your calendar? Because I really would like to connect on the phone to talk about this." An email is an exchange of planned information, a phone call is not. And so in a phone call there can be things that come up where you think, "Oh, I'd actually like to know more about what you just said." While in an email that might take six or seven exchanges. But making an appointment for a call, especially with a busy admission officer at this time of year, can be the best way for you to find a really fruitful, or way to have a fruitful exchange.

Kitsana Salyphone: For our families out there. I want you all to know that we are relationship builders. We love being in communication with the families that we worked with. We've been in touch with you since as far back as August. And for some, from summer program, right? So there's been years of relationship building here. So it's important for us to continue that communication and partnership, especially the decision right now may not be what you want or like, but it is important for us to hear from you as well.

What are the options if a student isn't accepted at their choice school? What are ways can I take in order to gain Admission to high school this fall?

Randie Benedict: And so you could certainly again look to make an appointment with that school to learn more about their decision. We certainly do have those conversations with families at our school so that there's not a mystery about what might not have made this a match for right now.

If you find that you need to actually start applying again and to look for other choices, you're going to want to call schools to be sure that they're still accepting applications or read their website carefully. There are schools that have a round two process that happens now where you could actually begin to be an applicant there and there wouldn't be anything wrong with that. You would be continuing to explore the best option for your child. And it is helpful to know, especially at a school where you might think about applying again, what is it that I can do to make my application stronger for the next consideration process?

Kitsana Salyphone: I love that. I love how at your school you're making those touch points, personal calls to let families know the decisions. Not a lot of schools do that. They just send an email and it's a one and done. So I think that is speaks volumes about the values in your mission at the school.

Do I send accepting schools a thank you letter? And do I send the school that I'm not accepted to a thank you letter also?

Randie Benedict: Yeah, and so as you were just saying, we're relational. So it's lovely to hear from people. And sometimes the enrollment message that you get gives you an option to say that you are not choosing to enroll. So sometimes there is a box you can check that tells the school whether you're going to be pursuing them or not. But I would encourage being able to be in touch. Personally, I think it's okay to send an email. I do love the individual notes that I get and we do always write individual notes to every student that we've met along the way. So getting a note back and just be a lovely thing. But I don't think, that's certainly not required. It is really helpful for admission officers to know what you're thinking and where you are in your process. And I think in life it's wonderful to also say thank you, even if you're making another choice.

Kitsana Salyphone: I love thank you notes. I've done admissions since 2003 when it was mostly paper-based admission process. So we would put those thank you letters in our folders. And there would be kids that would send thank you notes every time they visited, every time they spoke to a faculty member. And it just spoke volumes about their character and enthusiasm for the school. And now that most schools, right?

Randie Benedict: I agree and sometimes you need to get those little notes back out and look at them, they're a great boost to people like us who enjoy making those connections.

Kitsana Salyphone: Emails work the same as well too. So it's just having those touch points. But the thank you cards mean a lot more just because we rarely get them in the mail now, right? Not a lot of folks send things through the mail.

I have a question about travel expenses. Is it mandatory for a student to return home during a school break? And I imagine they're thinking about boarding school.

Randie Benedict: Boarding school. So it's really important to ask those things. So some schools do offer opportunities for students to remain on campus over holidays. Typically, not over the longest holidays, but perhaps over a shorter one. I know that's true at our school. And so you would want to ask, and you would also want to ask about the cost of that. So is there a cost to remaining on campus? And does my child get to stay magically in their room or does everyone move to a particular location? Safety keeping track of everybody is important on those shorter holidays when there aren't as many people on campus. And those of us who are residential faculty members are keeping track of students. And so sometimes students are moved around so they're more in a collected space on your campus instead of being in six different dorms. So those are things that are taken into account. And so you would want to ask about that school's policy and how they handle vacations and get a sense of that. There also are trips that schools offer over holidays. That might be something that would work for your family as well.

Kitsana Salyphone: Are you boarding school? Is your school boarding and day?

Randie Benedict: Yeah. We're boarding and day. Yes. So we started age two and go through grade 12. And we have a boarding and day program that's on the campus that you see behind me for grade-

Kitsana Salyphone: Beautiful.

Randie Benedict: Nine through 12? Yep.

Kitsana Salyphone:

Nine through 12. And how many students are at your school?

