By: Ashley Griffin, MDS Director Admissions // MDS Musings Blog
Nine weeks into school and I guarantee parents are already looking (happily) toward the 2021-2022 school year. Whether your child is learning virtually, in-person, or with a hybrid model, this year has been a challenge. As parents navigate the ins and outs of a new school year, schools are working to deliver dynamic and personalized admissions information, to attract new students. Elementary, middle, high; public or private; below are some tools you can use to learn about your school choices during a pandemic.
Maybe you are looking for more academic challenges, a better environment, or your school’s virtual program is not going as well as you had hoped. Regardless, finding a program that is stable, adaptable, and flexible is important. A school must have a history of overcoming challenges, and be willing to adjust quickly and pivot when needed. Technology is key. Do they have devices for students to use while in school and at home, and is the infrastructure in place for student, parent, and teacher tech support? Have they listened to current parents and students, and created a plan for the future that first and foremost benefits and supports student achievement and success?
Finances are also a major consideration. Look for different financial strategies and a comprehensive financial aid and scholarship program, but steer clear of gimmicks. You want a fair and unbiased process. Do not get caught in a situation you cannot sustain for future years.
Before you contact schools, create a list of goals and questions. What do you want to learn? What type of environment does your student do best in and what challenges does he/she have? How are is the school handling extra-curriculars such as athletics and fine arts programs. What are their current and future Covid-19 plans? Is the application online? What other documents are required? Is there an entrance or placement test?
First determine your comfort level of engagement, then research what options are available for each school. If you want to physically visit campus, look for outdoor events, campus tours where masks are required, or special club or athletic days for your student to be one-on-one with a teacher or student. Human connection is important, but navigating that safely can be overwhelming. Gather as much information as possible, and have your student picture themselves in the environment – on the baseball field, singing in the choir, or part of the campus culture.
Virtual experiences should include phone calls, Zoom or Team meetings with the admissions staff, virtually meeting with teachers, engaging videos, and the ability to “view” classes from afar.
You cannot replicate an in-person experience, but you can still come away with the answers to all of your questions from the comfort of your home! Make sure you follow the school’s social media accounts and request texts for quick updates and deadlines. As we all learn to navigate the new normal, expect technological glitches so give grace and be patient throughout the process. Make sure the school’s admissions team is willing to be flexible for those families that may not have internet access. Are they readily available to take your phone call or can you find access to a local library with free wifi?
Don’t forget about snail mail! Is the school sending hard copies of important items in the mail – event invitation, admission information, financial aid and scholarship packets? Give kudos to the schools that engage the student as well – kids always love receiving mail and beautiful publications and spirit gear will go a long way!
One last thought as you contemplate a new school for your children: consider engaging before the busy admission season begins, which typically runs January-March. Scholarships and financial aid are usually first come, first serve, and if your acceptance depends on financial support, then you want to be at the top of the list. As schools try to keep in-person classes small, you do not want to wait to enroll and realize your favorite school has filled up already.
Click here to learn more and look at different school perspectives during the pandemic.
Mount de Sales Academy is a private Catholic school located in Macon, GA, and serves students in Bibb, Houston, Jones, Monroe, Peach and other surrounding counties. MDS is sponsored and inspired by the Sisters of Mercy. Since 1876, MDS has served a diverse college-preparatory community of learners—students and teachers alike—who are poised to discover, challenged to innovate, and motivated to serve.