The High School Process Starts at Age 4

Emily Bernhardt As a Roman Ambassador, I’ve given my fair share of tours of the Upper School. However, on my most recent tour, I was surprised to find that the children of my guests were were no older than six, some only four, clearly plenty of years away from freshman year. Ms. Salzman, the Assistant Director of Enrollment Management at Latin, explained that these families were applying to Latin’s Lower School this year, but had an interest in seeing the Upper School as well. Though Ms. Salzman warned my tour partner and I that she “had a feeling that they could have a fair amount of questions,” she also instructed us to “conduct the tour as [we] normally do.” As a “lifer” at Latin, I was prepared to answer questions about the Lower School, since this was where their kids were planning to attend. However, to my surprise, the young parents asked almost exclusively about my high school experiences. Their polite questions covered subjects like gym credits, visual and performing art classes, AP options, free periods, and Project Week, topics which apply only to high schoolers. Conducting a “normal” tour proved to be much easier than I anticipated, because these families displayed the same interest in the high school as the seventh or eighth grade families that I had previously shown around. They had clearly “done their homework,” as Ms. Salzman had suggested, and their preparedness caught me off guard. I later learned that my partner and I were not the only Roman Ambassadors that met parents whose children were nearly junior kindergarteners. Gabi Finch, a sophomore and Roman Ambassador, also helped introduce incoming junior kindergarten families to the Upper School. But she didn’t understand why they needed to visit the Upper School. “They shouldn’t be concerned about high school until at least middle school,” said Finch. Finch transferred to Latin as a freshman and didn’t begin to look at high schools with her parents until seventh grade. “These parents are parents of six-year-olds. High school will have changed completely by the time they get here.” Finch is not the only one who finds these tours unnecessary. One parent of a Latin high school student says that taking these tours is “premature. It’s understandable for people to see where their kids will be in the future, but they’re probably touring a bit too early.” Summer Abraham, another sophomore Roman Ambassador, had a similar experience with families that were planning far ahead for their kids. However, unlike Finch and myself, Abraham was faced with dozens of questions about college and hardly any about high school. She was taken aback when she found that these parents wanted to know what colleges Latin kids applied to and attended. She also noticed that they were especially concerned about how Latin prepares its students for the college transition. “Seniors and juniors might fit these tours better,” said Abraham. “Or, maybe a visit to the College Counseling office would better fit these families’ needs than a tour of the whole high school. “It’s good for JK parents to plan ahead and learn about Latin’s high school, but that didn’t seem like the goal of these parents, who were more concerned with the college path.” But being prepared for the future in this way might not be all that bad. Ms. Salzman explains that touring the high school for parents of lower school students is entirely optional, but could be valuable. “Many parents see Latin as a fourteen-year commitment,” said Salzman. “They want to see the future of their children and see what a Latin high school student is like. And the truth is, nobody shows the school better than the students.”  ]]>