Randie Benedict: We have a total of 905 students. And I have the pleasure of being involved in enrollment from two-year-olds through grade 12. So earlier this morning I met with a family from Japan, and I will end my day by doing some visits with three-year-olds who are looking at our preschool program, s.o

Kitsana Salyphone: Oh, that's delightful. No day is ever the same for you.

Randie Benedict: Oh, it's wonderful.

Kitsana Salyphone: I will go ahead and walk through the Q and A questions that we have right now. Is there any chance to get more financial aid by sending an appeal letter?

Randie Benedict: Well, there certainly isn't. So I think as we said earlier, guidance is part of what we're trying to give you today. And so interacting with a school about what your needs are is the most important part of this process now when you've been accepted. And so if you find that you really do need more assistance, especially if you're looking at can we do this for the next four years? We want to make this promise to our child. Being in touch with the school to talk through that and to get a sense of is this a final offer or is there anything that can be done? Most offers are final, so I don't want to lead you down the primrose path, but it certainly doesn't hurt to ask and to understand more about what's expected of your family.

Kitsana Salyphone: We have a student here, Vin, who's in eighth grade, lives in Boston. "Should I email the admission office at the schools? I got late waitlisted from?" I know you mentioned we talked about this earlier, but I certainly want to give a shout-out to a student asking this question.

Randie Benedict: Absolutely, absolutely. And so I would expect that he's meaning to communicate with the school and to let them know of potential continued interest. I think an email is a great way to do that. So I would go right ahead. And if you have questions about how the waiting pool or waiting list works, you should absolutely be asking that. And it's totally okay to have an email exchange. Students are busy, you all have a lot going on. Classes all day and often activities in the afternoon and evening. And so feel free to get an email chain started with those schools.

Kitsana Salyphone: I like that. Especially coming from a student too. Expressing their excitement for that particular school. So that keeps me remembering that particular student.

Randie Benedict: Absolutely. Because we don't often hear from students.

Kitsana Salyphone: Yes.

Randie Benedict: Often our relationship is with the parents or guardians in the household. And so hearing from a student is as you're saying, sort of exceptional. So I would go for it.

Kitsana Salyphone: I agree wholeheartedly. Wholeheartedly. I don't understand that question. There's the possibility to chance the grade after receiving the results. I don't know that.

Randie Benedict: To change the grade.

Kitsana Salyphone: Ah.

Randie Benedict: So a family's asked about a different grade level consideration. That's how I would read that question. When you make an application and a school gives you a decision, that school is looking at how many spaces they have in that particular grade. And so after a decision asking about a new grade can be a reapplication process, because the school might have already made considerations around that grade that you now have a question about that would not put you in a favorable position. And so you could certainly ask about that, but it may be a quick no because the school has already considered other candidates at that same grade level and has a plan in place.

Kitsana Salyphone: Oh yeah, definitely. I've had students midway through the application process change their grade levels and that is a hiccup for us because now we have a different classes that we got to consider and we're building a class for our community. So it is one of those things that if you're considering that, please have that conversation early on and not later in the process because again, we have other applicants in the pipeline. And of course we got to consider the current students in that particular grade. So it is important to be in touch as soon as possible.

Randie Benedict: Yeah. The question might also be about re-classing. So certainly something that we've seen during COVID is a larger number of students wanting to take an additional year of school. I never say it's repeating, because it's not a repeat, you're not going to do the same thing again. No school works like that.

Kitsana Salyphone: Right. Right. I like that.

Randie Benedict: And so there we are seeing more students who are looking to take an additional year as they're making a transition from their current school to a new setting. And so that again, is something to explore. And if you're a student who's involved in the athletic program, you want to be sure you look at that carefully and understand what the state regulations are that are connected to your age.

Kitsana Salyphone: Oh, that's a good point.

Randie Benedict: Because re-classing can put you in a position, as a potential division one athlete that you would've aged out of being able to actually play in your last year. So those are just things to also make the connection with the athletic director and the college counseling team. Those can be key people regardless of whether it's about this or something else just to connect with in this process as you're thinking about your next school placement.

Kitsana Salyphone: Is it looked down upon re-class?

