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Nancy WebsterWhat independent high schools ask of 8th grade applicants can be somewhat overwhelming. In addition to completing an application that includes composing short essays, 8th grade applicants must sit for an entrance or placement examination and secure recommendations from their current teachers. Typically, 8th grade applicants also sign up for shadow visits to the schools on their list.

A shadow visit provides the 8th grade student with a look at the school on a typical day. During the shadow visit, students experience what goes on inside and outside of the classroom—and they can imagine how it might feel to attend school there.

That sounds helpful, doesn’t it? But when I imagine being a shadow guest of an admission director at another school, well, it seems pretty scary to me! I wonder: What would we talk about? Would the admission director be annoyed that I was shadowing her for a full day? What would lunch be like? Would my host’s friends talk to me? You get the idea! I am incredibly proud of our 8th grade shadow guests. Even though they may enter with a bit of hesitation, most depart feeling satisfied with what they learned.

Here are some helpful tips for you and your student to get the most out of a shadow visit:

  • Tell your student that the hosts at most schools are well prepared for their shadow guests. These hosts are volunteers, and they are excited to welcome their guests.
  • Arrive with an open mind. Come ready to learn new things and experience life in a new school.
  • If particular elective classes are of importance to your student, ask if they may attend one. If your child is a musician and wants to sit in with an ensemble, ask if your child may bring an instrument to the shadow visit. Even if your child’s host is not in photography or accounting or acting, may your child attend these classes?
  • Encourage your student to ask questions of their host. What is it like to go to school here? Remember, all questions are good questions!
  • Remind your child that while they are looking for more information about the school, that the school is hoping to learn more about them. Encourage your child to participate in the day, to engage in classes.
  • Be sure to discuss your child’s reaction to the visit. What were the positives? The negatives? Would a second visit to that school be helpful? Should we ask to connect with a teacher or coach?

Arranging shadow visits for your child at multiple schools is hard work, especially with busy schedules and after school activities. I commend you for making all of this happen for your child. Choosing a high school is a big decision for your 8th grader and you—don’t be shy about getting the information you need.

Schedule a Shadow Visit at University

Students are welcome to shadow any day University High School is in session, but we do have a list of preferred dates. To schedule a shadow visit, please contact Nancy Webster, Director of Admission, at nwebster@universityhighschool.org or 317-733-4475, ext. 102.