Special Section

Open Doors, Open Minds

Navigating the independent-school admissions process begins at the open house
Rebecca Kirkman - October 2018
Special Section

Open Doors, Open Minds

Navigating the independent-school admissions process begins at the open house
Rebecca Kirkman - October 2018

After several years of day care, Deserea Russell felt her oldest daughter, Madison Speaks, then 4 years old, was ready for a more stimulating environment that would prepare her for kindergarten.

So the Columbia mom, who had just made a move from Washington, D.C., began the search for pre-K programs in Howard County. After attending several open houses and applying to a few local schools, she was most impressed by Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City.

Each fall, families like the Russells across the Baltimore region enter the final stages of the independent-school research process—a sometimes daunting experience, which is why admissions advisors suggest starting at least one year in advance. Most open houses and admissions events begin in the fall, with final applications due in the winter, and acceptances and final selections in the spring.

For Russell, what was intended to be a pit-stop on the way to public kindergarten ended up igniting a passion for independent schooling. Seven years later, both of her daughters remain at Glenelg—Madison Speaks, now 11, entered sixth grade this fall, while her younger sister, Zaria, 8 years old, follows in third grade.

“Our intention was to move on from Glenelg after pre-K, but I went to a kindergarten informational for public school, and I was intimidated by how large the class sizes could be and how they weren’t offering some of the curriculum or programs that we had come to expect from GCS,” Russell recalls. “So we decided to stay there.”

With this in mind, Russell advises other parents to keep an open mind when it comes to educational options.

“Maybe you don’t expect to come this far out of your area, or pay tuition, or even choose a private school, but you have to do what’s best for your child,” she counsels. “Your child may not survive or thrive in a setting where there’s a lot of students and might not get that special attention they need.”

She says taking her 4-year-old daughter along to the open house and observing her interactions confirmed the family’s decision to choose Glenelg. Says Russell, “You can see in their eyes if they like it.”

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Do Your Research

Finding the Right Match

With more than 120 independent schools in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., region, there is an abundance of qualified institutions to fit each child’s needs. To find the right match, it’s important to determine your family’s top priorities in a school, from its price and location to learning style and diversity.

First, it’s a good idea for families to establish a set of basic criteria that they’d like in a potential school. Weigh options such as faith-based or nondenominational, co-ed or single gender, traditional or progressive, large or small, cost, and local, commuting, or boarding programs.

Once the family’s criteria has been established, the next step is prioritizing which elements are most important, for example, a religious framework or the teaching philosophy, since it may not be possible to meet both criteria in a single institution.

With their priorities defined and at top of mind, families can better evaluate a school during admissions events. “Having reviewed the website ahead of time and coming with questions that they can address while they’re here is extremely helpful for parents to make the most effective use of their time while they’re at an open house,” says Karen Wootton, director of admissions at Glenelg Country School.

Located on a 90-acre campus in Ellicott City, the school enrolls students in pre-K through 12th grade.

While cost is a very important factor in a family’s final choice, Wootton suggests parents not cross any schools off their list based on tuition alone.

“Families who need to seek financial aid are sometimes reluctant to share that information from the start because they’re afraid that it might jeopardize or affect somehow the success of their application process,” she says. “The fact of the matter is, it does not. And I don’t know of any independent schools out there that consider whether a family is applying for aid or not in their admission process.”

In Baltimore, the median day school tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year was $23,840, according to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS). A third of the region’s more than 46,000 students received financial aid, with the average award for a single student at $13,354. That’s about 56 percent of the average tuition price—and a big difference in affordability for most families. (For more about how to afford a private-school tuition, see our sidebar on footing the bill.)

In fact, Wootton emphasizes the importance of transparency in all aspects of the application process. “It’s important for families to be open about their needs,” she says. “Don’t hide anything from the school, because it’s only to the child’s benefit when the parents and the school work together to make sure that we have all of the information that we need in making sure that it will be a good fit for the student.”

Prioritization allows families to narrow down the serious contenders on their list and focus their efforts during the next step of the school selection process: open houses and visit days.

Footing the Bill

Managing the expense of private education

With an average annual bill of roughly $23,000 for day school and $57,000 for seven-day boarding, private schooling can put a considerable strain on the family budget. Figure in multiple years and more than one child, and you’ve got a number that can quickly exceed six figures. So we’ve asked Jonathan Murray, managing director of wealth management at The Murray Group, part of UBS Financial Services, to answer our burning questions.