Randie Benedict: No, absolutely not. And I would say, I mean I've been in admission like you for a long time, and so I am seeing that there are more families that are considering that as students recover from what they think was either a loss of experience or a loss of academic program exposure as a result of what happened for them during their COVID years. And so we have more students that have done that in the last two years than in years previous to that. And I'm sure that that would be true across the nation, that somehow we're not only seeing that in Charlottesville, Virginia at St. Anne's-Belfield School. I would guess that that's happening in other places. And it can be great just to have the gift of time and to come into school and feel as if you have this whole extra year to get involved and to pursue your interests. So I think it can be wonderful.

Kitsana Salyphone: I like that. I have a waitlist question. Some schools say that they may not know until summer. How do you manage current school offers right now? How do I do that? So many options.

Randie Benedict: So in your enrollment agreement, and we have not talked about this important nuance of this process. So when you sign an enrollment agreement, you are not only indicating to that school that your child intends to participate in the full program that they're being offered, you're also making typically a financial deposit that holds your child's place in that class. There also in each, enrollment agreement, is a place where they indicate when are you liable for the remaining tuition for that particular school?

At our school, as of May 1st, everyone is reenrolled liable for their tuition for the coming school year. And that's because we're hiring a faculty and putting all these program pieces in place and we need to know that by May in order to have it work well for the students who start with us on August 23rd. It's important to be looking at that piece of this. If you are expecting that there actually is a school where you would want to wait and if you got in the summer make a change and decide you're going to commit there because you might already be financially committed to another institution based on their expectations in the enrollment agreement. So it's just something, it's in the fine print in those documents that you've received, but it's something to have a sense of. And to understand what your family's capacity is to step away from one school while you're saying yes to another.

Kitsana Salyphone: At the schools that I've worked at, especially the previous one, once you've signed the acceptance letter and accept the financial aid package on top of the deposit, you're bound to pay the first payment of tuition. And for us it was May 1st as well. So that's a good point, mentioning that. So really important.

Randie Benedict: Yeah, we're a little bit in the weeds, but these are things that are really—

Kitsana Salyphone: That's right.

Randie Benedict: Very important in understanding what is your commitment to an independent school for the life of your child.

Kitsana Salyphone: Definitely. My child has been accepted, but on the waitlist for financial aid, what's the possibility of my child getting financial aid at this point?

Randie Benedict: So that is a really important question. I would be contacting the school about what does that look like? What's the timing? How many families do you need to hear from before you would know whether there was additional financial aid available at this grade level? You might also want to ask the question, depending on your family's ability to pay the tuition, if we were to somehow be able to enroll in the first year, would we still be able to then qualify for the financial aid that we know that we need in the second year? So those are questions you want to be sure you ask. The first being the most important, what's the timing of when the school might know? It could be, that in the case of schools that have a March 10, April 10, that they're not going to know until April 10th whether they have financial aid remaining that they can dispense for your particular grade level. So I realize that's complicated.

Kitsana Salyphone: It is very complicated. I do want to mention that the previous schools that I've worked at where family has been accepted or a child has been accepted, but on the waitlist of financial aid, I would pause on putting down a deposit, because now you're saying I'm committing to the contract that was given, a full tuition. So I would, again, I hope this gets honed into our families in the call, please communicate to the financial aid office, the admission office, your concerns and needs before you drop a deposit or sign on a dotted line because you'll be bound to those contracts.

Randie Benedict: Correct. And there's no guarantee that there would be financial assistance for you. So we really discourage that at our school for a family that we know qualifies and where we aren't able to help them in that particular year. And we have 17 grades, so it's a lot of them. We don't want a family to be signing on the dotted line when we know that they really need assistance that we're not able to give yet. And those are important conversations for us to be having together.

Kitsana Salyphone: Let's see. Do we apply for financial aid again each year?

Randie Benedict: At most schools? Yes. And the same will be true in college. So you just need to build this muscle for this process. And unless your finances change dramatically, at least this has been the case for me at this school and at the other five schools that I've worked at. Unless your finances change dramatically, you can expect to receive the same amount of grant money that you received in your first year so that you're able to plan. So let's just do it. For instance, you've received $10,000, and so that the next year you're going to receive that same amount again unless your income situation has gone way up or way down. And so that is part of what you are partnering, as we said earlier, partnering with the school to understand that this is their commitment to you also going forward.

