Now that the 2023-24 BASIS Independent Brooklyn application is officially open, our Admissions team wanted to share some advice, gleaned over the years and over conversations with thousands of families. After all, the PreK to grade 12 school search process in New York City is unlike any other, as Director of Admissions, Sarah Ellerton knows well. After growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut, it was quite a shock to discover that while of course you have to apply to private schools, you also have to navigate an application process for public schools!
Knowing this, Ms. Ellerton wants families interested in BASIS Independent Brooklyn to know her team is there to make the process as easy-to-understand and simple as possible. “When families tell me that their experience with our application process was easy to navigate, warm, and friendly, that's when I know we've done our job,” states Director Ellerton.
After five years leading Admissions at BASIS Independent Brooklyn, the most important piece of advice Ms. Ellerton wants to share is also the first thing you should do and that's to figure out what you want, and what your family needs. This is true regardless of whether this is the first school your student will attend or if you are changing schools. It seems like common sense, but there's far more to it than, "I am looking for a school that will help my student apply and be accepted to a Top-25 Ranked college!" Every school has excellent resources and excellent exmissions. But what sets them and their communities apart?
Pause, Reflect, and Plan
Most schools have Frequently Asked Questions on their website and every admissions team will do their best to share every detail about their program with prospective families. However, between academics, tuition, after school, lunch, facilities, security, class sizes, etc., there is a lot of information to divulge.
To make sure you are getting the information your family needs, Ms. Ellerton recommends that you sit down as a family, and consider what you and your student need and what you and your student want. Below are some recommended questions and prompts to get you started:
- What are your family's educational goals?
- Is there a particular educational philosophy or religious affiliation you believe in, or know will be a best fit for your child?
- What are you hoping a new school will achieve for your family?
- What elements of an education are most important to you? Immersion language? Math? Public Speaking? Community Service? Sports?
- What are you looking for in terms of facilities? Is there a type of space you need or especially want your student to have access to, like a Makers Space, a gym, or a library?
- What sort of community do you want your family to be part of? Who are the families that you want to spend the next year or even the next 15 years messaging in group chats and attending birthday parties with?
- What after school or before school programming do you need, or want to take part in? Do you need early care? Can you not make it to school until 5:30 PM for pick up? Do you need a bus, or do you need stroller storage?
- How will your student get to school in the mornings? What is your morning routine going to look like?
- Is Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging programming important to your family?
- Do you have a budget in mind? Are you going to be paying for just one student, or are there siblings to account for too? Is there an important threshold to reach for financial aid? Is school tuition all-inclusive? What are extra costs outside of tuition? Does the school encourage families to donate to annual funds, auctions, or the like on top of tuition?
- Are there questions or clarifications you need to ask about your student, specifically? Do you have a concern about birthday cut-offs, or your student repeating a grade? Does your student have severe allergies and you want to talk to the health staff on campus? Or are they hesitant about potty training and you need to know what the policy is? Is your student bi- or tri-lingual? Would your student need English language learning support? Does your student identify as non-binary and you need to be sure they have access to appropriate facilities and a supportive school culture?
- Do you have a philosophy on homework and testing? Does that change by age, or type of assignment?
- Is it important to your family to have an accessible campus, adaptive technology, or support services?
- Are you interested in learning about how you, as grown ups, can be involved in the school community, or are you not interested at all? Were you the president of your student's PTA, or did you run committees?
- Do you expect a certain type of communication from your student's teachers or school? What do you consider over-communicating, or under-communicating? What is the easiest way for you to stay in-the-know about what's going on at school?
Now, all schools will have a mission to not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, physical ability, etc. and many schools might ask you not to share an IEP or a 504 during the application process. Alternately, you might not feel comfortable divulging some of this information while you are in the process of applying. That's fine, and completely expected!
However, all of these questions, as they apply to your family, should be asked and clarified before you sign an enrollment agreement so that you know if a school community is one you want to join and is prepared to help your student succeed—that way, there are no surprises later once you are committed financially to tuition. Any critical details that apply to your family should then be discussed prior to summer break so that schools can be prepared to support you and your student to the best of their ability.
Your School Search
Ms. Ellerton recommends conducting online research by utilizing school websites; review websites like Niche, Private School Review, or Great Schools; school-centered organizations like ISAAGNY or NAIS; family forums; social media groups, etc. Schools post a wealth of information on their website, and it's easy to get a sense of what is important to a school community by what they highlight on their website, or what they don't.
When reading reviews or insights from other families, read them critically: does it sound like that family is interested in what your family is? Are the positive or negative attributes of a particular school, as determined by others, also positive or negative for your family? Sometimes one family's con (BASIS Independent Brooklyn offers only Mandarin as our World Language in PreK to Grade 4) is another family's most important search criteria.
Once you have the list of schools that you're interested in learning more about, you need to find a way to learn more about them. Some schools, like BASIS Independent Brooklyn, offer interest lists to join. Most, if not all schools, offer a variety of interactive admissions events that you can take part in, like Information Sessions, Open Houses, and tours. Take note of any requirements that schools might have in order to attend an event, whether those are COVID-19 precautions or the need to fill out the application before attending. Additionally, many schools will coordinate with educational consultants or outside organizations to post their event dates and registrations widely.
After registering for events, Ms. Ellerton recommends that your next stop is the admissions timeline for each school. Some schools, like BASIS Independent Brooklyn, are part of ISAAGNY and participate in those deadlines, and others run an entirely different set of requirements.
When's the deadline to submit the online application? When do recommendations need to be in by? Does the school require testing or interviews? Starting a calendar of dates or a spreadsheet to keep track of application requirements, links, and deadlines isn't a bad idea! BASIS Independent Brooklyn offers application checklists to help organize families, but if you are applying to multiple schools, it will likely be easier to have that information in a searchable, sortable format!
We hope that these tips are useful as you consider the application process for the 2023-24 school year.
If you've completed your pause and reflection step, and think that BASIS Independent Brooklyn may be the right fit for your family, Ms. Ellerton and her team would love to invite you to join us for an upcoming event this fall.
We wish every family the best of luck in their school search this fall! We hope to see you soon!
Admissions Events for the Fall
Tours run on weekday mornings, starting in early October. Join the interest list to be notified when registration opens for tours and other upcoming admissions events, listed below!
Thursday, September 29, 6:30 PM – Virtual Information Session, Upper School
Saturday, October 15, 10 AM – Open House, Lower School
Saturday, October 22, 10 AM– Open House, Upper School
Thursday, October 27, 6:30 PM – Virtual Information Session, Lower School
Tuesday, November 15, 6:30 PM –Virtual Information Session, all ages
Saturday, December 10, 10 AM – Information Session, all ages
We look forward to meeting you at an upcoming event! If you have any questions, our admissions team would be very happy to help answer them.