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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions:
1. How can I apply to receive funding from your organization?
The Steppingstone Academy prepares motivated urban schoolchildren for acceptance and success at top independent and public exam schools in the greater Boston area. We do not award grants to other organizations.

2. How many students are served by your programs each year?
Our current scholars are either part of our 14-month academic preparation component, or being served by our Support Services department, which strives to support scholars once they have finished the academic portion of the program, and require ongoing support in their placement schools and to get in to college. Steppingstone admits approximately 150 new students each year to the 14-month academic preparation component. Overall, Steppingstone is currently serving over 1,400 students annually.

3. How much does The Steppingstone Academy cost?
Our program does not charge tuition. Families will be asked to contribute a nominal fee for summer transportation and t-shirts.

Admission Questions:
1) How are students selected to be part of The Steppingstone Academy?
Steppingstone looks for hard-working and motivated students who will succeed in and benefit most from the program. An admission committee reviews all applications and then selects finalists based on all components of the application. Go to Admission page.

2) Does a student need to be nominated in order to apply?
No. As long as a student is a Boston resident, he or she may receive our information packet, attend a Family Information Meeting, and complete an application. Go to Nomination page

3) Can students apply to The Steppingstone Academy for just one summer session?
No. The preparation component of our program requires a full 14-month commitment, including both summer sessions and after school and/or Saturday classes during the school year.

4) Where are classes held?
Academy classes are held at a school in or near Boston. Depending on the grade level of the Scholar, we are currently being hosted by the Boston Latin Academy in Dorchester, and Milton Academy in Milton during the summer.

5) Is transportation provided?
Bus transportation is provided in the summer. However, families must find their own transportation to classes during the school year.

6) What is the difference between independent schools and public exam schools?
Both types of schools offer an excellent education and have high standards and high placement rates. Public exam schools are public schools that do not charge tuition; they are located right in Boston. Each class has about 30 students. Independent schools (sometimes referred to as “private schools”) are privately run organizations, located in the greater Boston area. They charge tuition, but also offer financial aid. Each class has about 12-18 students.

7) How do Steppingstone families afford independent schools?
Independent schools grant financial aid based on demonstrated need. The Steppingstone staff helps families apply for financial aid. In past years, most families have received generous financial aid packages.

9) Does Steppingstone provide scholarships?
No. Our staff assists families in applying for financial aid at independent schools.

10) Can a child prepare to get into a public exam school, like Boston Latin or Latin Academy if s/he applies in the fourth grade?
No. Public exam schools start in the seventh grade; therefore, students applying in the fourth grade must be interested in independent schools only. Students interested in attending public exam schools should apply to Steppingstone in the fifth grade.

Preparation and Placement Questions:
1) What kind of classes do the Scholars take?
Scholars take a variety of classes: English, math, study skills, athletics, Latin, ISEE prep, science, social studies, and a writing workshop.

2) How long do the Scholars meet for classes in the summer and how often during the school year? Class schedule

3) How were the schools on Steppingstone’s placement list chosen?
Steppingstone has worked with the schools on the placement list for many years, and has established a good relationship with them. All the schools listed make a commitment to working closely with Steppingstone to support Scholars and families as they apply for admission and financial aid, enroll, and attend their schools. Furthermore, all the placement schools have excellent college acceptance rates and strong college preparatory curricula.

4) What does Steppingstone do to assist families throughout the placement process?
Steppingstone families participate in several workshops and meetings designed to guide them through the process of applying for admission to placement schools. One of the most important resources for new families is to speak with Scholars and their families who have already gone through the placement process and are currently attending one of the placement schools.

5) What is the ISEE?
ISEE stands for Independent School Entrance Exam. It is the test all students (not just Steppingstone Scholars) must take to qualify for an exam school or independent school.

6) When do Scholars find out to which schools they have been accepted?
Students are notified of admission to both independent schools and public exam schools in mid-March. Families are asked to make enrollment decisions by mid-April.

