Tag Archives: Bonnie Raskin

“Parent Etiquette” During the High School and College Application Process

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA. She has extensive experience working with gifted students and supporting them through the high school and college application process.

Applying to high schools and colleges

In an attempt to be supportive and helpful, many parents are too involved in their child’s application process, doing much of the work themselves.

As the program coordinator for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, I have been fortunate to get to know, work with and be guided by the experiences and expertise of independent school, college and university admissions deans and directors throughout the United States. This blog is a composite of what I have learned from dialoguing with them.

Last April, a few weeks after sending the acceptance and rejection letters to college applicants, a dean of admissions at one of America’s most selective universities told me the following story:

“Two days after we announced our incoming freshman class, I received a reply from an applicant’s father. It was curt and written on his corporate letterhead: ‘You rejected my son, he’s devastated. See you in court.’ The very next day, I received another letter, but this time from the man’s son. It read: ‘Thank you for not admitting me. This is the best day of my life.’”

All threats aside, receiving a letter like this never warms the hearts of anyone in admissions. It is the consensus of admissions professionals from preschool through college that more and more, today’s parents are getting too involved in their child’s school admissions process – and not merely at the college level. High school and middle school admissions staff have expressed horror stories about parental actions and involvement so completely out of hand that it seems impossible and implausible for otherwise rational people to behave in such off-putting ways. And this behavior never serves the applicant in obtaining the desired positive outcome.

The increasingly bad “parent etiquette” that admissions officers are seeing right now comes from a confluence of several characteristics of our boomer generation: our sense of entitlement, our suspicion of authority and our bad habit of sometimes living too vicariously through our children. It all adds up to some pretty ugly parental behavior often played out in front of our children. A college admissions dean told me, “Today, parents call the admissions office more than the student applicants, often faxing us daily updates on their children’s lives or asking us to return an application already in process so the parent can double-check his/her child’s spelling.” A high school admissions counselor noted a parent who asked whether they should use their official letterhead when writing a letter of recommendation for their own child. It’s not unusual to know parents who openly write their kids’ essays and even attempt to attend their interviews. They make excuses for less than stellar grades or tout athletic promise as “Olympic team potential.”

Read Bonnie’s tips for being supportive and helpful, not over-involved, during the application process.

Emotionally Supporting Your Boarding School Student

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA. She has extensive experience working with gifted middle school students to find the high school that best fits their individual intellectual and personal needs and supporting them throughout that high school experience.

This time every year, I’m approached by parents of Caroline D. Bradley Scholars who have just dropped off their sons and daughters at boarding school for the first time and ask about how to support their students during the transition to life away from home.

It’s true that your child is stepping into a world that is like that of a college freshman in some respects: he or she faces issues of time management, from preparing for exams to doing laundry; issues of relationships, from accommodating a roommate with different sleep habits to learning to speak with instructors; and issues of personal development, from coping with homesickness to frustration over weekend curfews that differ from home. While college students are more or less viewed as adults, this is not appropriate for your 14 year old. This is why boarding schools have tiers of responsible adult faculty and upper level students on site in every dorm for immediate access to all of the students housed with them, regular group and individual chats, and strict rules students quickly adopt as their “new normal.”

Going off to boarding school is what professionals call a “planned separation.” Homesickness is bound to be something your new boarder is going to deal with. If this comes up, reassure your child that those feelings of missing familiar surroundings, routine, family and friends are perfectly normal. The experience of going away to school has a certain rhythm: initial excitement or positive intensity, usually lasting the first two to four weeks, then a drop to what might be labeled homesickness. It is a natural phenomenon; it is inevitable and does not last. So parents—DON’T ask about it, just know that if the communication turns a little sad or wistful in late September or mid-October, that’s probably the cause. It’s your part of the dialogue to steer the conversation to positive topics. CDB boarding school alums advise that parents should NEVER ask, “Are you homesick?” because “if I wasn’t homesick, that question would make me be and if I were, it wouldn’t make me feel any better.”

Read Bonnie’s tips for supporting your boarding student!

Thick or Thin? Preparing To Hear From Your Schools

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA and has extensive experience working with gifted middle school students to find the high school that best fits their individual intellectual and personal needs.

