You will find the next few weeks to be increasingly busy, exciting, and perhaps a little unnerving. Most decisions will become available either on 10th March or just before or after. On that day or a few days later you will also receive a packet with information regarding registration for revisits and a little more information on the schools to which you have been admitted.
Revisits will be some of the most memorable experiences you will have from the application process as well as your time at Prep School. To give you an idea of just how enjoyable revisits are, even while at St. Paul’s many of us looked forward to revisits. I loved my revisit (when I was in eighth grade) but I had just as much fun at revisits as a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth former.
Often upon your arrival you will meet your host. In order to give you the most accurate taste of Prep School life, you will attend classes with your host, sports practices and most meals. You will hang out in your hosts’ room, meet his/her friends (you will be matched with a host of the same gender) and your host will lead your around campus for as long as you are visiting. If you know someone at the school, they can request to be your revisit host. If not, the school will do its best to match your interests with a host who is involved in similar activities. Even after admissions has spent months deliberating over applications, they still have the time and energy to spend another few long weeks finding the perfect matches for visiting students and hosts. I knew a number of St. Paul’s students, but my closest friend there at the time, whose room I had actually stayed over at in the past, requested me and served as my host. Having a friend as your host can be good and bad. On the positive side, you already know them and many of their friends, meaning that you do get a genuine experience of what life as a student there will be like. On the negative side, I engaged less with other revisiting students, almost never went to class, and spent most of my time messing around with my host and our other friends at the school. If you do end up selecting the school, however, you’ll have plenty of time to get to know everyone else in your year, so this isn’t the end of the world either.
As revisits often take place during the week (so that you can attend classes), you will have to miss some of your own classes at school to attend. Boarding schools will often have over-night revisits, although you will not be allowed to stay in your hosts’ rooms (to avoid trouble), and will return to a hotel with your family after events end at around 10pm each night. I would recommend finding a delicate balance with revisits. Of greatest priority is finding that school which you will attend for the next four years, but you also do not want to miss too much school nor waste your time or the Prep School’s time for those schools in which you have no interest. I would again reference your priority list, and while consulting a calendar, list those 3-5 schools that are highest on your list. Most schools have 2-3 different dates for revisits, so scheduling conflicts should not be an issue.
Once you’ve met your host, you will undergo a series of wonderful events as the particular Prep Schools throws the sink at you with everything grand as it tries to convince you to attend. Yield matters, remember? St. Paul’s had revisit specific lunches and dinners, gatherings at the rectory, an event fair for clubs and athletic teams, and most popular, a student talent show which featured dance groups, bands, singers and poets, and amusing RC hosts for the evening, which was put on by the Student Council. Always a great time not just for visiting students but also for current students, who line up long in advance just to claim a standing space at the back of the auditorium behind all the visiting students and their hosts.
You will love revisits. Hopefully you love all of your revisits. This makes it all the more important that you find a way to distinguish between different schools, as if you leave your decision until the end of May, there is a chance they will all blend into one and you’ll have to make an impulsive decision. After each revisit (perhaps on the ride home), take a few moments to gather your thoughts. Jot a few things down and perhaps shift that school’s place on your priority list. Think about the things that you liked and didn’t like, and what you will be looking for at your next school that this one did or didn’t have. After each revisit you will have a greater idea of your ‘perfect’ school, and while all of these qualities won’t exist in one place, you should have an idea of the most important criteria for you and which schools fulfill those conditions.
While this won’t help you in your admissions decision, I will include some advice for the future as well. Once you do pick your Prep School, and you get there and love it, please take the time to volunteer to serve as a revisit host as a student. As most incoming students are first-years, it is most important to volunteer as a freshman, and the more people who apply the more personalities admissions has from which to match visiting students. In my freshman year, I applied to be a revisit host (effectively submitted a form listing those clubs/sports/academic departments I was involved with) and was selected for all three dates—one visiting student I requested because I knew his older brother. All three of them ended up attending St. Paul’s, and I knew all of them in varying capacities over the next three years. One of them ended up on the soccer team for my senior season. Aside from taking part in the great events, you will have a chance to shape a visiting students’ experience, and have an impact on whether then end up at your Prep School. Aside from that, it’s a good way to reflect on your own experience as your “pre-newb” will ask what you like and don’t like about the school, how you’re settling in etc. I hope its something you’ll think about doing!
Photo credit: By Daderot (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Copyright: Public Domain