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Let’s Talk About the Standard Application Online (SAO)

Daren Worcester
Oct 27, 2023
42 minutes
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#admissionchat episode six welcomes Jeanne Crowell, associate director of admissions, pre-K–12, at Princeton Day School and Sunaina Khanna, associate director of product management, at the Enrollment Management Association. Listen to them discuss the time-saving benefits of applying to private schools using the Standard Application Online (SAO).

Questions discussed, include:

  • How does the SAO consolidate application documentation?
  • Do students really only have one essay to write?
  • What if a school has special application requirements?
  • How are fee waivers handled?
  • Is there a limit to the number of schools an applicant can apply to?
  • Do schools know when an applicant starts an SAO application for their school?
  • When should families start the application process?
  • What happens if a family starts the application process late?

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, Stitcher.


Daren Worcester: Welcome to Admission Chat. Let's talk about the Standard Application Online.

[Intro music]

Daren Worcester: Greetings, I'm Daren Worcester and in this episode, we're talking about the Standard Application Online, also known as the SAO. A common application that saves families time when applying to K-12 private schools. Our discussion will include Jeanne Crowell, the associate director of admissions, pre-K through 12, at Princeton Day School in New Jersey. Jeanne will share with us why her school accepts the SAO and encourages families to use it. But first, we're talking to Sunaina Khanna, the associate director of product management for the SAO at the Enrollment Management Association. Sunaina is going to break down for us how the SAO works and we'll probably get some tips and tricks from her as well. So let's get started. Sunaina, welcome to #admissionchat.

Sunaina Khanna: Hi. So excited to be here. Thank you, Daren.

Daren Worcester: Excellent. So, today we're talking about the SAO. And I thought maybe for this first question, it's great to have you here to explain all the benefits and values of the SAO to families especially those who haven't been through the private school application process before. So let's just start at square one here, could you explain to us what exactly the SAO is?

Sunaina Khanna: Absolutely. The Standard Application Online, commonly known as the SAO, was established about 16 years ago to ease the management of the application delivery process. So when we started, it was more of collecting all the pieces that were coming to our facility from parents and making sure that those are all processed. They were pieces of paper and we were processing and delivering pieces of paper into PDF files to the schools who were participating. Over these years, EMA has been researched and worked with hundreds of schools and families because we saw there was a lot of value in that idea. It was adding ease to submission, the families would send the application and trusted us that those pieces of material that they were sending were being sent to the schools because they could see that the schools had received it. So we took it further, we searched a lot with our families and schools to make this into a wholesome tool to apply to private schools with ease and trust.

So, to highlight a few benefits of the SAO which families and members equally and really, really that's the trigger for using the tool. Things like SAO allows families to apply to multiple schools using one set of standard forms, student essays or recommendation forms. The participating schools contribute to the development and refinement of the forms and transcripts, thereby removing the need of having school specific forms and essays to talking about efficiencies and removing that burden being passed over to the families. The families can respond to the same set of essays and the same forms and they all get passed to different schools while requiring it.

Daren Worcester: I've got to put my parent hat on and thinking about that, it does make sense that the family information, and the transcripts, and the recommendation forms, essentially you're eliminating redundancy where you don't need to fill out the form six times, you can fill it out once and submit it to all six schools. But with the essays, I'm curious about that because the schools typically ask different essay questions for each schools. So now, if I'm understanding this correctly, you're saying that my child will really just have one essay question and they only have to write the essay once, is that correct?

Sunaina Khanna: Absolutely. That's exactly how the system works. So just to clarify a little bit, when we talk about the essays, we are definitely putting together a group of forms into that form. All those forms that are standardized as part of the SAO are developed by our schools. They have given us feedback, they have given us these other types of things we want to know about the student because with passing times we've seen that the old types of forms do not hold their ground anymore in the current times. So they have refined especially with being in the COVID pandemic, we have really worked hard with the schools so that we are consolidating the requirements and not trying to increase the number of forms or passing that burden off to the family. So Daren, exactly what you said, it is a way to consolidate, streamline the application process from forms to even essays, and do it once and submit to all the schools that are requiring it. Because the schools have developed it, they use the standard forms as they would their own.

