Straight, No Chaser Chronicles

Girl Jumping Rope, Elizabeth Catlett

Girl Jumping Rope, Elizabeth Catlett

Let’s get right to it. The highly selective independent school admission process is enlightening and stressful! Within the past eleven years I’ve experienced it first-hand, twice. For the last eight, I’ve joined many RIISE Doer member families on their journey towards academic excellence. So, I know a thing or two about months of audition and competition that culminates with a mixture of euphoric exhaustion and cautionary fear.

Families on the other side of the admission process absolutely believe in and love promoting the virtues of this educational choice. What’s not to love? High academic standards and expectations; well resourced educators and facilities; access to a variety of high touch experiences and networks. It’s all here and it is all good. Now, here is where it can get a bit sticky, but I have to be straight with you. Are you ready?

It would be all sorts of wrong if I did not help you look around the bend on this road. It might even be considered negligent if I did not encourage dialogue and share some trade secrets with you.

Yes, for all of its virtues the culture of independent schools has its—shortcomings. There is no room for naiveté here, not when we have the resource of those who have gone before us. Considering the racial and socio-economic disparities, most families of color expect to experience a hiccup, or two. But, what some of us have come to realize is that over time the little things, the not so obvious ones, thread together. They become heavy and begin to slow you down until you have no choice but to speak on it and do something about it. And so we rise.

Given the choice most families of color, mine included, would do it all again in a heartbeat. The alternative has far too many shortcomings. But, perhaps we would manage the cost of being in an independent school environment a bit differently. It does not matter what type of indy school we enroll in, we have to be prepared for it all, the benefits and the bumps in the road. How do we do that? We can start by sharing what we’ve learned with others, pointing out the potential bumps in the road.

As families anxiously await admission decisions, we encourage them and newly enrolled families, to consider RIISE’s top retention strategies for independent school success and beyond:

Resist the urge to ignore or discard your or your children’s feelings—check in often.

Identify or start an affinity group to acknowledge both difficult and rewarding experiences.

Inquire about counseling resources outside of the school, if necessary.

Scrutinize and encourage equity and inclusion within your school curriculum.

Experience fully and share with others the virtues, and the potential bumps in the road, of an independent school journey.

Have any other tips?

You can count of RIISE to continue to build bridges between families of color and the culture of our independent schools. Check in with our lifestyle network often. We’ll be waiting for you!

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  1. R. Spencer
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for these tips. I have also found these strategies helpful:

    Provide your child access to as many settings as possible where they can commune with peers who look like them and other share commonalities.

    Explore all the affinity groups and mentorship programs the school has available to provide supportive social network for your child and places where they can voice their experiences.

    Get involved in school life as a parent.

    Be intentional about the socializing your child does. Much of it will be child led but find parents that have the same values and norms that you do and encourage friendships.

    Remain true to your cultural understandings and expectations around education in terms of teacher-parent collaboration.

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