Secondary School Placement

We believe that the Chatham Day School experience from preschool through eighth grade instills in our students the necessary intellectual curiosity, academic discipline, self-confidence, and leadership skills to be successful in secondary school and beyond.  To this end, we are committed to helping each eighth grade family identify the right school “fit” for those critical high school years.  After all, the school community our graduates and their families join for those four years will become their next “home away from home.”  

Our particular area of New Jersey is rich with wonderful school options - public and independent, parochial, charter, and magnet - and we respect each family’s decisions and values in the search for a secondary school. CDS does ask each eighth grader to apply to a minimum of one independent school.  Why?  Because the process of applying to secondary school requires students to think carefully and critically about what they want in the next leg of their educational journey - and why; and that process in and of itself is an invaluable and enlightening experience.  We want our eighth graders to think actively and meaningfully about their own personal and academic goals and to identify programs and environments that will help them continue to thrive and excel.  Ultimately, our goal is to ensure that families have choices when it comes to secondary schools.

Chatham Day School offers an intensive and comprehensive placement process for each student beginning in the spring of the seventh grade year.  In May, the Upper School Division Head meets with the class as a whole to introduce them to the overall timeline and process.  Before the summer, the Division Head also connects with families individually to begin identifying recommended schools for further exploration.  Initially, families are encouraged to look at eight to twelve schools and to keep an open mind about the many possibilities ahead.

In the fall of eighth grade, we continue to work with students and parents to finalize each child’s list of schools, keeping a careful eye on a balance between “reach” and “fit.”  Admission officers from a wide range of boarding schools travel to the CDS campus to talk in person with eighth graders.  Families are encouraged to attend Open Houses and Information Nights at all of the schools to which their children are interested in applying and to explore websites and informational packets in depth.   Chatham Day School provides a Calendar of Admission Events for area day schools to help parents schedule these important campus visits.  

By mid-October, when the final list of four to six schools has been identified, students work with the Division Head to fine-tune their written applications.  After-school sessions are offered each week in the fall for additional essay-writing help.  Our 8th Graders also take a twice-weekly Test Prep course as they prepare for admission exams like the SSAT, ISEE, and COOP.  Additionally, CDS hosts a variety of placement-related events to develop interviewing skills and to connect current students with alumni/ae enrolled at independent secondary schools. 

Key Placement-Related Topics

Between September and January of the eighth grade year, the Upper School Division Head advises students and parents on a wide variety of key placement-related topics:
  • Navigating campus visits and interviews;
  • Applying for financial aid;
  • Completing applications;
  • Preparing for entrance exams (SSAT, ISEE, COOP, etc.).
CDS also hosts day and boarding school admission representatives who are interested in coming to speak to our seventh and eighth graders about their schools, and we connect current parents with parents of alumni whenever possible in an effort to “pass the torch” of placement wisdom!