Daren Worcester: So they basically when a school says, we're going to accept the SAO, they are accepting that they're going to take this one essay question as their essay question.

Sunaina Khanna: That's correct. Yes.

Daren Worcester: Excellent. That sounds wonderful. Thank you. I know you said you had several benefits that you wanted to highlight.

Sunaina Khanna: Sure, I can delve into those. We talked about the forms are really that one piece which is, holding this tool to a place where in the families are finding ease. SAO also consolidates the requirements from the schools into an intuitive dashboard. So no need to go into school websites and different portals to fetch the deadlines, important dates by which the application has to submitted, whether I have to do an interview before submitting an application or after. All those requirements are nicely consolidated into your family dashboard. In addition to that, another key benefit is that the SAO works in realtime. As soon as you submit something into the system, we dispose that to the school. So this is really that instant gratification, if you are submitting an application on the most popular deadline of January 15th and you've hit the submit button, rest assured that application has made it on the same day within a few minutes to the school.

So you can really have that conversation, I've just submitted the application, I want to be sure that I'm all set, and all those conversations can really be satisfying, right? When you are hitting against that deadline, it is realtime and it's trusted. All the data is secured properly and then sent over to the school over the web. And the last piece which is one of my favorite features or benefits of the product is the profile and portfolio section. SAO provides students and their family the ability to add more enriching data into this profile section. So, beyond the biographic data, the basic data about addresses, and the parents, and all that data that we usually enter into a biographic section, SAO also provide the ability for students to add their interests, spotlight their achievements, show pictures of their certificates, show their work through multimedia links and such. So talking about convenience, it's really geared towards that very busy family who has a lot to navigate through to make sure that they are reaching the deadlines for their students, SAO really provides that service in a one place.

Daren Worcester: Sunaina, you had me at geared toward that very busy family. I'm sure everybody with children at the age group of applying to private schools, their afternoons and early evenings are filled with running to sports, and dance, and whatever other activities their kids are doing. And the weekends are then filled with all the games, and the performances. The idea of filling out six different applications to six different schools just sounds like a herculean burden I do not want to bear. So I love the idea of just having to do that once and submitting it to all of the schools. Thank you for clarification on how well that works. One thing I'm wondering about is, this a software service provided by the Enrollment Management Association. Is there a minimum number of applications I need to submit, or conversely at the other end of the spectrum, is there a maximum number I can't exceed? How does that work?

Sunaina Khanna: We have no limits. Families can choose to apply to as many schools as they want using the SAO. Of course, the schools have to be participating and in acceptance of the SAO. But remember that we just talked about even if you're applying to let's say five schools or eight schools, those schools accepting the SAO would have chosen from the standard set of forms and essays and all the other pieces of the application. So, adding more applications to your dashboard is not increasing the burden to complete the applications. So that's a good thing about the service and that's why that's the key benefit that we just talked about.

Generally we have seen and we're talking about data, of course we don't want to apply to a whole lot of schools because we really want to streamline and have a very focused search plan before we start using the application service to find that fit, the school that the student is applying or the school that you see is a fit for you as a family. We have seen that typically 3.2 applications per applicants in the domestic market, domestic being U.S. and Canada, and a slightly higher number for international applicants. But it purely ranges between those three to five applications on average. So to answer your question, there isn't any limit neither is there a minimum or a maximum, we have seen that the families have a very streamlined plan when they come to us to start the application process.

Daren Worcester: So that's great to know. And I would imagine that in the beginning of the process I may want to grab all these different schools that we're thinking of looking at and start the prep work, you mentioned seeing all the deadlines and everything for every school. But ultimately, when I get closer to the finish line, perhaps I'm not going to actually apply to all of those schools. So while I'm doing this and I've highlighted that they're one that I'm interested in, do they know that I'm going to be potentially applying to their school? Do they have any insight into what I'm doing on my end?

Sunaina Khanna: Yeah. That's a great question Daren, and it really points to one of the benefits or features as you would call of the SAO. SAO allows the family to engage with the school prior to submitting an application. We know it's a process that starts in August and typically ends by January. So there's a six-month period or a slightly longer period that you are engaging, you are understanding the requirement, you're completing the requirements. And we really have thought through those pieces to make sure that the schools that you are choosing, if you are able to engage with them, then you'll really informing yourself for the next step in the application process.