Kitsana Salyphone: The schools that I've worked at, I haven't really seen dramatic increases or decreases pretty much stable with incremental changes if you will, right? Depending on the family's needs. Absolutely. So that's something to plan for the next four to six or even as if you're a life for 12 years, 13 years, that's something to consider.

Randie Benedict: Part of that partnership. So we're not looking to undo anything that's going well, we want it all to keep going. And most of the schools that you're considering have a serious commitment to financial assistance. That's part of their philosophy as an institution to be sure that students who are academically capable have the opportunity to attend. This is an important piece of what our trust is in each other and entering into this new experience.

Kitsana Salyphone: Randie, I have an 11th grader asking a question. I'd love to address this for this student. "I got accepted this year, but I didn't get enough financial aid. Since I'm in 11th grade, I'm confused if it's worth applying again."

Randie Benedict: Yeah. So I appreciate how hard that question is to ask. So let me first acknowledge that. And then say that typically schools do not accept many seniors because the promise we are then making to you as a student is that in two months we can know enough about you to help place you in a college or university of your choice. And that is a lot for you to take on to trust a whole new set of adults with that stewardship of you. And also for us to know enough about your performance in our program to know that we can say, "Oh, so these are the schools that you should consider." So I do appreciate that that's a difficult situation to be in just because schools... At our school, we occasionally accept a new senior, but it's the rare occasion that we're able to do that. And I would say that that's my experience in my previous schools as well.

Kitsana Salyphone: If there were any transfer students, it would be mostly 10th and 11th. It's really rare if it's a 12th grader.

Randie Benedict: So I'm sorry for that question and for that individual.

Kitsana Salyphone: Yeah, I agree. Let's see. Oh, I have an international question. "I'm an international student from Egypt." This is fun. "I got accepted into three schools, but they put me into the wait pool for financial aid. Note that I'm waiting waitlisted in eight other schools. What should I do now considering I have to reapply to the three schools before April 10th?"

Randie Benedict: Okay. Okay. So the first job is to pursue the accepted schools. And so you can certainly be in touch with the waitlisted schools to find out what's the timing and what does that look like. And I remain interested, you can say all of those things. But for the three schools you've been accepted to or you've been waitlisted for financial aid, you want to pursue understanding what that means. When might there be an aid consideration? Is there a financial aid consideration that's going to happen in a couple of weeks? Is that something that's not going to happen for a couple of months? Is the school not in a position to give any financial aid aid at this grade? So that you get a sense of where are you in the process? And so therefore, what's your strategy going forward from that? So I would be in touch with all three of those schools.

Kitsana Salyphone: Are you expected to put down a deposit soon after you've been accepted? What's the percentage?

Randie Benedict: So at each school that you've been accepted to, there should be in the enrollment agreement, a line where it indicates what your deposit is. Deposits can vary from school to school in terms of what that cost might actually be. At my current school, it's a flat amount. At my previous school, it was 10% of what you owed for tuition. So there are variables here. You don't actually have to put the deposit down until the date that it's due. And so for families who've been accepted at schools where it's due April the 10th, you need to be sure that it's in by April the 10th. Of course you can be letting the school know that you expect to come, they'll be excited to know that. But they will also be looking for your signed enrollment agreement and deposit because that's what assures that you've held your child's space.

So if you're able to do it earlier, you'll make admission officers very happy because they will see that one of the families that they've been working with has already signed on and is ready to come. And then you get into a flow of information about your matriculation process, which won't start until you've actually signed that enrollment agreement and made that deposit. So it is important to stick with the deadlines and to get that money in. And if you're using Flywire or some other vehicle for that money to be transitioned to the school, recognize that that can take a couple of business days. And so you want to be sure you've started that process in order to meet the established deadline.

Kitsana Salyphone: I've never worked with tuition refund insurance, Randie, have you? Someone asked, "Should we purchase tuition refund insurance? It's says strongly recommend for new students, but the school has awarded my daughter 99% in financial aid for tuition."

Randie Benedict: Oh, okay. Well that was an important last statement. Tuition refund insurance is about the risk your family is taking on the tuition value that you owe for the school. Tuition refund insurance is typically a certain percentage of the tuition that you pay just like you would pay renter's insurance or insurance on your car. There also is a period of time wherein your child actually has to have attended the school before tuition refund insurance kicks in. So at most schools you have to have been a matriculate for a 13 or 14-day period of time before tuition refund insurance is then available. That is an important piece just to understand. And then it's typically a percentage, based on the reason that you might be exiting that institution, a percentage of the tuition that you would receive back as a result of needing to leave.

