Preparing Your Child for an Independent School Admissions Visit

The Visit: Applicants to Kindergarten, Pre-First and First grades visit prospective schools for a morning to meet new friends, play games, and generally give school a try.  These youngest applicants will also take a test, but before you conjure up some SAT-style nightmare, understand that Kindergarten testing is a fun part of the morning for each visitor.  And while your little ones are enjoying their new classrooms, teachers and friends, we in Admissions are looking to see what kind of social, emotional and academic skills they have.  School readiness comes in many forms, especially in these early years, but the best thing you can do is prepare your child well for his or her shadow day.

Visit Prep – the week before: Tell your child the story of how moms and dads find good schools for their children, how you start by looking at lots of schools, and then you arrange for him to visit a few.  You are very interested in what he thinks about the schools, so you are asking for a “report” of his experiences once the visit is over.  Remind your child that it is a fun chance to meet new friends, and that he will go back to his regular school the very next day.  His current teacher and his friends will want to hear all about it, and he can share his experience with them when he returns.  Know that when you are calm, your child will be, too.  When you have confidence in him, he will have that to draw on, especially in times of uncertainty.

Visit Prep – the day before: Tell your child’s teacher that she will be visiting a new school the next day, and invite her to share in the excitement with you and your child.  Lay out clothing, shoes, and supplies, and check the weather.  Re-tell the story of what will happen tomorrow as a reminder.  Incorporate a sense of wonder.  Have a calm evening, and get to bed on time!

Visit Prep – the day of:  You and your child should wake up refreshed after a good night’s sleep.  You will want to provide a yummy, nutritious breakfast, and allow plenty of time to get ready.

It is also important to clearly communicate plans and expectations to your child, “Here’s where we’ll go today, here’s what you will do, and here’s what I will do while you are there.”

It’s natural to be excited and a little bit afraid.  You, as the parent, can keep things moving so as not to focus on whatever fears might arise. It doesn’t hurt to review that you have already seen the school, and you liked the teachers and students that you met.  Also, practice saying the name of the teacher your child will be meeting with that morning.

Last but not least, return to that sense of wonder about what good things are in store for you all today, and make a plan for after the visit – maybe a special time either at lunch or dinner when your brave little one can tell you all about his or her day!

Martha Donovan

Martha Donovan

Mrs. Donovan is the Associate Director of Lower School Admissions at St. Paul’s. She previously spent ten years in Middle and Upper School Admissions at the Key School in Annapolis, where her three children graduated. Since coming to St. Paul’s, she and her husband have moved to Baltimore and love it. Mrs. Donovan also has experience as a national news editor with NBC Radio and Mutual News, and spent a year as a Press Secretary on Capitol Hill. You will often find her in the Kindergarten classrooms or on the early carpool line, anywhere she can see the kids in action. She can be reached at

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