MailboxI have the pleasure and privilege to work with some of the smartest, most creative young people in the United States. While my comments are primarily geared towards high school, much of what follows is applicable to any phase of the application process that many of you will deal with in the course of your academic lives.

Applications to most of the so-called selective independent high schools throughout the country have increased 10% over previous years, resulting for many of these schools in their lowest admit rate as well. It’s therefore probable that not all of the students who might want to attend a certain school, regardless of their outstanding qualifications and eligibility requirements, may receive that coveted letter or e-mail of admission.

Read more of Bonnie’s advice here!

Preparing For an Independent School Interview

By Bonnie Raskin

Bonnie is the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship Program Coordinator at IEA and has extensive experience working with gifted middle school students to find the high school that best fits their individual intellectual and personal needs.

When applying to competitive, selective independent schools, many things count, including grades, test scores, extracurricular activities and the interview. Here is a basic list that will help students and parents get through this important part of the admissions process and allow the applicant to show yourself as the accomplished, unique person you are:

Student Applicants

Don’t panic! If it’s difficult or impossible for you to relax, think of the interview as a friendly get-to-know-you conversation and an opportunity for you to learn more about a prospective school as well as the interviewer to learn about you off paper as a multi-dimensional person.

If possible, try to secure an interview in the morning, when both you and your interviewer will be fresh. You want to look and be awake and attentive. Get plenty of sleep the night before and eat a nutritious breakfast.

Dress according to, but slightly nicer than, the school’s dress code. No jeans. Girls, if you tend to play with your hair when you’re nervous, tie it up and secure bangs out of your face. Guys, brush your hair.

Don’t slouch. Always sit with your legs together.

When you meet the interviewer, give a firm handshake, smile, look him or her in the eye and clearly enunciate your first and last name.

Two important elements to bring to a school interview are honesty and curiosity. If a tour of the school precedes or follows the interview, listen attentively and ask questions. It will make you appear more interested in the school and gives you a chance to listen instead of talking. If you’re someone who, when nervous, can’t always think on the spot, make a list of questions ahead of time after you’ve researched the school on its website.

Be original in your answers and be yourself! Honesty, remember? Never try to present yourself as someone you think the interviewer “wants” to see.

Do not mention repeatedly that this school is your number-one-top-choice unless it absolutely is. Even then, don’t go overboard, as it may appear ingenuous to the interviewer.

Always remember to appear cheerful. Don’t mumble or look bored. Keep eye contact.

If your parents are part of the interview, look at them when they talk and don’t look annoyed or embarrassed by their remarks. It makes a very bad impression if you don’t seem to get along with your parents.

When the interview is over, shake the interviewer’s hand and say, “Thank you for your time.” If offered the interviewer’s card, accept it graciously. Say goodbye and thank you to the receptionist if he or she is on your way out.

Write a nice thank you note. It should be brief but express an aspect of the interview that was personal to you. In other words, not a generic thank you. For example, if the interviewer addressed your love of art, mention that in your note. If you liked a particular building’s architecture, note that.

Do not, under any circumstances: slouch, wave to people you know who might pass by, stare off into space, interrupt or talk about any other school.


In preparing your son or daughter for a school interview, it is a good idea to explicitly discuss what the expectations are with them. This conversation should include the etiquette of an interview such as greeting, leave-taking with thanks, shaking hands and appropriate dress, which will depend on the school’s style.

If it’s likely that your child will be asked questions directly, you may wish to practice, but not to the extent that your child’s responses come off as rehearsed or canned. This is about making your child feel comfortable and prepared—not robotic.

Do not over-emphasize the importance of the interview so that your nerves become transmitted to your child.

Commonly Asked Interview Questions

  • Describe yourself or Tell me about yourself. This is a great way to segue into your interests, which should be an area you are comfortable talking about.
  • What appeals to you about this school? Why do you want to enroll here?
  • What extracurricular activities are you interested in?
  • Why should we select you?
  • What do you do in your spare time?
  • How will you benefit from attending this school?
  • Describe your family.
  • Do you have any questions about this school?

Above all, everyone involved in the interview process should remember to be relaxed, genuine, and honest. This is one aspect of a multi-tiered application process to help determine if the applicant and the school are the right fit for each other, not the be all and end all towards the holy grail of school admission.

Have you or your kids participated in independent school interviews? What tips do you have for other applicants and parents preparing for them? Please share in the comment section below.

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