Arc Development

Professional Services for Teachers, Administrators, and School Families

Arc Professional Development helps teachers and school administrators make thoughtful and productive choices about the evolution of their careers. 

Myths About Independent Schools (a countdown): #10

Myth 10: Independent schools don’t admit “average” students.

Fact: There are many independent schools that turn away far more students than they admit. But there are also many schools that accept over half of their applicants. You might be tempted to say, “Oh, yeah, the good schools are in the first category and the, um, less good schools are in the second.”

There are normal kids in every school. (That’s a much nicer word than “average,” don't you think?) Even at the most competitive schools, acceptances include star athletes who are average students, hard workers with middling test scores, and children of alumni/ae who are just plain good kids, if not academic superstars.

My experience suggests that geography plays a bigger role than traditional measures of merit: In the Washington area, there are more applicants per slot in DC itself because of the perception that the District’s public schools are not as desirable as those in Montgomery (Maryland) and Fairfax (Virginia) counties. To be sure, most of the highly competitive DC independents offer superb programs — but so do many schools outside DC, even if their admission rates are not as competitive.

If your child is blessedly “normal,” she might get into a highly competitive school because she has other things going for her. Or she might find a “normal” school that fits her just as well — or, believe it or not, better.