8th Grade Experience

8th Grade Experience

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 encourages 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. This 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.

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!

In their final trimester of eighth grade, our 8th Grade “seniors” pursue individual Capstone Projects. This year-end rite-of-passage is a multidisciplinary venture that allows each individual child to pursue an area of particular interest or passion. In a twice-weekly course that is led by our Communication and Drama teacher, eighth graders design and direct their own projects, making use of the myriad of skills they have honed over their years at CDS in academic and co-curricular pursuits. Preparation for these projects includes design thinking, research, time management, rehearsal, communication, presentation skills, digital literacy, and organization. CDS students eagerly anticipate the time when they can create their own Capstones, and we invite members throughout the community to join us on Capstone Day to enjoy the student presentations and reflections.

Examples of Capstone Projects over the past two years include but are not limited to:

  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Original Screenplay & Filming of Trailer
  • Blended Learning: Integrating Technology into the CDS Learning Garden
  • Modernization & Remix of Our School Song, “Free to be Me”
  • Interior Design
  • 8-Bit CDS: A Minecraft Model of our Campus
  • Original Dance Choreography

Chatham Day School began in 1998 with an early education program from preschool through first grade. As a testament to its success, the school expanded into a full elementary and middle school by adding grades year-by-year. In 2008, Chatham Day School graduated its first eighth grade class and, since then, our students are successfully enrolling in independent schools of choice.

Our graduates have been admitted to the following schools:

  • Academy of St. Elizabeth
  • Avon Old Farms (CT)
  • Barnstable Academy
  • Blair Academy
  • Canterbury School (CT)
  • Church Farm School (PA)
  • Darrow School (NY)
  • Delbarton School
  • Dominican Academy (NY)
  • Forman School (CT)
  • Glebelands School (UK)
  • Gill St. Bernard’s School
  • Kent Place School
  • The Lawrenceville School
  • Montclair Kimberley Academy
  • Morris Catholic High School
  • Morristown-Beard School
  • Newark Academy
  • Newark Arts Magnet High School
  • Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child
  • Oratory Preparatory School
  • Academy for Mathematics, Science, and Engineering
  • Peddie School
  • Rutgers Preparatory School
  • Salem Academy
  • Seton Hall Preparatory School
  • St. Andrew’s School (DE)
  • Solebury School
  • The Hudson School
  • The Pennington School
  • The Pingry School