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NYC School Admissions: 1. Preparing For Your School Search

In the first of an ongoing series of virtual chats with Heather Gatto and Cecily Lynett – a pair of highly successful education consultants and experts in assisting families with school placement in New York City schools (some of the most competitive in the country) – we get some very practical advice for families that are in the first stages of preparing for their school search, as well as insight into what school admissions departments are looking for in prospective students. A full transcript accompanies this video, lightly edited for clarity.

Heather: Hi, my name is Heather Gatto, and I'm here with my colleague Cecily Lynett. We are both education consultants with Bennett International; we have been working together for over 10 years. We’ve worked with hundreds of families, successfully placing their children in New York City private and public schools.

Cecily: I'm Cecily Lynett, and as my colleague Heather mentioned, we have been working with New York City families for over 10 years, helping them find placements at the independent schools in New York. A couple of things come to mind when I think about these schools - one is how competitive their admissions process is, which can be a challenge and a little bit disheartening. So, it's a good idea to have a few things in mind before a family starts their school search.

One thing that all the schools have in common is that they're looking for families that have the best fit for their child in mind, and who really know their child well. This will come out in the admissions process as schools are having their interviews with parents, reading their essays, and meeting their children. So, it's a good idea for parents to keep that in mind before they even start the process.

What works for one child doesn't necessarily work for another. The reason I mention this is, families will often take cues from their friends about which schools their children go to. Oftentimes, they come to us with a list of schools in mind, and oftentimes, a “number one school” in mind. I can think of a time when I was working with a family and their “number one school” was a friend's school, and it was a very structured and rigorous school. The more I got to know this family, the more it became apparent that this would not be the best fit for that particular child.

So, it's just good to keep that in mind, because at the end of the day, families want to make sure that their child is at a school where they will thrive both academically and socially. They want to be able to articulate this to the schools during the admissions process.

Heather: That's really great advice, Cecily. We just want to add that the New York City private school admissions process is probably the most competitive of the private school processes. So, it is really important, as Cecily said, to make sure that as you go through it, that you really do understand your child, and that you find a school that is the right fit.

There are some other things that you can do to help that process along, as well. Schools really want to make sure that you've prioritized them in the process. There is a good chance they know that you've applied to six to twelve schools, and they’re meeting lots of families, so it is very important to show that you've done your homework. You want to make sure you understand the mission and the culture of the school, and there's a couple of ways that you can do this.

One of the more obvious ones is to spend a lot of time on the school website, which is full of information, and to make sure that you also sign up for the open houses. Sometimes those do fill up, so as soon as you have an interest in the school, make sure that you do sign up for those.

A couple of ways that Cecily I found have been really helpful to families that they don't think of is to go to a school event. Whether it's a play or a sporting event, you really get to see the school community when you do that, and remember that when you are in that interview, you want to be able to articulate why that school is a good fit. So, if you have the ability to experience some of these things that would be very helpful and impressive in this process.

One other suggestion that we have is, if you have the opportunity to go to school drop off or pick up, that is another great way to get to meet the school community and witness them in action. We have found that families love to talk about their children and their experiences, whether good or bad, so that's just another tip that Cecily and I would like to share with you today.

Stay tuned and watch this space for more conversations with Heather and Cecily. If you have any specific questions about the New York school admissions process, don’t hesitate to reach out to us – you can expect a prompt and informative response!

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 guiding them towards making informed decisions and finding the best-fit schools for their children. Our consultants specialize in counseling families and helping them find and secure placement for their children in preschools, private day schools, boarding schools, colleges & universities, or schools with particular program offerings, such as special needs support.


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