The most important part of the question though was that that family has received a tuition aid package. That means that they are only paying 1% of the tuition value. And so I don't know if it would be important for you to get tuition refund insurance because essentially your risk financially is very small. So I don't know that I would go with the strongly encouraged if I was in that position. I had the pleasure of both of our children attended independent schools their entire lives and we did get tuition refund insurance because I just think you never know. And we moved 11 times in 40 years. And so it was good to have that assurance in place. And so it also depends on your view of insurance as a person, I think. In this particular case, I don't know if it is something that I would do.

Kitsana Salyphone: Thank you, Randie. How do we choose where to go? How do we choose? We plan to go to revisit days to see how we feel. However, should we rest on school rank? If so, do we use Niche? How do we decide if money is all the same across school acceptances?

Randie Benedict: So in this process, you as parents are looking to realize your hopes and dreams for your child. And so that's something you have a vision of. Your child is thinking about tomorrow or maybe the next day, but probably not four years from now. And so what they're looking at the school that might be important to them might be very different than the long view you have. And so you need to really be thinking about your family and your values and what you're hoping for and how you see that that might be realized in the institutions that you are visiting. And just like when you go on a college tour, I worked in college admissions at Georgetown University for a long time. I encourage people look at the bulletin boards and listen to the conversations in the hallway and be sure you're taking some time that's a little bit away from that canned part of your visit where you are able to learn a little bit more because this is a really important decision. And so you want to be sure that you are asking all the questions and doing the important listening. Those would be the things I would think. And the way of advice about that question.

Rankings. So rankings are written by people who choose to participate in them. I've had the pleasure of being involved in a podcast with Niche as well in my professional career. And so they're great organizations. They do look to quantify and calibrate and have a sense of what a school might offer from the view of those who participated in that ranking experience. So by being present at the school, you're able to actually do a much deeper dive than what you might see on a ranking website.

Kitsana Salyphone: And my recommendation is really high level. Do you feel at home at the school? Right? Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel like you can be your authentic self with teachers, other students? So it's important to your point, Randie, the formal and informal. Attend the sports games and then see the community in action attend the, gosh, the performances, visual arts performances.

Randie Benedict: Go to lunch in the dining hall.

Kitsana Salyphone: Yes.

Randie Benedict: Just things that allow you to listen to what is, what's happening in that community, what are students talking about? What are you seeing? And then as you think about who you hope your child will be.

Kitsana Salyphone: Yes.

Randie Benedict: Are you seeing other children who seem to be those kinds of people? And that's why I talked about values. Every family values something different in this process. Sometimes those are things you hold very close and sometimes those are things that you discuss as part of this process. All the time though you're noticing whether there seems to be a match there. So just be sure to pay attention to that.

Kitsana Salyphone: I love that. I have one from the chat here. Who might be considered as a terrific candidate to come to ninth grade to start high school. What are we looking for? I know that's a question a lot of families ask, but I think from my perspective, it depends on the school.

Randie Benedict: So there are schools that start in ninth grade. There are schools where you join an already formed class in ninth grade. There are schools that have a day program that then start a boarding program also in ninth grade. And so there are many different parts of what are you joining in ninth grade? Are you joining an already formed group? Are you there at the beginning where all 100 of you are going to be grade nine? And there wasn't anybody in that place before you got there. And so I think you need to first have a sense of what is the experience that the school is intending? Are you mixing a group or are you starting a group? I think that's important.

And then it really does depend on the school. I agree with you completely. So what I often tell parents at our school for instance, is we're looking for joiners. So we have 40 clubs, we have over 30 varsity sports, we have a musical and two plays every year. There is a lot here to do. And we expect students to come in and say, "I'd like to join that or I'd like to start a club, or this is something I really want to do. Do you want to do it with me?" We want students who have those sorts of interests to be coming here because there's so much to choose from as opposed to a student who says, "I already know what I'm interested in. You have it, I just want to do that and I'd like to do more of that here." That's fine. We're just not that school because we would be nudging you and saying, "Well, don't you want to do something else?" And so those are the things I think you need to be learning about the grade nine experience. What is that school hoping for in terms of the experience of students in that grade and how does that set you up for what's next?