There could be instances that you saw day schools near your neighborhood but as you engage with them, you see that there's a gap in the fit. So you can totally gain from that experience of engagement then streamline your final submission that you want to make to the schools of your choice in your list. So it's a nice way to kick off the application process. Engage, research with the schools during the season and then finally put those final touches to your application to submit to the schools that you decide on.

Daren Worcester: Excellent. That makes a lot of sense. I'm going to make a mental note to ask Jeanne when we interview her later, whether she likes having that inquiry come through at the beginning of the process. For our next question, when it comes to submitting the applications at the end of the process, how does the SAO work with the SSAT? They take the test and their test scores can integrate in here. But maybe I don't want my child's SSAT score to go to all the schools that we're applying to. Or on the first run for various reasons, maybe some schools are test optional but I know they're highly selective and I'm not sure my child's first score is going to be good enough for that institution, and maybe my child's going to take the test again to see of they can improve upon it. Do I have some flexibility to say that this score goes to this school but not this school? How does that work?

Sunaina Khanna: Absolutely. All the flexibility that you just mentioned exists for the products that we are talking about here, the SSAT and the SAO. The way the test works is that, typically families decide to submit their scores once they have seen the scores. So we have bigger population of families going in for that decision after looking at the scores. So til you decide you want to release those scores, those scores are just sitting in your dashboard. And to answer that piece of how it integrates with the SAO, yes, it could be that you are applying to a couple of schools you have taken the test but the first time you took the test, you really want to give it another try or you feel that there is a slight chance that your student will be more comfortable taking it the second time and improve on the scores and that totally acceptable, and something that we see all the time. We encourage that you look at the scores, if you are taking the test another time, then wait for those scores to come in and then make a decision whether you want to send the first or the second. Whatever you decide for is what we will release to the school as part of those SSAT scores as such and integrate the ones that you're releasing into the SAO. So nothing goes without your permission, whatever you release and you're comfortable releasing is what we integrate into the SAO.

Daren Worcester: Thank you. That's a huge relief, that was something I was nervous about. So to know that it's non-automated, and as the parent I get to pick and choose when the scores go and who gets it, makes it sound even better. Alright, we specifically were highlighting the SSAT there, I know the SAO also integrates with the Character Skills Snapshot. Is it the same thing there? I assume it's not automated. I get to choose, is that correct?

Sunaina Khanna: Exactly. It is not automated. I go back a step, right? We talked about how SAO is consolidating all the requirements. So for the families, when they look at an application, they open up the school application card as we call it on the portal on your dashboard. And they start looking through the requirements and they find that SSAT is required, Character Skills Snapshot is required. They'll take the steps to fulfill those requirements by taking a test and getting a score on file, taking the Character Skills Snapshot and getting those results on file. But until they decide where they want to send those scores or results to those scores and results are not going to be released.

So it works exactly the way we talked about for SSAT, your Snapshot results are based on your decision to release them or not to release to the school that is requiring them as part of the application packet. The only different here that I would highlight is that though you are able to take the SSAT multiple times once or twice, Character Skills Snapshot is a Snapshot that is taken once a year. There is no chance of improving the results because it's a non-cognitive assessment. It's a snapshot of how your students skills are looking at that point in time. So that's the only difference, if you decide not to release the scores then you'd have to leave that requirement as is and not fulfill it, if you're not quite in acceptance of those results.

Daren Worcester: That makes total sense, thank you, I am loving the flexibility and control as parents that we have in this application. At the beginning of our conversation, specifically when we were talking about essays we talked about when schools come into the program and say that they are going to accept the SAO, they are essentially agreeing that they are going to accept all the standards forms and documentation that is provided through the SAO, thus it is called the Standard Application Online. But we know that sometimes schools have specific requirements or documentation that are particular to their school and their admissions process and how they want to handle things. What happens in that case? How does the SAO handle that?

