Ensuring that our graduates continue on to the secondary schools best suited to each student’s individual needs is the capstone of a Harbor Country Day School education, and the goal of our comprehensive, individualized Secondary School Placement Program. Choosing the most appropriate school for a child can make all the difference in that child’s secondary school success, so the process of selecting a school can be intimidating, even overwhelming. With Harbor’s proactive approach, open communication, and experienced guidance, selecting the right secondary school can be a seamless, productive, and rewarding experience for each family.
Secondary schools vary widely, and it is important to identify schools that are a good fit for a particular child. The obvious choices are not always the best choices. It is prudent to avoid being influenced by the preferences and decisions of other families; what is right for their child may not be best fit for all. Instead of attempting to mold a student to fit the character of a particular secondary school, Harbor aids parents in identifying the schools most consistent with the needs, ability level, and interests of their child.
Together, Harbor and home share the responsibility of making the best match for each child, and the key to successful placement is communication. The process normally begins with a detailed questionnaire that is sent out to families the summer before entering eighth grade. Parents and students are encouraged to discuss and answer the questions found therein to the best of their abilities. We have found that this communication can spur meaningful dialogue at home regarding interests, priorities, and concerns about this major decision. Once the school year begins, parents will have a preliminary meeting with the director of secondary school placement to discuss the results with the student and parents. We work with the parents to establish ground rules regarding which educational options they will or will not consider. We will discuss the various school environment options in detail, and to explore how well each is suited to the student’s strengths, interests, and opportunities to flourish. School environments to consider include: large or small, public or independent, boarding or day, non-sectarian or parochial, highly competitive or more supportive, nearby or more distant.
While families embark on this journey of discovery, Harbor also prepares students for the various trials they will face on the road to high school. In addition to GPA and ERB scores, standardized tests such the Catholic High School Entrance Exam (CHSEE) and the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) are required by many secondary schools to apply. General test taking skills are discussed in English and Math, but Harbor students are also offered the opportunity to attend an after school test prep program for an additional fee. This program helps prepare the students specifically for these standardized tests, using sample materials and exercises taken from past exams, but will give also them skills they can apply in any testing situation.
In addition to the standardized tests, many schools also require writing samples, recommendations, and in-person interviews as part of the admission process. Harbor continues to give the students a strong foundation for success by supporting them through each step. For example, writing samples can be brought to the English classroom for discussion or editing. Recommendations are easily attained by contacting the director of secondary school placement or the head of upper school, who quickly coordinate the various departments to get the materials out for applications. Finally, students will meet with the director of secondary school placement to perform mock interviews, allowing students to feel confident when they visit the schools of their choice.
Harbor families will find the administration and staff conscientious, supportive, and quite adept at helping them to navigate the secondary school decision-making process.