The tenth of March. To most people the date is like any other on the calendar. Possibly a Friday like this year, a birthday, or a wedding anniversary, but to a select few March 10 signifies the next step; the end of middle school and a path forward. March 10 is the date many independent high schools release admissions decisions. While not all eighth graders view March 10 with as much significance as their classmates, it seems to affect everyone in the class.

Not having the benefit of an independent high school experience, my March 10 came sometime in April when college acceptances were handed out. I too believed my future, and perhaps my self-worth, was tied up in what rank of college would allow me to matriculate. By the middle of April, I had already received acceptance to colleges with rolling admission, but I was holding out hope for my “dream school.” At 18, the stress of my future weighed heavily on me. Reflecting on that time 25 years ago, I wish I had the perspective I now have. Would my life have changed that significantly if School X said yes, or I had attended Safety School Y? Maybe yes, but probably not. Since all the schools provided quality education and ample opportunities, my success would largely depend on what I made of the experience.

The best school for any student is likely the correct match, not the name or highest rank. For our eighth graders, this may be an elite prep school or one’s local public high school. In our nearly two decades of high school placement, we have not wavered from emphasizing match over rank. Students must feel comfortable and content making a significant transition from middle school to high school. We have seen this play out many times with our alums. Those who are miserable likely transfer, often to a school that was a second thought during the admission process.

Like colleges, the range of high schools is vast and diverse. The decision of which schools to apply to, if any, is personal. For 13 and 14 year olds, their next step depends on many factors including boarding vs. day, proximity to home, academic program, maturity, and cost. We do our best to help students realize that each family’s decision of where to send their son or daughter is personal and private. Keeping with Shaker’s mission, we ask students to respect and value a classmate’s decision and recognize that one’s success depends on their performance in school and not the name of the institution.

The high school application process varies annually. This year is reportedly quite competitive. Of the schools our placement office has spoken with, few spots exist for a record number of applicants. One school reported 500 applicants for 40 day girl spots, another 250+ applicants for 20 day girl spots, and a third school had to set aside more than 50% of its spots for faculty children. Students’ acceptances are often more out of their control than in their control. Schools purposefully create diverse communities, thus students qualified for admission and capable of handling the academics may not be accepted because too many applicants share their specific demographic characteristics. A cruel reality of the admission process is that a student will not be accepted despite their hard work and stellar qualifications. This is a hard lesson for an eighth grader to learn.

When March 10 rolls around, some students will be elated, some disappointed, but all relieved that the process is over. We can return to focusing on completing papers and planning for Spring Fling, the eighth grade trip to D.C., and graduation. The high schools are not yet ready for our eighth graders, and we won’t let them leave a minute early. To our current and future eighth grade classes, a post-3/10 world is an opportunity to reflect and celebrate all you have accomplished to this point. The finish line of this race is simply a gate to the next, so be present in your final months at SRS, celebrate your accomplishments, and cherish the relationships you have cultivated. Regardless of what high schools you attend, we know you will all be successful and continue to amaze.

Matt Hicks

Matt Hicks, Principal