Sunaina Khanna: Sure. So Daren, typically the schools are using those standards forms that we talked about to gather the most pertinent information. But occasionally we have schools who are looking for school specific requirements. For example, let's take a school who is trying to find a fit and would like to ask the family of how they connect with the mission of the school. Now that's a very school specific requirement which should be fulfilled for only that school. In those cases the schools have an ability to alter what is called a supplement form. If the school is requiring one the families would see it as part of the requirements and typically if our families go back and look at their dashboards they would see that on the left-hand side there is something called a supplement form section and that's where the supplement requirements would be listed if the school has one. Some more details if there is a supplement form that's required please note that because it's a school specific requirement only the school that's requesting it would get that response. Not all the schools would see it.

And another saying never do any other schools ever get to see everywhere you are applying. So it's really compartmentalized that way, it's your portal, it's your decision where you want to apply, if a school is requiring a very specific question to be answered that response will only go to that specific School. When you look at the dashboard, it's easy, it's intuitive, the families are able to see if their form is required or it's optional and, if it is optional, then the families can make a decision whether they want to fulfill that requirement or not. But if it is required then it's contributing to the completeness of the applications and we seen that typically the families are so committed to the process that they are completing all the requirements that the application process is asking of them.

Daren Worcester: Okay Sunaina. Thank you, that makes complete sense. For the next question I wanted to get into the application fee. So we charge a nominal every time somebody submits an application that covers all the processing and the development that we do for the SAO and for anybody that orders tickets online or goes to an ATM, I'm pretty sure they are understanding and accepting of what those fees are and why they are charged, so we probably don't need to get too much into that. But what I am curious about is that every school also has their own application fee and those fees vary from school to school. So it's not like we're standardizing what the school application fees are at all those schools. How does that work? As parents are we able to pay the school's application fee directly through the SAO and is it different per school we're applying to?

Sunaina Khanna: Yes. That's a great question. So it's interesting too, because talking about the flexibility we're talking about we are talking about the family side of the experience, right? That's how SAO benefits them. This dovetails into how the SAO is also helping schools to consolidate their requirements. Schools have the ability to set up their application—set up meaning to put their requirements in one place and then the systems starts conveying that to the family. As part of that set up, they are stating their application requirements perhaps for the day applicants they can say their application fee is X amount and whatever the schools are putting is what the product is showing to the families when they add that application. So let's take an example of Princeton Day School, Jeanne has put say, X amount for her day applicants and that exactly the amount that we insure to the family when they start their application to the Princeton Day School. Through the checkout process it's simple, it's just like any E-commerce site. Families are able to submit their applications using a credit card. The application fee and a denominal admin fee that you just mentioned and said that's a norm in any E-commerce platform, that all coupled together is what's charged to the credit card of the family.

But then there is another part of, it if the family decides or thinks that they have a need for an application fee waiver, they can contact the school directly. Schools are very considerate, they accept application fee waiver applications. And it's a simple request, not an application itself but it's a request that the family can seek a waiver from the school. If they get a waiver, then they are using the waiver code. And they'll find that on the checkout page, they use the waver code. And once they have that the system also waives the admin fee. So EMA, the makers of SAO, we are very committed to the access. And if our schools decide and our families need a waiver on an application, we are also waiving the admin fee that we would have charged on processing the application.

Daren Worcester: Excellent. And so to get that fee waiver, is that something they get through us or do they go to the school for that?

Sunaina Khanna: Oh, yeah. Because it's an application fee waiver, a school specific one, families should contact the schools directly and request for a fee waiver. If the school is granting one, they'll simply send an email.

Daren Worcester: And they can use that code just for that specific school or for schools?

Sunaina Khanna: That's correct. No, this school specific, so it can only be used for that specific schools application. And EMA will then process the application using the fee waiver code and waive that admin fee that we talked about.

Daren Worcester: All right, I'm making another mental note to ask Jeanne about their requirements for giving out fee waivers, to give our families an idea of how one school handles that. So down to the last question. Thank you so much for your time so far, when it comes to getting notifications from the school, the acceptance notifications. We mentioned before the SAO is really sort of an all in one dashboard to understand and see the application process with all the schools that you're applying to. Do they get notifications through this platform as well or will that come separately from the school?

