What Families Need to Know About Applying to Catholic Schools

What Families Need to Know About Applying to Catholic Schools

We spoke with Dr. Peter F. Folan, President of Catholic Memorial School; Claire Cassidy, Principal of Saint John School; and Elaine Fazekas, Director of Marketing and Communications at Ursuline Academy to learn more about what families should know about their Catholic school options in Boston.

Why might Boston families consider a Catholic school education for their child?

FOLAN: Catholic schools provide a rigorous academic program, innovative pedagogy, hands-on learning, and spiritual depth that transforms the hearts and minds of students.

CASSIDY: Strong rigorous academic curriculum throughout all grades, with smaller class sizes that allow a student more opportunities for teachers to engage with them individually and more often. Faith-based education also allows a child to grow academically and understand more about their Faith through direct instruction and attending Mass.

FAZEKAS: Boston families should consider a Catholic school education for their child for a number of reasons.  First, Catholic schools have historically offered a very strong academic experience consistent with the Catholic commitment to faith and reason.  At Ursuline, 100% of our students are accepted at four-year colleges, with many going on to attend the nation’s finest colleges and universities. Second, attending a school that is rooted in faith gives students a deeper appreciation of life’s purpose and imbues them with a sense of integrity and the courage to overcome life’s obstacles. Third,  the Catholic school philosophy places a premium on love for one’s neighbor and the Christian call to help others.  At Ursuline, we live out this call through the practice of Serviam, the school’s motto.

Tell us about your school.

FOLAN: Catholic Memorial is an all-boys school serving grades 7 through 12. Our school prepares its graduates for a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity, and complex problems. We teach our students to appreciate difference, think critically and creatively, ask important questions, and communicate with clarity. 

Understanding the value of relationships, our students serve all communities with empathy and compassion. As a school that understands boys, we engage in hands-on learning, solve real world problems, promote moral conviction, and give them the confidence to live their authentic lives.

CASSIDY: Saint John School is a PreK through 8th grade school nestled in the heart of the North End. For over 126 years we have served families from over 25 communities in and around Boston. We are a school where Faith and Academic Excellence meet through a rigorous curriculum. 

FAZEKAS: Ursuline Academy is an independent Catholic school for young women in grades 7-12, located in Dedham, MA, just minutes from West Roxbury and Roslindale.  Our comprehensive curriculum ensures that students will emerge as strong writers, persuasive speakers, and analytical thinkers; most courses offered are at the honors level or above.  Steeped in an environment of encouragement and faith and with the unflagging support of their teachers, students emerge as women of integrity who engage in their communities with purpose and presence. 

With approximately 380 students, Ursuline is large enough to challenge students, yet small enough to know them—and with a tuition less than half that of some independent schools, an Ursuline education that is of far greater value than its cost.

How to Apply to Boston Catholic Schools

Do you have to be Catholic to attend a Catholic school?

FOLAN: Our schools have always, and continue to welcome students of all faith backgrounds into the Catholic intellectual tradition. The Catholic intellectual tradition embraces faith and reason and pursues truth in all things. Catholic students are encouraged to embrace the sacraments within their school life and beyond. 

Through our service initiatives and through a social justice lens, Catholic schools often welcome young people into larger questions of faith and Catholic social teaching. When our students encounter and engage directly with marginalized members of society their lives and world views are broadened creating opportunities to cultivate a truly compassionate and loving heart. In this way, our students are charged with advocating for systemic change for the greater good of all.

What is the Catholic schools application and admissions process like?

FOLAN: Each school engages in a process to gain a fuller understanding of each individual student's strengths and areas of individual growth. Recommendations, grades, essays, interviews, and testing are all part of the portfolio assessment used to determine an applicant's fit. Finding a complementary understanding is critical for both the family and the school. 

CASSIDY: Families interested in application should visit our website and download an application. Typically most people apply between October to March. There is no cost to apply to our school. Once families have completed their application they will need to provide a copy of their child's birth certificate, all previous academic transcripts, including standardized test data.  

FAZEKAS: The application process at Catholic schools varies by school.  At Ursuline, the regular application deadline is in the fall, but applications are considered year-round if space is available. We use a system called Ravenna as our admissions portal.  Once families create and set up their application account, Ravenna guides you through each step of the application process, from submitting entrance testing scores, statements from the student and a parent, transcripts, and arranging an interview with a member of the admissions staff. The Ursuline application fee is $50 and fee waivers are available.

Do students need to take any special tests or exams to get into a Catholic school? 

FAZEKAS: Each Catholic school has its own requirement for entrance testing.  It is advised that you visit each school’s website to determine what entrance test is required. The test requirement may also differ by grade level. Generally, practice tests are available from the various testing companies. Each test does have a fee which also varies.  Fee waivers are available and can be obtained by reaching out to the school to which you are applying.

Is financial aid available to cover Catholic school tuition and fees?

FOLAN: Every school works to provide financial opportunities and access to a great education regardless of one's ability to pay. Each school uses an online platform or process that gathers pertinent financial documents, most importantly tax returns that provide a full understanding of a family's financial capacity. 

CASSIDY: Families must have attended Saint John School for an entire year before they are eligible to apply for financial aid. They can apply for aid through FACTS or the Catholic Schools Foundation. 

FAZEKAS: At Ursuline, we require an application for financial aid to be filled out via FACTS.com. Financial aid is distributed based on financial need. In order to fill out an application for financial aid, parents would need to provide W2 and 1040 documents.

If a student has an IEP, can they attend a Catholic school?

FOLAN: Yes. Catholic schools provide high quality levels of academic engagement that embraces students with diverse learning styles. While schools are not bound to meet each aspect of an IEP they will strive to provide reasonable accommodations through their academic program whenever possible.

Do Catholic schools provide English-language learner support services, such as sheltered-immersion or separate instruction?

English language learner support services vary by school; all three leaders we spoke to recommended that you contact each school to find out what services they offer.

How to Apply to Boston Catholic Schools

Do you have to live in the city, town, or neighborhood where a Catholic school is located in order to attend that school?

FOLAN: Catholic schools have a rich geographical diversity which adds depth to the student body. Catholic schools pride themselves on providing opportunities for students from different towns to gain access to their superior academic program. There are no residency requirements needed to attend a Catholic school.

CASSIDY: At St. John’s, we draw from over 25 communities in and around the city of Boston.

FAZEKAS: At Ursuline Academy, our students come from approximately 50 different towns and communities.

Is transportation provided to Catholic schools?

FAZEKAS: Catholic schools usually offer transportation from specific areas.  The cost and availability varies from school to school. 

How have Catholic schools handled COVID-19? Do they offer in-person, remote, or hybrid learning models?

FOLAN: Catholic schools have led the way in providing in-person, hybrid, and remote learning from the start of the pandemic. As a network, we pride ourselves on being nimble and adaptive to best serve the needs of our students and their families. We executed on a high level in this new normal and will again execute for the next normal. 

CASSIDY: We anticipate that the practices we have in place at present, to keep our school community safe will be in place for Fall 2021. These include frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer, social distancing and mask wearing. Additionally, all children who are sick must stay home and get tested and all children must get tested following out of state travel.  We have an eLearning program available for all students who cannot participate in  in-person learning or who need to quarantine.

FAZEKAS: As of January 2021, Ursuline Academy is offering a hybrid instruction model, with students in school two days a week.  Students can opt into a fully remote model should they need to do so.  Catholic schools, including Ursuline, are following the recommendations of health authorities in terms of COVID protocols. Masking and social distancing are enforced throughout the school day, and students must complete a daily health check questionnaire.

To learn more about each of these schools featured in this post, visit their School Profile pages below:

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