The idea of saving for private school can be overwhelming. Where’s a good place to start?

When planning for the cost of private-school education, new parents may want to start saving right away by setting aside a few hundred dollars each month, as early as possible. While this might not seem like a priority given the many expensive needs of babies and small children, it’s never too early to start saving for forthcoming education costs. Remember, every little bit you set aside now can help make a big difference later on. Parents can also encourage grandparents and family members to make education contributions in lieu of material gifts for birthdays and holidays.

How can families maximize their savings for education?

There are many options available to parents to maximize savings that are tax-advantaged and designed to set aside money for qualified education expenses. Beneficiaries of these accounts can be a child, grandchild, or even a godchild. These accounts allow money to grow tax-deferred and for proceeds to be withdrawn tax-free for qualified education expenses. It’s worth noting, however, that most of these options have maximum annual contribution limits.

What are some resources for families looking for additional assistance, and who should consider financial aid?

Keeping in mind future college expenses and your own retirement, parents could consider keeping private-school costs down by applying for both need-based and merit-based scholarships. Private schools today are seeking the best and brightest, and the schools often offer attractive incentives to students. More and more schools now have anonymous alumni-scholarship opportunities available, and there are several scholarships offered through local church and nonprofit organizations, so don’t forget to ask local community leaders about ways to help pay for private-school tuition.

And parents may want to look into need-based financial aid that is available. Seeking financial assistance used to carry a negative stigma, but it’s now the new norm given the price tag of private schools. Parents can work with School and Student Services, part of National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), to determine if their child qualifies for financial aid. Families can also use the School and Student Services for their financial aid management tools, which connect students from every economic background to private schools.

What are some of the common mistakes or misconceptions you’ve seen when it comes to saving and paying for children’s education?

One common mistake we see by parents is enrolling their children too early. If your child does well throughout elementary and middle school, there is still a very good chance an excellent private high school will accept them. It is not always necessary to reserve a spot for high school by getting your child into private school at the pre-kindergarten or kindergarten age.

The First Look

Navigating the Open House

Most Baltimore-area schools hold open houses for prospective families during October and November. Don’t be shy about checking these events out, either, even if your child won’t be applying the same year.

Rossini suggests parents attend open houses the year before they plan to start the application process.

At The Park School, a co-ed, nonsectarian pre-K-12 school in Baltimore County, formal admissions events include tours with principals, open houses, parent interviews and tours, and student visit days. Ranked in the top 10 percent of private K-12 schools in the country by Niche, a website with comprehensive rankings and report cards for schools and neighborhoods across the country, Park was founded in 1912 and is rooted in the progressive educational philosophy of John Dewey. It has 820 students making up its lower, middle, and upper schools.

“Sometimes parents visit a school with specific expectations about what they will see and hear,” says Ruthie Kalvar, director of admissions at Park. “It may close them off to aspects of school life that they never even thought about.” Instead, Kalvar suggests families learn about the school’s philosophy and then look for it in action. At Park, that philosophy includes curriculum devoted to intellectual inquiry, experiential analysis, and collaboration.

“During a visit, we recommend looking for students who are really engaged and thinking, rather than being told what to think, memorizing, and repeating,” says Kalvar. “Your observations and responses to your questions should reveal the opportunities that students have for growth, for individual and collaborative challenges, and for the opportunities they have to develop and pursue passions both inside and outside of the classroom.”

The chance to get on campus, see facilities in person, and meet faculty and staff at an open house may be enough to drop a few options off your list, or push others to the top. But admissions professionals agree it’s just the first step in getting to know a school’s inner workings.

“Stay engaged with the school. Attend events that you are invited to, not only open-house events but musicals, plays, sporting events. Read the school’s newspaper if they have one, and any magazines that are sent home to you,” says Wootton. “Try your best to understand the culture of the school to help you know if it’s the best fit for your child. There are many options out there, just as there are when students are looking at colleges. Each school presents unique qualities that may or may not be the right fit for every child, but just try to do your homework throughout the admissions process.”

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Third Base

Completing the Application Process

You’ve made your lists, done your research, and picked your top contenders. Now it’s time for the application process, which wraps up in the winter months of December and January for most local schools.

If your child has his or her heart set on a specific school, do what you can to demonstrate that to the admissions team, both in your application and by attending as many prospective events as possible.

For older children, Glenelg conducts an interview during the shadow day.