Sunaina Khanna: Daren, those notifications, the decisions and any communications from the school directly come from the school. And those processes rest fully with the School. SAO is not collecting decisions from our schools and then sending the decision. I would say there's a reason behind it, right? When a decision letter is being sent or a very school specific communications are being sent. The school wants to have that dialogue, that conversation the way they would like for that message to be delivered to the family. So we have kept that piece purely with the school.

Daren Worcester: Thank you, Sunaina this is very helpful, I'm sure for many people trying to understand how they can pull off applying to all the different schools that they're trying to apply to and how the SAO can help them. So thank you very much for your time and clarification today.

Sunaina Khanna: Thanks, Daren. Thanks for having me over.

Daren Worcester: Okay, that was great to have Sunaina answer our questions about how the SAO works. Let's turn to Jeanne now for the school side of the story. Jeanne, welcome to #admissionchat and thank you for joining us.

Jeanne Crowell: Good morning. Thanks so much for having me, I'm really happy to be here.

Daren Worcester: Excellent. We really appreciate this. Let's get started. We already had Sunaina talk to everyone and let them know what the SAO is. So let's get started with you by having you tell us a little bit about your career in private school admissions, and in your school in general.

Jeanne Crowell: Well, I'm entering my 15th year in admissions here at Princeton Day School, as many people who have been in admissions will probably tell you the same thing, that this isn't something that I had planned on, it wasn't a career choice, necessarily or path that I was looking to go on. I actually had started out teaching in the public schools then I was home with my children for a number of years, and while I was home, I open my own business. As they get older, through word of mouth, I heard about a part time position in admissions at Princeton Day School, I applied and ultimately was offered the job. I thought I would do it just for a year part time while I really figured out what it was that I really wanted to do. But long story short, 15 years later, I'm still here full time as associate director of admissions. I'm also a proud parent now to have three alums of the school. Princeton Day School, if you're not familiar with us, we are a pre-K through 12 independent coeducational day school here in Princeton. Really just such a great community and strong program, that it really has been a great journey for myself, as well as my children.

Daren Worcester: Excellent. And yes, I think that's for a lot of admissions folks, that's a similar journey where you don't necessarily go to college to be in admissions, I don't think there's a program for that, right? Lots of people find their way there just for love of helping families and students out. So now that we've got your background, and we heard from Sunaina about the SAO, can you tell me a little bit about why Princeton Day School chooses to use the SAO?

Jeanne Crowell: Sure, the number one reason I would say that we've chosen to use the SAO is really for the ease of families. While we love it from our end, as well. We live in an area with a really large number of independent schools, families are often applying to multiple schools. In the old days, when we were all paper applications, families had to fill out multiple applications. So the SAO really makes it easy for families, the majority of their information, they can just fill it out once and then it gets sent to the various schools that they choose to apply to. It also makes it easier for teachers, when students are applying, they don't have to fill out five different teacher recommendations for one child, they can fill it out once on the SAO and then it goes to the various schools from there.

Daren Worcester: Yeah, the simplicity and the consolidation is obviously why we think it's great and love it and want to encourage families to use it. So I presume you don't exclusively accept the SAO, right? You probably also have your own native application?

Jeanne Crowell: And no, we do not. We very quickly went to solely using the SAO, as I said, it's easier for us and really much easier for the families.

Daren Worcester: That's excellent. So from your standpoint, with some schools, they do have a couple of different applications that they accept, and families may be skeptical of which one to use. But for you guys, you're saying we believe in this, it works and families should go for it.

Jeanne Crowell: Absolutely, and the SAO makes it really easy that you can personalize it a little bit. So while the majority of the information, like I said, only needs to be filled out once we do have a supplemental form that is specific to PDS. So we can ask them, why are you interested in PDS specifically? So it really has that nice feature that we can personalize it. So we really didn't feel the need to have our own separate application.

Daren Worcester: That sounds good. So let's talk a little bit about ghost applications. So for families that probably aren't familiar with that term, because it is a little bit of an insider term for the schools. That's when a school receives an application from someone that they haven't had any conversations with. So they haven't attended an open house. They haven't done anything. So that's essentially kind of the catch-22 I presume from the school side a little bit with online applications in general and certainly the SAO that makes it easy to apply to multiple schools online. Where's that, it's now much easier for families to do their research online, learn what they want about the schools, talk to friends that go to the schools, look at your social media feeds, and then apply without necessarily engaging in conversations with you.

