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How to handle Senior School offers

With Spring almost upon us this can be a fraught time for many parents awaiting Senior School offers. For most it will be happy news but for some the disappointment of a waitlist place or even a rejection can be brutal. We ask Arabella Davies, Education and Schools Consultant how best to navigate this part of the senior school selection process.


This year’s selection process has not been straightforward. Initially, prospective pupils were invited in person to their target schools for assessments and interviews but most, at the very last minute, were moved once again online.  This last minute change has made it even harder for children and schools to make their choice. Some schools are even holding back offers either until later in the year when they can meet your children in person, or, are offering only some of their places this year enabling them to review the rest at a later date giving them time to mature that little bit more which can be extremely helpful for some children.

Schools do not reject children lightly and I have noticed that many more waiting list places are in fact offered over rejections. Therefore, if you find yourself on a waitlist then this too can often have a very positive outcome as there is considerable movement on these lists as time goes on and it allows you to bide your time rather than having to cough up endless acceptance fees immediately.

Most importantly, “Don’t Panic”. Have you ever seen a child wandering down the street with a placard saying “I have no school to go to?” – Unlikely!

  • Don’t instantly ring up the school that has either waitlisted or even rejected your child. Keep calm, break the news gently to your child sooner rather than later because word gets out pretty quickly. Be encouraging and positive at every turn.
  • Do get in touch with your current head as they too should be able to offer some additional guidance and usually very sound advice on what to do next.
  • If your child is rejected from your first choice school then it may be this school was not the right fit from the outset and in my opinion an opportunity is presented to include some additional schools that you may not have originally considered. Many schools have a later admissions process and will also take enquiries much further down the line.
  • If your child is lucky enough to have been offered places at all their target schools then congratulations all round but I do urge you to consider all your options carefully and choose the school that is going to suit your child the best rather than what might seem an “impressive” choice to those around you, as that more often than not ends up being the wrong choice.

Most children usually end up in the right school – have faith in the system even if at times it feels flawed.


For further information on negotiating your way around school place offers, rejections or waitlists or for further information on the admissions process in its entirety then please do get in touch with arabella@theirbestyears.com as there are many tips and shortcuts that can often prompt a successful outcome.

(this article has been updated since it was first published in February 2020.)

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