“I always enjoy it when the student shares something with me that helps me remember who they are—not just their favorite class in school or what kind of sports they play, but maybe a story that they can tell me about a project that they completed, or a trip they took, or something that is unique about them,” she suggests. Stories like these can help the child stand out in the minds of admissions professionals. “If they can think of something ahead of time to talk about for their interview, that can be very helpful for the student.”

Families that approach the application process with a positive mindset have the most to benefit, says The Park School’s Kalvar.

“You will not only learn about schools and their distinctive features, but you’ll also gain immeasurable insight into your child, your family, and Baltimore, too,” she says. “It’s always interesting to hear opinions about schools, but it’s a good idea for families to remember that people look at schools through different lenses. What feels right for one student and family might not feel right for another. Context is important, and you should set out to gather as much first-hand information as possible.”

Kalvar points to the school’s sense of community as one of the best indicators of a potential fit. “Make sure you feel welcomed and comfortable and that the school understands and appreciates who your child is,” she says. “It’s important to remember that today’s parents must consider what’s possible beyond their own experiences they had in school. Twenty-first century learning requires a different sort of engagement on the part of students. Keep an eye out for schools that are willing to grow and change—and get excited for the new possibilities that lie ahead for your child.”

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Below is a list of open houses at schools in the Greater Baltimore region. The time of the open houses, when available, is printed directly after the name of each school.


Archbishop Curley High School Lower Open house: 10/27 and 10/28, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
3701 Sinclair Ln. 410-485-5000.
Grades: 9-12, all male. Enrollment: 560. Affiliation: Roman Catholic/Franciscan.

Archbishop Spalding High School Open house: 10/28, 12-3 p.m.
8080 New Cut Rd. Severn. 410-969-9105.
Grades: 9-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 1,253. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

The Auburn School, Baltimore Campus Open house: 10/3, 9-11 a.m.
7401 Park Heights Ave. Pikesville. 410-617-0418.
Grades: K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 63. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Baltimore Lab School
Open house: Third Thursday breakfast tour each month 9-10:15 a.m.
2220 St. Paul St. 410-261-5500.
Grades: 1-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 137. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Beth El @ Federal Hill
Open house: Call for tour information. 1530 Battery Ave. 410-528-6001.
Grades: 2-5 years of age, co-ed. Enrollment: 40. Affiliation: Jewish.


Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School
Lower School Open House: 11/16 and 12/5, 8:45 a.m. Middle School Open House: 11/27, 7 p.m. High School Open House: 11/19, 7 p.m.
3300 Old Court Rd. Pikesville. 410-486-1905.
Grades: 15 months-grade 12, co-ed. Enrollment: 950. Affiliation: Jewish.

The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland
Open House: 10/14, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
822 W. Lake Ave. 410-377-5192.
Grades: K-12, all-male. Enrollment: 630. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

The Bryn Mawr School
Open House: 10/21, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
109 W. Melrose Ave. 410-323-8800.
Grades: K-12, all-female except co-ed Little School. Enrollment: 678. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Calvert Hall College High School
Open House: 11/11, 12-4 p.m.
8102 La Salle Rd. 410-825-4266.
Grades: 9-12, all-male. Enrollment: 1,175. Affiliation: Roman Catholic and Lasallian.

Calvert School
Open House: 10/18, 11/14, 9-11 a.m.
105 Tuscany Rd. 410-243-6054.
Grades: K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 592. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Cambridge School
Open House: 10/15, 9-11 a.m., 10/16, 6:30-8 p.m., 11/5, 9 a.m., 3/7, 9-11 a.m.
110 Sudbrook Ln. Pikesville. 410-486-3686.
Grades: K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 121. Affiliation: Christian.

The Catholic High School of Baltimore
Open House: 10/20, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
2800 Edison Hwy. 410-732-6200.
Grades: 9-12, all-female. Enrollment: 320. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

Columbia Academy Elementary and Middle School
Open House: Call for times.
10350 Old Columbia Rd. Columbia. 410-312-7413.
Grades: Junior K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 150. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Concordia Preparatory School
Open House: 10/13, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.
1145 Concordia Dr., Towson. 410-825-2323.
Grades: 6-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 310. Affiliation: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Eastern Technical High School
Open House: 10/18, 6-8 p.m.
1100 Mace Ave., Essex. 410-809-0190.
Grades: 9-12, co-ed. Enrollment: approx. 1,181. Affiliation: Non-sectarian, public.