7) What if a Scholar does not get accepted to one of Steppingstone’s placement schools?
It is our hope that if a Steppingstone Scholar is unable to attend a placement school, he/she will choose to remain with the program throughout the 14-month period and beyond. If a family wishes to re-apply to an exam school or independent school for ninth grade, Steppingstone will help them do so. Regardless of placement, all Scholars who complete the 14-month component are eligible for Steppingstone’s support services.

8) What happens after the 14-month component of The Steppingstone Academy?
After the 14-month program, Steppingstone keeps in touch with the Scholars and their placement schools. Various opportunities for college and career counseling, tutoring, mentoring, counseling, leadership training, and more are offered through the Support Services Department. Following high school graduation, Alumni Services provide opportunities for Scholars who are in college or working full-time.

9) Where do the teachers come from?
Steppingstone teachers come from a variety of independent and public schools in the Boston metro area. In addition, we also look to hire recent college graduates and business professionals who are hoping to enter the teaching profession. All Steppingstone faculty members have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Support Services Questions:
1. Does Steppingstone end after the 14-month component?
No. Commencement from the initial 14 months simply recognizes movement into the next phase of the Steppingstone experience. Support Services staff continue to advise the Scholars until their graduation from high school, at which point they become Steppingstone alumni, and there are further opportunities to stay connected.

2. What is available through Support Services?
All services are designed to help Scholars succeed in their new schools. These include: The SMASH Program (Saturday Mentoring And Study Hall), monitoring of academic progress, college counseling, assistance in Scholar/School/Family communication, lectures and workshops, reunions, assistance with financial aid applications, and leadership opportunities.

3. What is SMASH?
SMASH stands for Saturday Mentoring And Study Hall. Every Saturday during the school year, Scholars and volunteer tutors work together on homework from 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. From 12:00 – 12:30 p.m. there is optional recreational time. Scholars who attend twice a month may choose to be paired up with an Academic Mentor- a Boston professional who volunteers his or her time to work one-on-one with a Scholar throughout the school year. Study Hall, which takes place at the same time, offers an opportunity for unpaired Scholars to work quietly in a supportive environment where they can also ask for help from volunteers.

4. Is SMASH for all post-placement Scholars?
Yes. All Scholars who have graduated from the 14-month program may attend SMASH, regardless of their placement school, grade, or age.

5. Can Scholars still receive counseling services once they’re at their new schools?
Yes. The Steppingstone Counselors are always available to work with both current and post-placement Scholars. The Counselors also work with contacts at the placement schools to make sure all of the Scholars’ needs are being met.

6. What opportunities are there for families to remain involved with Steppingstone?
The Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is made up of parents and guardians who want to continue learning about ways to best support their own children, and help Steppingstone support each new class of Scholars.

7. Are there any opportunities for Scholars to remain involved with the program as they get older?
Yes. All interested Scholars can join the Scholar Advisory Council (SAC). The SAC plans reunion events and maintains contact with the Scholars. Sophomores and juniors can also be hired as Teaching Assistants during the Academy’s summer session. Alumni (Scholars who have graduated from college) can attend reunions, volunteer as Mentors to younger Scholars, become a Summer Teaching Intern, or donate their time and resources back to Steppingstone in a number of other ways. Other ways to Get Involved

8. Does Steppingstone offer any help with the college search?
Yes. Steppingstone’s high school Advisors work closely with each Scholar on all aspects of the college application process, beginning as early as the ninth grade. Steppingstone provides scholarship information, discounted rates for a Kaplan SAT preparation course, and workshops on various aspects of the college search and application process. The Support Services staff even take Scholars on visits to New England colleges and universities.

9. Does Steppingstone write letters of recommendations for the Scholars?
Yes. Because of the close contact that Steppingstone maintains with the Scholars, the staff is happy to write personal letters of recommendation for anything from jobs to summer programs to college applications.