I know that the SAO has a feature in it, where parents can fill out essentially an inquiry form to let you know that they're interested in your school, before going the full bore of applying and that sort of stuff. From your standpoint, what do you think of the potential of ghost applications? Has that become tricky for you on your end? And do you encourage families, if they are applying online to fill out an inquiry, whether directly through your website or through the SAO, or to give you a call, or essentially to let themselves be known and start a conversation with you?

Jeanne Crowell: Absolutely, I think any school would say, they want to know who's interested in them as soon as possible. As you mentioned, with everything being online, and so easily accessible, it is really easy for families to just jump into the application process, they can do all the research, and not feel that they're committing themselves anywhere and then when they're ready, they apply. But there are a lot of steps throughout the application process that they need to go through, for example, their interview that's part of their application, so it won't become complete until they done that. So there still is, no matter how long they wait to apply there's still that opportunity to get to know them. We certainly want to get to know them sooner rather than later, it gives us multiple opportunities for us and for them to meet, to come for tours, that sort of thing.

It's rare that we see application come in with all the components complete, when we see that it's usually towards the end of the process. And it's either someone who didn't realize that they hadn't actually submitted it yet that happens on occasion, they're filling it out online, and don't realize that they haven't actually applied to us. Or they're applying to other schools, and they throw us in the ring at the end and say, well, let me apply to these three other schools as well, since I already have it complete. But again, they're still going to have to come in for an interview or visit or some sort of opportunity, where we're going to have to meet them and get to know them a little bit.

With the potential app feature in the SAO that makes it easy for us to reach out to families and invite them to these events. So we actually love that feature. Because if someone hasn't even completed the app, we can go in and see that they've started or they've expressed interest, as long as they've they've clicked that little check mark that you can share their information with us. And then we check that periodically, we will reach out to those families via email or send them a newsletter, things like that, so that's a really great feature of the SAO. I was just going to say, it really helps us to avoid having anyone fall through the cracks.

Daren Worcester: I think that summarizes it great there, I would think, from the family's perspective, I know, as a parent of an eighth grader and a younger child, I know how busy and crazy life is with all their activities and work and everything. So I see the temptation to just wait and fill out the application, submit it, I personally would be tempted to do a ghost application. But looking at it holistically I love what you just said, because it seems like as an applying family, you really want to start talking to the school as early as you can and start building that relationship with your admissions officer. So when it comes time for decision making, that they have a sense for who your child is. And it's not just somebody that's a name on paper, it's sounds like you agree with that.

Jeanne Crowell: Exactly. We really work hard to get to know the students that they're just not a paper application or an online application, but a real person.

Daren Worcester: Perfect. Let's talk a little bit about SAO fee waivers. So for families that aren't all that familiar, we touched on this a little bit with Sunaina. Every school dictates their application fee, and that gets paid through the SAO and the SAO has a nominal transactional fee that when they submit an application. But a student can also get an SAO fee waiver that waives both the school's application fee and our transaction fee. How do they go about getting that fee waiver from your end and you know what type of decision making goes on your end to decide who gets awarded one and who doesn't?

Jeanne Crowell: Right. It's good question so we never ever want the application fee to be a barrier to applying. So we are really actually very generous with granting our fee waivers. For the most part, if someone's asking for one that they need one, we've found that to be true. So we're very generous in granting them. We don't ask them really for anything other than to just say, yes, I need this application fee waiver, and we will grant it to them.

Daren Worcester: That's such a wonderful answer and I hope, probably a relief to many families that are listening. We talked a little bit about, preferably not doing a ghost application, excuse me, and engaging in those conversations with you guys. If you're looking at the timeline when should a family start applying? What time of the year is the ideal time for them?