Fork Union Military Academy
Open House: Call for appointment.
4744 James Madison Hwy. Fork Union, Virginia. 1-800-GO-2-FUMA (1-800-462-3862).
Grades: 7-12, and post-grad program, boarding, all-male. Enrollment: approx. 367. Affiliation: Christian.

Friends School of Baltimore
Open House: First [email protected]: Several dates Oct-Jan, 9-11am.
5114 N. Charles St. 410-649-3200.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 803. Affiliation: Quaker.

Garrison Forest School
Open House: Parent visit days, Lower school: 10/12, 8 -10 a.m.; Middle school: 10/24, 7:45-9:30 a.m.; Upper school: 10/25, 8-10 a.m.
300 Garrison Forest Rd., Owings Mills. 410-363-1500.
Grades: Pre-K-12, all-female except co-ed pre-K. Enrollment: 550. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Gilman School
Open House: Call for times, 10/5 through 11/30.
5407 Roland Ave. 410-323-3800.
Grades: K-12, all-male. Enrollment: 1,023. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Glenelg Country School
Open House: 10/19, 11/6, 12/5, 9 a.m.
12793 Folly Quarter Rd. Ellicott City. 410-531-8600.
Grades: age 2-grade 12, co-ed. Enrollment: 750. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Greenspring Montessori School
Open House: Call for times.
10807 Tony Dr., Lutherville-Timonium. 410-321-8555.
Grades: 18 months-grade 9, co-ed. Enrollment: 252. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

The Highlands School
Open House: Call to schedule tour.
2409 Creswell Rd. Bel Air. 410-836-1415.
Grades: 1-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 80/rolling admissions. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Harford Day School
Open House: 11/6, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
715 Moores Mill Rd. Bel Air. 410-838-4848.
Grades: Pre-K (age 3)-grade 8, co-ed. Enrollment: 300. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Immaculate Conception School
Open House: Middle School: 10/18, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Pre-K to Grade 8: 11/8, 9:30-11:30 a.m.
112 Ware Ave., Towson. 410-427-4903. Grades: Pre-K (age 3)-grade 8, co-ed. Enrollment: 535. Affiliation: Catholic.

Institute of Notre Dame Open House: 11/3, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
901 Aisquith St. 410-522-7800.
Grades: 9-12, all-female. Enrollment: 354. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

Jemicy School Open House: Call to schedule tour.
11202 Garrison Forest Rd., Owings Mills (upper school). 11 Celadon Rd., Owings Mills (lower and middle schools) 410-653-2700.
Grades: 1-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 394. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

John Carroll School Open House: 10/27, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
703 E. Churchville Rd. Bel Air. 410-879-2480.
Grades: 9-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 659. Affiliation: Catholic.

Krieger Schechter Day School
Open House: 11/28, 7 p.m. Drop-in days: 10/17, 12/12, 1/9, 9 a.m.
8100 Stevenson Rd. 410-486-8640.
Grades: K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 295. Affiliation: Jewish.

Loyola Blakefield
Open House: 10/21, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
500 Chestnut Ave., Towson. 410-823-0601.
Grades: 6-12, all-male. Enrollment: 970. Affiliation: Jesuit Catholic

Maryvale Preparatory School
Upper School: 9/28 and 10/25, 8:30 a.m., Middle School: 10/12 and 11/6, 8:30 a.m.
11300 Falls Rd. Lutherville. 410-252-3366.
Grades: 6-12, all-female. Enrollment: 425. Affiliation: Catholic.

McDonogh School
Upper School: 10/28, 3-5 p.m. Middle School: 10/28, 12:30-2:30 p.m. Lower School: 10/11, 10/24, 11/6, 9 a.m.
8600 McDonogh Rd. Owings Mills. 410-363-0600.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 1,384. Affiliation: Non-sectarian

Mercersburg Academy
Open House: 10/8, 12/10, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
300 E. Seminary St. Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. 717-328-6173.
Grades: 9-12, plus post-grad year, boarding, and day, co-ed. Enrollment: 435. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Mercy High School
Open House: 10/20, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
1300 E. Northern Pkwy. 410-433-8880.
Grades: 9-12, all-female. Enrollment: 350. Affiliation: Catholic.

Mother Seton Academy
Open House: 11/4, 12-3 p.m.
2215 Greenmount Ave. 410-563-2833.
Grades: 6-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 75. Affiliation: Catholic.

