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Get Ready for Fall Open House Tours!

The day after Labor Day in New York signals the unofficial kick off for "school admissions season" among the private schools, as well as for public middle and specialized high schools. Parents vie for coveted spots on open house tours, which for some schools are required viewing just to be able to submit an application. Unfortunately, they are time consuming and working parents may find it difficult to negotiate the time off. Fortunately, it gives us a window into the inner workings of the schools that we have read about in their glossy brochures and on their websites.

While this process is ostensibly intended for the benefit of the families and students, you are as much being judged as you may be judging. Think of this experience as a kind of audition and follow a few basic tips:

- Arrive on time, have a positive vibe (not a "why do I have to be here?" or "ugh, not another one" attitude) take a seat and listen quietly and politely to the speeches and presentations. Pay attention to what they are saying, very often this will answer any questions you may have later.

- Remember that first impressions count, so approach the admissions representative with a warm smile, look them in the eye, be pleasant, shake hands and try not to monopolize their time by mentioning all the people you know who went to the school. One or two will suffice.

- Take notes about your impressions, and relevant information that they may share, the appearance of the school and classrooms, the tone and energy level of the school, whether the students look engaged and any other details. Write down the things you liked most and the things you disliked.

- Stay with the tour group and don't be overly chatty with the other parents or your partner.

- If you have a question to ask make sure it is an intelligent one, not one about the exact contents of the salad bar in the lunchroom or one that has already been answered.

- Be gracious and thank the staff members on your way out.

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