The Perfect Fit - A Guide to the Secondary School Process

For parents of middle schoolers, the secondary school admissions process can seem daunting. How, they wonder, can the child who could barely remember homework assignments in fifth grade be expected to write multiple essays, make intelligent and engaging conversation at interviews and take a series of entrance exams?  And then, when the acceptance letters hit the mailbox, how can that same student be expected to decide on the right fit for him or her?

The Wall Outside of the Secondary School Placement Office
While the child who entered middle school and the child who is leaving may seem almost the same to parents, the truth is that they are growing and maturing quickly, something that the faculty at Morrow House recognizes, and something that Michele Bower, Director of Curriculum and Secondary School Placement, knows for sure.

“Students in schools that end at eighth grade understand the importance of the next step in their education, and understand the implications of making the right decision among several choices,” she says.  “Schools that end in eighth grade know that they have the responsibility for guiding these graduates in those choices by making sure that they find the right fit.”

Elisabeth Morrow starts the secondary school placement process in the seventh grade spring with an orientation meeting for the parents, a panel discussion with former parents and graduates and a school fair with representatives from secondary schools.  Ms. Bower then meets with parents at the end of the seventh grade to begin to flesh out a list of schools that would be a good fit for their child.

“We look at the student’s learning profile, including grades and test scores, and talk about the kind of environment the family is looking for,” she says.  “I am very familiar with the educational options in the area and I can help guide families to schools where their children will thrive just as they did at EMS.”

In the fall of the eighth grade, Ms. Bower speaks with parents at the Morrow House Back -To - School night, and begins to arrange lunches for students to visit with representatives of many secondary schools.  After school test preparation classes get underway, and students begin taking their Decisions class, where they develop their “brag sheets” (lists of activities, interests, and accolades) that will help with recommendation letters as well as interview topics and essays.  The class also dispels the myths about what high school is like and how hard it is to get in.  “Students bring up what they have heard from other students, and it may not always be accurate,” she says. “We are here to separate fact from fiction, so that they look at choosing a high school not as a trial to be endured, but rather a challenge to be embraced.”

By the time the spring rolls around, acceptances are in, tuition contracts are signed, and students start looking forward to where they will matriculate, Ms. Bower says.  “Most children don’t have the opportunity to actually pick their own high school,and feel positive and confident in that choice.  That’s a great gift that only a school that ends in eighth grade can give their students, and one that sets us apart.”