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NYC School Admissions, Part 2: Identifying the Best-Fit School for Your Child

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

In the second part of a series of virtual conversations between Heather Gatto and Cecily Lynett – seasoned Bennett education consultants who specialize in assisting families with school placement in New York City--they share their perspective and advice on how to identify best-fit schools for your child in a landscape of many options; they emphasize, above all else, the importance of keeping your child's unique strengths and characteristics in mind as you explore all the different possibilities.

Enjoy the video below; what follows is a full text transcript, lightly edited for clarity.

Heather: Hi, my name is Heather Gatto, and I'm here today with my colleague Cecily Lynett. We are both education consultants with Bennett International and have been working together for over 10 years, helping hundreds of families find schools that are the right fit for them in the New York City area, for both public and private schools. So, today we want to share some suggestions that we have that we think will be helpful in the school placement process for your children.

Cecily: Hi! Heather and I are back again with more ideas and ways for families to find a good school fit for their children. I'm going to begin by talking about a tool that I find very handy when I began working with a new family, and that is a child's school report.

I have read through hundreds of school reports, and I can say that this is one of the best ways to help a family decide the best school fit for their child. On a school report, not only do you find assessments, such as grades, meeting or exceeding expectations, those kinds of markers - there also are narratives from the teacher of views of a child. There will be comments, such as "Michael is doing better at working positively with his peers," or "Jillian is doing better with her listening skills." These types of comments are very good clues to help me understand what's working, and to help a family think about the school search.

Sometimes, families don't realize that an admissions committee will be reading these school reports and will see what the teachers are saying about a child... sometimes, these comments from a teacher will very much align with the type of school that a family thinks will be a good fit; sometimes, they might be a sign that something may not be working and a child may meet need certain kind of intervention, perhaps. In any case, the school reports are just a really good tool for getting us started as we begin on the school search.

Heather: Cecily, that was really great advice. I would like to add that when a parent really understands their child, the process is much smoother. An example of this is if your child is struggling in a particular area. Let's say, they are quite strong in English and History, but they struggle a bit with Math. Instead of trying to kind of hide that fact and hope that the school doesn't necessarily notice, the best thing to really do is to address it, talk to the school

about it, and then you can share what your child is doing to actually improve - for example, tell the school that your child is learning to really self-advocate and to go to the teacher for help. So again, it's really best to address these things.

One of the most important things that we ask from families as we start the process is, "what has worked well, or maybe has not worked well, at your child's current or prior schools?" What we find is that we don't want families to be looking at schools that they're hearing is a good fit through a colleague, or friends, or the internet, that may work for other children. It's really important that you find a school that's the right fit for your child... for instance, some families will say their child has done very well in a nurturing and small environment, where another family will share with me that their child is actually kind of bored in that type of environment, and that they want something that's a little bit more fast-paced and rigorous.

Another common example that I find with families is that sometimes, a family will feel the parent doesn't really understand their child. In particular, and there are studies that support this, some boys learn better in an all-boys environment with a teacher who truly understands how boys learn, because especially at a young age, they do learn differently. The same goes for an all-girls environment - it can actually be a great fit for some girls. Whereas, certainly, there are plenty of families that would prefer a co-ed environment for their child. So these are all things that you really want to push at the beginning of the process.

So again, it's about keeping your child and your family in mind, and not necessarily what you're hearing from friends or research on the internet.

We hope that you found these suggestions helpful! We look forward to our next session, where we will be talking about what schools are looking for in the parent statement, as well as student essay responses. So until next time take care!

Heather Gatto is a Greater New York Consultant specializing in private and public school placement in NYC and Westchester, NY, and Fairfield County, Connecticut. Over the last ten years, Heather has worked with hundreds of families successfully placing their children in schools. She spent ten years as the national coordinator for a children’s education program where she advised teachers and environmental groups on how to incorporate the program into their curriculum and events. Heather also worked as a senior compliance officer and financial/regulatory analyst for Depository Trust Company, where she oversaw applications and memberships of banks and broker-dealers. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature at Fordham University in New York.

Cecily Lynett is an Independent Education Consultant for the New York area. She has a B.S. in Elementary Education from West Virginia University and taught first grade at an independent school in Queens, New York. Before starting her work as a consultant, Cecily was relocated to London where she experienced expatriate life with her family. Since her return, her four children have attended public, private, parochial, and boarding schools, giving Cecily intimate knowledge in navigating the school admissions process in all sectors and guiding inbound relocating families. She has successfully placed hundreds of children of the families she works with in nursery schools, private and public schools, elementary and high schools, and boarding schools. Cecily is also a certified member of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) which specializes in the highest level of school placement services at boarding and day schools.

Bennett International Education Consultancy works directly with hundreds of families each year across the globe. We support families by helping them make informed decisions about the best-fit schools for their children; with our guidance, they secure placement in preschools, private day schools, public/state schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, including schools with particular programs, such as special needs support.


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