Mount de Sales Academy
Open House: 11/4, 12-3 p.m.
700 Academy Rd. Catonsville 410-744-8498.
Grades: 9-12, all-female. Enrollment: 510. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

Mount Saint Joseph High School
Open House: 10/28, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
4403 Frederick Ave. 410-644-3300.
Grades: 9-12, all-male. Enrollment: 924. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

Notre Dame Preparatory School
Open House: 10/13, 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m.
815 Hampton Ln. Towson. 410-825-6202.
Grades: 6-12, all-female. Enrollment: 800. Affiliation: Catholic.

The Odyssey School
Open House: Call for tour times.
3257 Bridle Ridge Ln. Stevenson. 410-580-5551.
Grades: K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 164. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Oldfields School
Open House: 11/12, call for times.
1500 Glencoe Rd. Sparks Glencoe. 410-472-4800.
Grades: 8-12, all-female. Enrollment: 180. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Our Lady of Grace Pre-school
Open House: 9/18, 9-11 a.m.
18310 Middletown Rd. Parkton. 410-329-6956.
Grades: Preschool, co-ed. Enrollment: 35. Affiliation: Catholic.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Open House: Call for times.
1704 Old Eastern Ave. Essex. 410-686-4972.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 502. Affiliation: Catholic.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help School
Open House: 10/17, 10 a.m.; 11/14, 10. a.m.; 12/6, 7 p.m.
4801 Ilchester Rd. Ellicott City. 410-744-4251.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 240. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

Our Lady of Victory Catholic School
Open House: 11/16, 9-11 a.m.
4416 Wilkens Ave. 410-242-3688.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed Enrollment: 194. Affiliation: Catholic.

The Park School of Baltimore
Open House: Call for times.
2425 Old Court Rd. 410-339-7070.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 822. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Pauline Mash School for Early Childhood Education
Open House: Call for tour information.
8101 Park Heights Ave. 410-602-2245.
Grades: 8 weeks-5 years of age, co-ed. Enrollment: 120. Affiliation: Jewish.

Peabody Preparatory Institute of The Johns Hopkins University
Open House: Call for times.
21 E. Mount Vernon Pl. 667-208-6640.
Grades: Music and dance instruction for all ages and abilities, co-ed. Enrollment: Approx. 2,000 per week at four locations. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Redeemer Classical Christian School
Open House: 11/1, 6:30-8 p.m.
6415 Mount Vista Rd. Kingsville. 410-592-9625.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 250. Affiliation: Christian.

Roland Park Country School
Open House: Middle/upper school: 10/14, 1-4 p.m. Lower school: Several dates October-January, 8:30-10 a.m., call for dates.
5204 Roland Ave. 410-323-5500.
Grades: Pre-K-12, all-female except co-ed preschool. Enrollment: 610. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

St. Francis of Assisi School
Open House: 10/6, 12-2 p.m.
3617 Harford Rd. 410-467-1683.
Grades: Pre- K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 260. Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

St. James Academy
Open House: 11/15, 9-10:30 a.m. Coffee with headmaster: 11/29, 12/5, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
3100 Monkton Rd. Monkton. 410-568-7573.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 300. Affiliation: Episcopalian.

Saint James School
Open House: 10/20, 1/21, call for times.
17641 College Road, Hagerstown. 301-733-9330.
Grades: 8-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 238. Affiliation: Episcopalian.

St. John’s Parish Day School
Open House: Call for times.
9130 Frederick Rd. Ellicott City. 410-465-7644.
Grades: Age 3-grade 5, co-ed. Enrollment: 350. Affiliation: Episcopalian.

St. Mark School
Open House: 10/8, 11/12, 9-11 a.m.; 1/29, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.; 3/14, 9-11 a.m.; 4/16, 1-3 p.m.; 5/1, 9-11 a.m. 26 Melvin Ave. Catonsville. 410-744-6560.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 340. Affiliation: Catholic.

St. Paul’s School
Open House: Upper School: 10/4, 11/8, 12/6, 8:45-10:15 a.m., Middle School: 10/2, 10/23, 11/13, 12/4, 8:45-10:15 a.m., Lower School: 10/16, 9-11 a.m.
11152 Falls Rd. Brooklandville. 410-823-0061.
Grades: Pre-K-4, lower school is co-ed. Grades: 5-12, middle/upper school is all-male. Enrollment: 758. Affiliation: Episcopalian.

