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The Best Way is Onward and Upward

by Anna Marie Lenhardt, Director of Secondary School Placement


Life after ACS – Navigating the Path to Secondary School

Regardless of where they’ve come from or when they first arrive at Avery Coonley, all ACS families have one attribute in common: they have spent considerable time and effort in order to find an exceptional elementary school where their children’s intellect, curiosity, and creativity would be nurtured and enhanced through 8th grade. It only makes sense that those same families would devote equal energy to finding the secondary school that can continue that journey. Whether a family is considering their local public high school, one of the many private or selective enrollment options in the Chicago area, or boarding schools, ACS will provide education, guidance, and advocacy to families along the way.

Each year, Avery Coonley graduates are admitted to some of the most competitive public and private high schools both in the Chicagoland area and across the country. Our students are sought after, not only for their strong academic preparation, but also for their character, leadership skills, and ability to work as part of a team.The ACS Secondary School Placement Office will support families throughout the application process. A partial list of services provided includes the following:

  • Hosting a Secondary School Fair the first week in October, attended by representatives from 60+ boarding, independent day, and faith-based schools, as well as the Illinois Math & Science Academy (IMSA) 
  • Meeting with individual parents during fall and spring conferences
  • Meeting with individual students as requested
  • Sending information to parents regarding local open houses, application deadlines, and local public school registration and placement
  • Hosting individual school representatives on campus and scheduling student lunch meetings
  • Hosting a Secondary School Information Night in the spring featuring ACS high school alums; a presentation on the process of applying, testing, and matriculation for each type of school; and a series of helpful resources for families

If I could wave my “magic wand” and dispel some of the myths while imparting helpful advice, I would offer the following, in no particular order:

  1. The best school for YOUR child may not be the one that someone else is choosing for their child. Don’t pick a school solely on name recognition; do your research, and involve your student in the process. 
  2. We welcome the opportunity to meet with ALL students and families, regardless of the type of schools (public or private) being considered.
  3. Always register with your local public school, even if you are pursuing a private option. First, by educating yourself about what you already have available to you close to home, you will have a good basis for comparison with the other options that are out there. Second, sometimes family circumstances change. It is much easier to get the classes and schedule the student would prefer when the official registration takes place in January than it would be in August! 
  4. If a school you are considering offers in-person visits, try to attend one of those events. Schools are receiving thousands of applications, and “showing up” in person could make a difference when the schools are trying to pare down the number of applicants.
  5. Keep us informed of your plans. Don’t wait until the due dates are upon us – we can’t support the student or advocate with our school contacts if we don’t know your intentions, or if we don’t have time to write quality recommendations.
  6. Start your research in 7th grade for private or selective enrollment schools. Many people are surprised to learn that, for many schools, applications are due as early as November or December of 8th grade.
  7. Don’t overdo “test prep” for high school entrance exams. A practice test to become familiar with the length of test and the types of questions asked makes perfect sense, but increasing student anxiety does not. 

It may feel overwhelming to think about high school, particularly if your child is not yet in Middle School. Regardless of the age of your student, if you are curious about anything related to high school, please ask! We’re here to help. 

Finally, please know that your student will be well prepared for high school, regardless of the school your family chooses. For those of you who are curious, here is a partial list of schools ACS graduates have attended the past four years: 

Public Schools: Downers Grove North and South; Hinsdale Central and South; Lyons Township; Naperville Central and North; Glenbard East and West; Westmont; Neuqua Valley; Waubonsie Valley; Lemont High School; Lisle High School; The Illinois Math and Science Academy

Independent Chicago-Area Day Schools: The Chicago Academy for the Arts; The Latin School; Morgan Park Academy; The University of Chicago Lab School

Out-of-State Day Schools: The Dawson School (Boulder, CO); Cannon School (Concord, NC); Trinity School (NYC)

Faith-based Private Schools: Benet Academy; Fenwick High School; St. Francis High School; St. Ignatius College Prep; Marmion Academy; Nazareth Academy; Providence Catholic High School

CPS Selective Enrollment Schools: Northside Prep; Walter Payton College Prep

Out-of-State Selective Enrollment Public Schools: Lovejoy High School (Lucas, TX)

Boarding Schools: Phillips Academy Andover; Choate Rosemary Hall; Culver Academy; Deerfield Academy, Phillips Exeter Academy; Groton School; The Hotchkiss School; Lake Forest Academy; The Madeira School; Northfield Mount Hermon; St. Paul’s School; Peddie School, The Thacher School

 So many opportunities are waiting for your child after ACS, and we look forward to helping you find the right ones for your family!