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Community Voices: Demystifying the high school application process

Hazel Kochocki

As an admission professional at a local, private high school, I have found time and again that not all parents are aware of the private school application cycle.Typically, families whose children are already in parochial or private school know the deadlines,but those in public school make the mistake of not thinking about high school options until the spring.  

Most private high schools — whether independent or parochial — have their admission season a full year before the student would begin 9th grade.This means that if your son or daughter is in 8th grade now, fall is the time to gather information on schools, narrow the options, take the required test and submit the applications.

Gathering information on schools has certainly become easier, since most schools have a website. Check the web for useful background on the school, but don’t neglect attending the school’s information sessions and open house. Some schools may even host informal coffees or receptions in your neighborhood, so be sure to call the school’s admission office and ask to be put on their mailing list.  

Narrowing the options for your son or daughter takes more legwork, but is definitely worth the effort. Private high school tuition is a substantial investment in your child — not one to be taken lightly. Just as you always test-drive a car, so too, should you have your son or daughter “test drive” the school. Identify the two or three schools that seem best suited to your child and arrange a shadow day.

At Malden Catholic, our “shadows” follow a freshman through his school day, enjoy lunch on us and learn about our activities and athletics. Shadows are usually with us a full day, but we try to accommodate parents who need alternate arrangements. Malden Catholic welcomes students to shadow from October through April. Other schools may have other forms of the shadow program, so be sure to call and ask.

Private and parochial high schools require entrance testing.  The High School Placement Test (HSPT) is required for admission at all the high schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. It is offered this year on Nov. 12 and Dec. 10. Unlike the SAT, students may take the HSPT only once. Students may take the test at the Catholic high school most convenient to them; just indicate on the test form what schools should receive the scores. The SSAT is generally required of New England independent schools. It, too, is offered in November and December.  

Applications to Boston-area Catholic high schools are generally due in December, as are financial aid applications. For instance, at Malden Catholic, applications for financial aid and admission are both due on Feb. 15. Deadlines vary somewhat among schools, so you need to do your homework.  Independent schools may have later deadlines; Phillips Academy Andover has an application deadline of Jan. 15.

It is to your advantage to apply early or by the school’s stated deadline. Private schools allocate resources based on projected enrollment. You want your child to have priority consideration when it comes to school admission, scholarships and financial aid. Be sure to give your son or daughter the advantage of an on-time application.

One of the most memorable moments for parents and students is when they receive the school acceptance letter. Catholic high schools in the Boston area mail acceptance letters on or near Feb. 1. Independent schools generally issue acceptances later in the spring. Most schools request an enrollment contract and initial deposit a month or so later.

New England’s private high schools offer an excellent education and well-rounded experience to students of all backgrounds and abilities. Finding the right school for your son or daughter takes some planning and research, but parents generally agree that this is time well spent. A solid secondary education provides the foundation for achievement in college and beyond.

Hazel Kochocki is the director of Enrollment at Malden Catholic High School, a Xaverian Brothers Sponsored School educating 600 young men from more than 40 communities in the Boston area.