St. Paul’s School for Girls
Parent information sessions: Upper School: 10/23; middle school: 10/26; Joint middle and upper school open house: 11/7.
11232 Falls Rd. Brooklandville. 410-632-1082.
Grades: Infants-grade 4, co-ed; 5-12, all-female. Enrollment: 444. Affiliation: Episcopalian.

St. Timothy’s School
Open House: 10/20, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
8400 Greenspring Ave. Stevenson. 410-486-7401.
Grades: 9-12, boarding and day, all-female. Enrollment: 200. Affiliation: Episcopalian.

St. Ursula School
Open House: 11/16, 8:30-11 a.m., 1/27, 1-3 p.m.
8900 Harford Rd. Parkville. 410-665-3533.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 639. Affiliation: Catholic.

St. Pius X School
Open House: Call for times.
6432 York Rd. 410-427-7400.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 170. Affiliation: Catholic.

Sandy Spring Friends School
Open House: 10/14, 1-3:30 p.m.; 5/21, 8:15-11 a.m.
16923 Norwood Rd. Sandy Spring. 301-774-7455.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 575. Affiliation: Quaker.

The School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen

Open House: 10/9, 11/16, 1/29, 4/16, 8:30-11:30 a.m.
111 Amberly Way. 410-464-4100.
Grades: K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 377. Affiliation: Catholic.


Severn School (now merged with Chesapeake Academy)
Open House: Call for times.
1185 Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., Arnold (lower school) and 201 Water St., Severna Park (middle/upper school). 410-647-7700.
Grades: Pre-K-12, co-ed. Enrollment: 844. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Shady Side Academy Senior School
Open House. Call for times.
423 Fox Chapel Rd. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 412-968-3000.
Grades: 9-12, co-ed, day and boarding. Enrollment: 460. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Springdale Preparatory School
Open House: Call for Times.
1000 Green Valley Rd. New Windsor. 855-405-8600.
Grades: 5-12, day and boarding, co-ed. Enrollment: TBA. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

Trinity School
Open House: All grades: 10/12, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.; kingergarten: 11/8, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.; all grades: 11/11, 11 a.m. after 10 a.m. mass; 12/6, all grades: 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
4985 Ilchester Rd. Ellicott City. 443-498-5040.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 350. Affiliation: Catholic.

Waldorf School of Baltimore
Open House: Call for times.
4801 Tamarind Rd. 410-367-6808.
Grades: Pre-K-8, co-ed. Enrollment: 133. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

West Nottingham Academy
Open House: Call for times.
1079 Firetower Rd. Colora. 410-658-5556.
Grades: 9-12, day and boarding, co-ed. Enrollment: 130. Affiliation: Non-sectarian.

So Long, SAT?

Rethinking the value of test scores

In June, the ultra-selective University of Chicago announced it will no longer require SAT or ACT scores for admission. The tests have been around since 1926 and 1959, respectively, and were taken by millions of students in 2017.

The announcement by the University of Chicago, which tied for third in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2018 college rankings, was the most notable step in a slow move away from standardized testing by colleges across the country. The announcement came with news that a new video introduction would be encouraged with fall 2018 applications, catering to students who have grown up in the digital era.

Also over the summer, the University of New England, a private university in Maine, and Sweet Briar College, a women’s liberal arts college in Virginia, both announced policies that made reporting standardized test scores optional. Meanwhile, all eight Ivy League universities and a handful of other elite schools have made reporting the essay portion of the SAT and ACT optional.

And it’s not just colleges that are abandoning standardized testing—several private schools in the greater D.C. area announced they would drop Advanced Placement courses, pointing to the program’s emphasis on speedy memorization. Though it’s a nationally recognized program seen as a stepping stone to college by many, the schools dropping the affiliation said teaching to the final test prevented faculty from developing curriculum focused on collaboration, creative thinking, and current events.

“There are studies that actually show an inverse correlation between high test scores and performance in college,” says Key School director of outreach and admissions Tom Rossini, referring to a recent study by the former dean of admissions at Bates College that looked at 123,000 student and alumni records at 33 private and public colleges and universities across the U.S. “It’s because kids who focus on preparing for a single test, or have only been trained to memorize facts and regurgitate, don’t perform well when they are presented with case studies and research projects.”

With this in mind, more schools, both college prep and universities, are reconsidering the effectiveness of teaching to tests. “Kids can’t think for themselves because they are honing one skill—rote memorization,” adds Rossini. “Emotional intelligence and creative problem-solving aren’t being teased out in these tests, yet they are a more reliable indicator of predicting future success.”

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