Another class of soon-to-be Brookwood graduates recently completed the secondary school process enjoying a myriad of noteworthy achievements. The Class of 2022 set a record this year in applying to 48 different schools across the region with applications going as far away as France. In addition, most of the students who applied to multiple independent schools had numerous options for enrollment on March 10th due to our solid acceptance rate across the region and beyond. Lastly, despite the intense competition for spots and financial assistance this year, every member of the class will start the fall at an excellent school. But these achievements don’t just happen, nor is the process of identifying the right school and securing admission an easy undertaking. The process is long, arduous, and marked by equal parts excitement and anxiety. This is where the Office of Secondary School Guidance comes into play by offering families counsel, advice, and direction, with a goal to demystify what can be an intimidating process.  

It all begins in the spring of 7th grade when Cathy Marrero and I offer the first in a series of information sessions aimed at addressing the many facets of this important process for all of our families. We also welcome two groups of experts to our campus to help families begin to set expectations and develop plans. During one spring evening, we welcome admissions directors from several schools who offer an informative panel discussion, followed by a similar event in the morning highlighting local public schools with guidance counselors and principals in attendance. Each event is aimed at putting families into direct contact with school leaders to offer authentic exposure to the vast variety of options available to our graduates.  

Working in tandem with these two events, I begin my hour-long “Launch Meetings” with every family where we initiate conversations about specific schools, SSATs, and the many nuances of the search process. This spring/summer meeting begins the partnership between each family and the Office of Secondary School Guidance which is the bedrock of the work we do in support of everyone’s search. While I work closely with each parent, I also teach fall classes to the 8th grade focused on interview skills, application writing, and the dos and don’ts of school visits. Throughout the fall, Cathy and I meet often with students and parents answering questions, offering advice, and helping set application lists now that everyone has been out looking at schools and seeing the many options available.

When we get into the winter months, focus shifts from looking to applying. Students have likely taken an SSAT or two following attendance at Brookwood’s SSAT classes throughout the fall, and now all of the focus is on essays and applications. This is where Cathy works her magic helping students and parents navigate the maelstrom of forms, application platforms, and school requirements. Once applications are finally out, including recommendation letters written by Brookwood faculty and transcripts, I strongly advocate for every student at every school with the goal of helping each school better understand the many gifts each Brookwood student will bring to their campuses.  

While Cathy and I are constantly looking to refine the service we provide to families while always keeping pace with annual process changes, one aspect of this work never shifts; every search is unique and individual, thus requiring us to tailor our guidance to meet the specific needs of every family.  I get to know the kids in the classroom through my teaching of 7th grade American History, and it is through this exposure that I can best project school matches and better guide families. In turn, the schools know Brookwood, and in particular, Cathy and I, and the trust we’ve developed both through our personalized forms and honest presentation of students help them to better appreciate the many strengths of a Brookwood graduate. Lastly, through my travels and years of experience doing this work, I’ve come to know the schools which inform how and where I guide families. As Cathy and I always say, we know the students, we know the schools, and the schools know us.  Together, we partner to make this cumbersome process feel more manageable, and most importantly, we always endeavor to find the best match for every student to continue the great foundation set here at Brookwood.