Jeanne Crowell: Now. We just started, we just opened our application up for the 22/23 school year. So we really recommend that families would start the process as soon as possible for mutual benefit. Again, as we were just talking about a minute ago, having that opportunity to come in and visit more often we encourage parents right now, most everything has been virtual, given the state of the world. But we encourage parents to come to multiple information sessions. When tours are available to come to multiple tours, not just one. The earlier they apply, then they're going to have more choices in terms of when they schedule their interview, what day and time works best for them. Versus if you're coming in January, you might have very limited choice in scheduling your visits. So it's really a benefit to them to start the application process and not feel rushed. It's also a benefit, as I mentioned earlier to their teachers, they have time to get to know their students and then fill out their teacher recommendation. And again, not being rushed, or January 15 gets here and they say oh, my teacher rec, not in yet. And they just gave it to them two days ago. So it's really the benefit is on their behalf to start sooner rather than later.

Daren Worcester: Yeah, absolutely. That's great advice. And just to give some context, because we're talking about now, just to let everybody know, we are recording this on October 1st. So when Jeanne says now, it's great to start getting your applications in, in October. And would you even say September if they can?

Jeanne Crowell: It's good to let the new school year get started a week or two in and get things settled. But yes, by mid to late September absolutely.

Daren Worcester: All right. And so what about the family that may be listening to this late November, early December, maybe even a little bit later, they've come late to the process, I would probably be listening to this and get really scared. What can you say or advice for someone who's coming late to the application process?

Jeanne Crowell: Right, so our deadline at Princeton Day School is January 15th, and we really tell parents that that is our deadline, essentially, for them to have all their paperwork submitted. We do lots of things, we're continuing to do interviews and things like that. We also at that point, we begin going through every single file and making sure that the teacher rec is from this year's teacher, not their favorite teacher from three years ago. So it builds in some time for us to then reach out to the families and say, yes you submitted a teacher rec, and it looks like your application is complete. But we need one from your current teacher, so it builds in a buffer. So if someone's coming late to that, we try to accommodate families as best we can, we will work really closely with them to say you still have some time because we're not reviewing applications until February really.

Jeanne Crowell: So we'll work with them to really get that information in as quickly as possible, get their visit schedules, things like that. But then there comes a point where beyond we say, it's not complete by now we'll continue to work with you, but we can't guarantee you a decision on March 10. When our decisions go out, you're not complete, you're not complete, and you can't be completed the day before. We'll work with you as best we can, beyond March 10th, you're welcome to continue with the process. We will get you a decision as soon as your application is completed as soon after as we can. But we can't guarantee you that space will be available or obviously that your child will be accepted. So it really is important to pay attention to those deadlines. But know that we will work with you to get your information that we need.

Daren Worcester: It sounds like at Princeton Day School, you guys have a great team and you're very accommodating. And I know that is the case with a lot of private independent school admission teams but I also suspect that's an answer that may be a little bit different, if I were to ask it to different schools as well. So, for me the moral of the story, what I took away from that is, if we're coming into the application process late, we should really pick up the phone and talk to you and have a good conversation.

Jeanne Crowell: Absolutely.

Daren Worcester: Jeanne, I think it's going to be very helpful to folks certainly, help them understand what they need to do, and probably calm some nerves in terms of those deadlines and how everything takes place around those. Final pieces of advice would you have for families using the SAO?

Jeanne Crowell: Following up on our last question that you asked, my number one advice would to be timely and to follow up, don't wait until the last minute. Like most schools, we have an admission portal. So once you begin the application submit it on the SAO, it rolls over into our admission portal. We have a really nice checklists that parents can follow and see, what is complete, and what they need to do. And again, it's really incumbent upon the families to check that portal to make sure that information is in—that if the teacher rec isn't in, it's up to them to follow up, call their current school, not us. We can't request transcripts—if the transcripts aren't in, it's not very helpful to call us and say hey, can you get my transcripts because we can't, that request needs to come from the families. So it's really important that they're timely, that they follow up and check their admission portal with PDS often. And then follow up with who they need to, to make sure that all those pieces do get complete.

Daren Worcester: Yeah, that's a great, final piece of advice. Everything has been really helpful. Thank you very much for your time today, much appreciated.

Jeanne Crowell: It's my pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Daren Worcester: And for everyone listening, thank you for joining this #admissionchat. Please look for another episode soon. And for more insight into the private school application process, visit Admission.org and check out our Admission Academy live presentation series featuring insight from school admission leaders. Until next time, take care everyone.

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