Preparing Your School Search

Girls in classroom looking at laptop

Finding your next school is a process that takes introspection, reflection and guidance from trusted advisors. To help you navigate your search, we’ve created a customized School Search Toolkit which contains a number of worksheets that provide you with a variety of questions that can help inform your decision-making. Using these tools may kickstart some self-reflection and give you a place to collect your thoughts. It’s important to remain open to the possibility of change in your school lists as you visit each campus and learn more about the opportunities that await.

Below, you’ll find information and resources regarding the various steps of the application process. Get started today!


If you have any questions or if you would like to have a conversation with an admission counselor, we're happy to help by email at admissions@ethelwalker.org or by phone at 860-408-4200.

What kind of school is right for you?

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When selecting schools to visit, consider what type of school is most appealing to you. Things to think about include:

School Size

The size of a school will impact its community and ethos. Think about what type of environment you feel most comfortable in and take some time to consider what you’re looking for in your next school. If you’re not 100% sure, we recommend visiting both a small and large school to experience first-hand what each one feels like.

Visit schools when classes are in session!

Population

Depending on whether you’re planning to be a boarder or a day student, a school's population may look a little different to you as an applicant. Be sure to research the schools on your list and see what the student population is like in terms of day and boarding percentages. For example, if there’s a large majority of day students and you’re planning on being a boarder, you may want to ask what the campus is like on weekends for boarding students. Remember, it’s always better to ask than assume, and asking a current student is the best way to learn about daily life on campus.

Ask current students!

Co-Ed, All-Girls, All-Boys

Very often, students may not have experience with all-girls or all-boys education before starting their school search. We recommend visiting at least one all-girls or all-boys school and one co-ed school before deciding which environment is right for you.

Travel to one of each!

Location

For some, school location is an important factor. When you visit a school, be sure to pay attention to its accessibility and allot time for exploration of the surrounding area. It’s always helpful to ask adults and students on campus for recommendations on what’s nearby.

Get to know the surrounding area.

How do you like to learn?

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As you think about choosing your next school, consider both the depth and breadth of the curriculum and faculty, and also how you learn best. We encourage you to use this worksheet to reflect on the elements of what make you a success in the classroom.

Class Size

In any academic institution, class sizes will vary based on the courses’ level of difficulty and the number of students enrolled. Take note of the average class size listed on each school's website and pay attention to classes in session while you tour the campus. This is one reason why it’s important to visit schools while classes are in session. We recommend thinking about your current class size:

  1. How many students are in your class now?
  2. Do you like the size of your class? Why or why not?
  3. What would you change about your current classroom experience?

What is your ideal class size?

Teaching Style

Students learn in different ways. Some of us are more visual, others prefer lectures, and some like hands-on projects and activities. Think about how you like to learn and ask yourself some of the following questions:

  1. Considering your previous year teachers, which teacher did you feel you learned most from and why?
  2. Do I like using technology to facilitate learning?
  3. Do I like lectures?
  4. Do I like a conversational classroom?
  5. Do I prefer projects or exams?
  6. Can I summarize how I like to learn and be taught?

By answering the above questions, you’re getting to know your preferred learning style. When you visit schools, ask students what their classroom experiences are like and see if their answers match with anything you’ve written down about yourself.

How do you like to learn?

Learning Opportunities

Every school is going to provide your core academic classes required for graduation. They’re also going to offer a variety of other classes and electives you can take to pursue other areas of interest. Write down all of the things you might be interested in studying and continually update that list throughout your school search process. As you visit schools, see if they offer learning opportunities in the topics you’ve identified as areas of interest.

What are some non-traditional topics you want to learn more about?

Who will you spend your time with?

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While at school, you will spend a considerable amount of time with your peers, teachers, coaches, and friends. Consider the things that can’t be quantified in statistics, but rather felt by being present on campus.

Community

Getting a sense of a school's community takes time spent on campus and talking with students, faculty, and staff. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of schools, consider taking time to attend events like open houses, concerts, games, or other events that can give you an inside look at how the community interacts.

What kind of school community are you looking for?

Shared Values and Interests

Attending a secondary school is more than academics, arts, and athletics; it’s also about exploring your interests and pursuing your passion.

Ask yourself:

  1. What’s important to me?
  2. Is there anything that I’m passionate about?
  3. What do I value most?

These are topics you can talk about with other students and join clubs and other student organizations with students who have similar interests. If a school you love doesn’t have a club for your interest, ask about their policy on starting a new one. For example, if you’re passionate about helping other people through service work, find out if there are any opportunities for you to continue helping others on and off campus.

What values are most important to you?

Social Sense

Students in independent schools push themselves and work hard to achieve their goals. Having time to relax, hangout with friends, and meet new people is also important for social growth and mental well-being. Ask about weekend activities and other social events that happen throughout the year. If you’re unsure about what your social life may be like, ask a current student! While it may be daunting, students love to help answer questions and provide information for prospective families.

What are some essential things that are part of your ideal social life?

What to do after your visits?

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You’ve done your research, submitted your official inquiry, and completed your visit – now what? When we asked our new families about their decision-making process, nearly 70% replied that all family members had equal input. To have these conversations, it’s important to have the information you need organized so all you have to do is refer back to it. This organization process starts right after each school visit and we recommend you consider the following:

  • Fill out a pro-con list after each visit.
  • Send a thank you note to the admission counselor you met with expressing your level of interest in each school .
  • Talk with your family about your visit once you’ve had time to decompress.
  • Determine whether you want to revisit any schools before deciding.

Pro-Con List

When you visit a school, you will receive a lot of information and it may seem like too much to take in all at once. By filling out a pro-con list following each visit, you’ll better remember the things that stood out to you. These lists are also helpful when the time comes to compare schools that you’ve visited and determine which one is the best fit for you.

Thank You Notes

It’s always a good idea to send a thank you note after a visit to let your admission counselor know what your level of interest is in the school. These notes can also be used to share something you’re looking forward to or ask any questions you weren’t able to ask during your visit.

Family Conversation

Once you’ve filled out your post-visit pro-con list, talk to your family about the visit. You can go over your pro-con list with them or have an open discussion about the school, the people you met, and anything new that you learned while on campus.

Planning Your Revisit

After your lists are made and discussions are complete, consider revisiting your top two or three schools. A revisit is a great opportunity to sit in on classes, possibly participate in a sports practice, and meet people you didn’t get a chance to meet during your first visit.

Admission checklist

The admission process typically involves a series of things that need to be completed and also some activities that are optional.

Use this checklist as a roadmap to help you organize the steps of the admission process.

View printable checklist