America’s high schools come in many shapes, sizes, and degrees of difficulty. Some public, some private, (or independent, to use the preferred nomenclature of the trade.) Since well before public education became the law of our Land, independent schools have served the scholastic needs of students fortunate enough to gain access. In the 18th and 19th Centuries, that access came from class privilege; later, it came from financial wherewithal.
With growing national prosperity, American independent schools began to proliferate, resulting in today’s network of public, magnet, cyber, parochial, private day, and boarding schools nationwide. Linked only by basic accreditation standards, all of these high school types strive for academic excellence in their own terms. Among them, some traditional independent schools – having long ago broken down the financial and other barriers to access – have become known widely for the achievements of their students and graduates, including placements in leading colleges and universities.
Independent schools have prospered, in large part, as the result of selective admission. That, of course, occurs when demand exceeds the supply of available spaces within these esteemed institutions. Since education is the key to a great future in our society, it stands to reason that a great education will lead to an even greater future. To get a great job, for example, it helps to have had a similarly great college experience. To have gotten into a great college or university in the first place, it helps to have had a great high school background.
While it is no longer the case that an independent school education virtually guarantees admission to an elite college – as it once did – it certainly helps. (Compare college matriculation lists from school to school to confirm this point.) So, how can an interested student optimize the chance of gaining admission to a selective independent school? Good grades? Yes. Solid accomplishments in and out of school? Yes. Anything else? Absolutely.
Students seeking admission to a selective independent school today face tough competition from other, well qualified applicants. The academic demands and other requirements of the independent school are likely to be greater than those of the former school. (Otherwise, there would be no point to making a change.) One admissions practice that has helped countless thousands of independent school candidates gain entrance from a competitive applicant pool is the “repeat year.” On its face, the thought of repeating a year of high school seems like an awful idea to most students and their families. The reality, though, is very different and beneficial in so many ways, some of which may not become entirely obvious until years into the future.
How does a repeat year work? Who should be considering it? Is it just a device for “getting in,” or does it help with “staying in,” too? Look for a brief essay entitled The Repeat Year elsewhere in the Blog section of this website for some important answers.
Carter P. Reese, Director
Informed Educational Solutions