Newly Enrolled Families: Nine in Ninety

Here’s to the close of a fantastic summer, and the beginning of a new school year. This beginning signals both enrollment and admissions at independent schools. For our newly enrolled families—what now?

The first 90 days of the enrollment process at an independent school is almost as daunting as the application process itself. I recall being over-joyed and very confident after receiving our letter of acceptance, only to feel anxious and unsure on the first day of school – going through the gates of our country school prompted my inside voice to question what we had gotten ourselves into! Game face strong and vision clear, we continued to move forward and became part of a dynamic school community. It is our hope that newly enrolled families will become familiar with and vested in their schools as soon as possible.

Here are nine proactive things your family can do within the first ninety days to get set up for independent school success and beyond. You can also watch us discuss it on Lunch with Gina!


  1. Show up. The independent school calendar is always busy. Take a moment to look at it putting important dates on your personal calendar, right away. There are parent events and student events. There is homecoming and parent association meetings (many in the morning). Deans meetings, cocktail parties, plays, etc. You will be asked to volunteer and to help your school community grow through in various ways including invitations to read to a lower grade or to share your passion or professional resources with older students. We are all busy but there is a way to be visible, make an impact, share a point of view, provide insight and support. Families of color should walk ahead and with there children, never behind.
  2. Get to know faculty, administration & staff. Indy schools are extremely accommodating. They expect parents and care-givers to want to know how their child is developing in a particular grade or class.  Take advantage of this open door policy by asking good questions when you meet up with teachers, deans, advisors, diversity practitioners, division heads and heads of school via email, phone, meetings or events. Your interest in your child’s experience and school community will not go unnoticed. And, don’t forget about staff—cafeteria to security often take special interest in supporting our families.
  3. Find your tribe. As you go about developing community within your school, you may find affinity groups to be a strong network and supportive of your family’s experiences. The parents association is one example of an affinity group. So are the parents of color, international parents, and various other network groups focused around a particular affinity like books or sustainability. Affinity groups are often given a budget or stipend. Find a group that suits your needs, become involved and think about volunteering for a leadership role the following year.
  4. Participate in the annual fund. Many schools will tell you that tuition does not cover the true cost of educating a child at an independent school. Without going into how schools arrive at this gap, the annual fund is what is in place to close it. When the request comes to participate understand that it does not matter how many zeros you write on the check. Ten or ten thousand dollars, it all counts. One hundred percent participation is what really matters.
  5. Reach back. In order to see more diversity, parents have a role in supporting their school’s recruitment process. Find out how you can help with tours, open houses, or other admission events. If time is a challenge for you then take advantage of sharing what you like about your school with people in the park, on the grocery line, at church, or on the job.
  6. Expect the expected & unexpected.  If you identify racially or ethnically as a family of color—as NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools) defines it, you are among the numerical minority in indy schools. At this stage of the game that should be of no surprise you. As more schools value and embrace equity, inclusivity and diversity, be aware that implicit and explicit biases still exist in school culture and curriculum. Stay vigilant, speak up, and be a part of helping our schools live up to their mission and social change with compassion and integrity.
  7. Utilize resources and opportunities. Your school is your community. Be a part of it. There will be many opportunities and experiences for your child and for your family. Don’t for a moment feel that you are not entitled to them. Resources and opportunities are what makes our schools unique. And, don’t be confused by how much you pay in tuition, all enrolled families have an equal stake in the community. On that note, if cost outside of tuition is a barrier to experiences check in with the financial aid office. The expense could be offset by the percentage of tuition a family pays.
  8. Keep your vision in focus. Don’t forget the vision you have for your family and it’s legacy. This will be an essential reference point when you meet the inevitable detours on the road to academic excellence. It will also remind you to acknowledge and celebrate the development and success your children will be acquiring.
  9. Finally, stay in touch and participate with our lifestyle network. Resources In Independent School Education wants to know how things are going. We want to support you!

 

If we missed something please add to the list by commenting below.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Posted September 10, 2016 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    You are speaking truth. Particularly in the Independent schools as families of color you have to be involved and known. You are investing in the long haul in most cases. I have seen parents who chose not to get involved for whatever reasons who had a conflict later down the line and then had little support because they were an unknown. All really good tips here Gina.

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