Honoring Vulnerability in the Admission Process

As we enter file reading season, I thought it was a good time for a reminder: families honor us with a tremendous level of vulnerability during the admission process.

They attend our events, trying to “fit in”, “make a good impression”, “be themselves”, “connect”. They aren’t sure what to wear, how long to stay, if they should ask a question or keep quiet. 

They answer our application and interview questions, exposing details about their child that pull back the proverbial veil regarding what makes their child unique, what challenges they face, what parenting choices they have made. They try to share a sense of humor, a connection with school mission, and try to remain honest and forthcoming while painting a positive picture. They wonder if they should be more honest (because it’s not good for anyone to have the wrong child in the wrong school) or less honest (because they don’t want to over-share regarding any difficulties and talk themselves out of a positive result).

They fill out our tuition assistance applications, sharing the intimate details of their financial choices, wanting to demonstrate need while not wanting to appear weak. They write compelling statements about why the situation is what it is, how it might change, their dreams for their professional lives, their fears about caring for aging parents… it goes on.

They drop off their kids for a visit or assessment, knowing that the morning may be difficult because the child tends to run late. They worry, knowing that their son has a hard time asking to use the restroom, the buddy may desert her, the transitions may be confusing.  They worry about if the school will like their child. Will she have an off-day, or a great day?

They ask current teachers to reveal information with us that they may not have shared with the parents. They wonder if there are concerns they don’t know about, if the relationship they have with the current school is “strong enough”. They hope their answers to our questions line up with what the teacher says, lest they be pegged as "out of touch with reality".

And then they wait for us to make our decision. They have shared their child, their family values, their hopes and fears, their finances. And then they wait for our approval or rejection.

We must honor this, and honor them. It is, indeed, a privilege, to be trusted with their stories.

Photo courtesy of Sean Mcgrath