Are You Ready to Tackle the High School Admissions Process?
The school year just started, but if you are an eighth grader, it is already time to consider where you will be attending school this time next year as the high school admissions process has kicked off at most schools.
Why Is This important?
In the near-term, applications will be due to private high schools and Montgomery County Public School magnet and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs in the coming months, meaning you need to start gathering and preparing your materials now as well as planning any school visits, future interviews, and entrance test preparation.
Longer-term, the consideration of your high school selection is important for two main reasons. First, college admissions decisions about your academic performance will be judged on both the grades achieved in individual classes as well as the school or advanced academic program where those classes were taken. A 4.0 GPA is not the same at every school, and admissions officers weigh this in their consideration of a student’s application. Second, opportunity and fit are important for future success in high school (and college). If the school you attend is not a good fit for your abilities and interests, and if it does not provide you the right opportunities to grow and learn, your overall academic performance will suffer.
Entrance Tests Already?
Private schools will also require the applicant to take an entrance test such as the SSAT, ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam), or HSPT (High School Placement Test). This score will be a key indicator used by the admissions team to gauge a student’s ability to perform in high school. While the testing window varies by school or program, you can expect to need to take a test in late November or December for most. In the case of private school admissions, most will take both the SSAT or ISEE, but there are some notable exceptions, so it helps to check. If you are focused on attending a Catholic Church high school, the HSPT is the standard choice of the Archdiocese.
These tests focus on verbal skills, reading comprehension, quantitative skills (pre-algebra to geometry), and in the case of the HSPT, grammar. Their difficulty can often stretch past the abilities of eighth graders because schools use them to test students as far along as eleventh grade. With this in mind, we see many students each fall for test prep focused on one or two of these tests.
Prep is focused on reinforcing the knowledge a student already has as well as preparing them for content and skills they may not have seen before in middle school. For verbal, this means a concentration on roots, suffixes, and prefixes so they can understand the context of words they may not know. We also focus on how to read passages for critical information and the strategies needed to answer the types of verbal and reading comprehension questions used on these tests. Students must approach these questions differently than they would a subject test in school. To prepare for the quantitative sections, we use diagnostic tests to determine the student’s math abilities and knowledge. Using this baseline, we will review concepts that a student knows within the framework of how the tests ask these questions. We will then start adding skills for any concepts that they should know by eighth grade, and if possible, expand their abilities beyond this core set so they can demonstrate a higher level of math knowledge on the test. As with verbal prep, we also provide the key strategies to answering the specific types of questions a student will encounter on the test.
For entrance to the Montgomery County Public School magnet programs, students will take the CogAT (Cognitive Abilities Test). This test differs from the others because it is testing a student’s ability to examine a novel problem and find a solution instead of testing just their learned knowledge. Because of this, we approach CogAT prep differently. Here our goals are to familiarize the student with the types of questions they will see and then to improve their reasoning ability to tackle these problems.
You Do Have Options for High School
While our society has a predilection to stress the importance of the college admissions process, we know that the choice of high school can have as significant an effect on a student’s future as the college they attend since one is foundational to the other. While costs and logistics can often be limiting factors in a family’s decisions about which high schools to target, we would recommend at least investigating the options available to your student. Most private schools offer generous tuition assistance based on need, and just like colleges, every high school is looking for talented and unique individuals to diversify their student body. Do not preempt the process before exploring all your options; you never know where you might end up because you took that first step.
If you have questions about the local high school admissions process or need help preparing for an entrance test, give us a call today. The consultation is free, and we are here to help you achieve your academic goals this year.
Read more about our high school entrance exam prep process.