Kitsana Salyphone: Gosh, I love that joiners. That's a great perspective. I certainly want to visit your school.

Randie Benedict: Happy to have you anytime.

Kitsana Salyphone: We have a question here. "My child on the waiting life." Lots of waitlist questions here. So a lot of anxious families wanting to know more. "When contacting schools to let them know that we are still very interested in attending. Can we contact the person we interviewed with since we have their card or should we contact the admission office?"

Randie Benedict: So in some schools you're interviewed by a faculty member or by someone else who's part of that community. I would actually contact both of those people. So you probably have an admission officer who has squired you through the process, and who might even be the person who authored the contact with you about the waiting list decision. And then that faculty member or that other individual is also part of the process, probably also sits on that admission committee. I know that's typical in schools where those additional people would be part of the review process. So it doesn't hurt to tell more than one person that you're interested, if those were people that you've had contact with. It doesn't make sense to suddenly be contacting other people in the school who you haven't had contact with to say, "I'm really interested in getting in from the waiting pool, what should I do?" So I think being sure to be thoughtful about your contact is important.

Kitsana Salyphone: Oh, speaking of thoughtful, I think that is very important. We can tell if a letter is canned or a template. So try to add nice touch points, certain experiences that you know liked from that particular visit or the conversation that you had with that faculty member, because that'll stick more than something totally, "I like your school and I want to attend." Right? So I think making it personal is really important because we on our end try to make your experience personal it personalized. Right? So yes, that's a two-way street.

Randie Benedict: Absolutely.

Kitsana Salyphone: That's a great point. I have an international student from Ghana, "Got denied to all four schools. Now I have to do the application process again to five schools. What are my chances of getting into one school this fall?"

Randie Benedict: So the person is going to apply to five other schools. I might actually encourage that individual to ask of the schools that you're applying to for the grade you're considering how many spaces remain for candidates who are looking at the school now. So you at least start to have a sense yourself of is the school looking to add 10 more students to the grade or is it two? And how does that vary among the five schools that I'm applying to? Because that might help you a little bit with your strategy. In those applications. They probably aren't all looking for the exact same number of students. And so being sure that you get that data so you have a sense of where you want to put your energy, if your goal is to be sure that you are matriculating to one of those five.

Kitsana Salyphone: There are schools who have rolling admission, so look for schools who have rolling admissions so that you can have that conversation to apply. And there is a feature at the SSAT.org, there's a member search and also schools that are still accepting applications feature. There's a box that you can click on to find schools who are still accepting applications this spring. So there's certainly resources that we have at the Enrollment Management Association for families to look for schools that are still looking at accepting applications that I.s

Randie Benedict: Great resource. Absolutely.

Kitsana Salyphone: Thank you. What if your email doesn't get responded to when you ask about financial aid and the waitlist?

Randie Benedict: Yeah, so I would try a call.

Kitsana Salyphone: Yes.

Randie Benedict: And I would also try to determine is there on that team, that's in that Admission office, is there someone who is a financial aid designated professional so that you might try to pursue contact with them If your question is around financial aid, so being polite is important, but you don't need to be bashful, you don't need to hold back. You can certainly call and say, "I've emailed. I really would like to be able to speak with someone." Sometimes there is a person who is sort of officiating the calls that are coming in and looking to connect those with admission officers. And so indicate your strong interest in being able to have that personal conversation.

Kitsana Salyphone: Absolutely. And being patient. There are a lot of families going through this process and the admission officers are also fielding lots of questions along the way. So this is testimony of being testing your patients for sure.

Randie Benedict: I think the most important thing for us to say is these admission officers want to hear from you. Be sure to be in touch with people, reach out and try to get answers to your questions. This is a really important decision for your family and people at schools want to be helpful. Look forward to just continuing to connect with you as you look to make the best choice for your family for next year.

Kitsana Salyphone: Thank you, Randie for sharing such helpful information with us today, and a huge thank you to all the families who joined us. Lot of great questions and we truly wish you the best of luck and have a successful academic experience in the fall.

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the #admissionchat podcast. #admissionchat is a production of the Enrollment Management Association. For more EMA resources to help families throughout the private school application process, visit Admission.org.

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