two upper school students walking towards Dant house catlin gabel campus

Below are answers to frequently asked questions about Catlin Gabel, our admission process, financial assistance, the Palma Scholars Program, and our wait pool. Please visit our Academics page for information on curriculum, faculty, and extracurricular activities. The admission team is always available to answer questions at enrollment@catlin.edu or 503-297-1894.

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What does Experiential Learning mean at Catlin Gabel?

Experiential Learning is a process by which educators engage students through a cycle of direct experience, reflection, analysis and experimentation. It encourages deep learning, inspires personal growth and promotes active citizenship.

Learn more

What is an Independent School and why do families choose them?

Independent schools are private, pre-collegiate learning institutions, each with a unique mission. They are nonprofit institutions governed by independent boards of trustees and funded through tuition, charitable contributions, and endowment income (as opposed to local and federal funding through taxes). Independent schools uphold high educational standards and are directly accountable to parent/guardian body, and the agencies that accredit them. Catlin Gabel is accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools, www.nwais.org.

The quality of the educational experience is one of the leading reasons families select independent schools. The U.S. Department of Education in its National Educational Longitudinal Study confirmed that larger percentages of students in independent schools are enrolled in advanced courses than in public, parochial, and other private schools. NAIS students: do twice as much homework as their counterparts; watch only two-thirds as much television; are significantly more likely to participate in varsity or intramural sports; and are more likely to agree that students and teachers get along well.

How diverse is Catlin Gabel?

The diversity of our community enriches the educational experience for all and allows us to help prepare our students to be culturally responsive world citizens. We value racial, religious, national, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, family mosaic, and other diversity of our students, faculty, and staff. Students of color make up 44% of the student body. We seek and support socio-economic diversity with a robust financial assistance program that provides need-based financial assistance to more than 27% of the students. Learn more about Catlin Gabel values of diversity and inclusivity.

What types of students are you looking for?

We are very proud that our student body is compromised of a variety of personality types and learning styles. We aim to provide classrooms with students representing the world around them: a mix of athletes and artists and writers and scientists from a spectrum of socioeconomic, religious, racial, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. In our Middle and Upper Schools, we look for leadership potential and academic preparation in an effort to admit students who will take the fullest advantage of our curricular and co-curricular offerings. Most of all, we seek students who love learning, are naturally curious, and show an affinity for being a member of a tight-knit community of learners.

How many new students are admitted each year?

Every year we welcome between 105-120 new students. Our main entry points are preschool, kindergarten, 6th, 7th, and 9th grade. Nearly all grades see new students admitted each year.

Grade Approximate # of new students
Preschool 20
Kindergarten 18
Grade 1 0-3
Grades 2-5 2-4 per grade
Grade 6 16
Grade 7 8
Grade 8 0-2
Grade 9 26
Grade 10 3
Grades 11-12 2-4 per grade

Are buses available?

Yes. For more information please visit our Transportation page.

Is before and after school care available?

Yes. For more information please visit our Before & After School Program page.

Admission Process

Are application or testing fee waivers available?

Yes, need-based fee waivers are available for the online application for admission, the SSAT or ISEE, and the SSS financial assistance application.

For an application fee, SSAT, or ISEE fee waiver, complete the Fee Waiver Request Form.

For the SSS financial assistance application, the fee is automatically waived for households that qualify for free lunch under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).

How are admission decisions made?

Information on each applicant is collected from the application materials that vary by grade, but may include the application form, responses to the questions for parents/guardians and questions for students, admission testing, confidential teacher evaluations, and school records, as well as notes from the student visit. Admission committees review the applicant files and then meet as a group to discuss and make recommendations to the admission office. We take a holistic look at each applicant file, with every component of the application playing a vital part of the admission decision. There isn't a single piece that determines whether or not a student is offered admission.

Do applicants affiliated with the school get priority in the admission process?

All students admitted to Catlin Gabel are required to meet the standards for admission. The special relationship that children and grandchildren of alumni, children of faculty and staff, and siblings of current Catlin Gabel students have is noted during the admission process. However, legacy status does not guarantee admission for any student and does not carry more weight in the admissions decision than such factors as academic preparation and leadership potential.

Can we reapply the following year if we don't get in?

Yes. The application process starts over every September. We ask any applicant who wishes to apply for admission again to complete a new application by the published deadline.

Financial Assistance

Can my family apply for a scholarship or financial assistance?

Yes. Please visit our Affording Catlin Gabel page for more information.

Need-based assistance is available for all grades.

Can I find out if I qualify without going through the entire process?

Please consider applying for assitance if you feel that the cost of tuition would be out of reach, even after your family has adjusted its assets and spending habits to appropriately prioritize private school education. Please also review the available payment plans.

Contact the enrollment office if you would like to provide a broad overview of your income and assets for an estimated eligibility status.

When do I need to apply for need-based financial assistance?

Deadlines are in late January/early February each year. The admission process and the financial assistance process happen simultaneously.

We will deliver financial assistance decisions to admitted families on the same day as admission decisions to allow time to consider the admission offer and meet enrollment agreement deadlines.

Need-based assistance is available for all grades.

Does applying for financial assistance affect admission decisions?

Catlin Gabel employs a need-sensitive admission policy, which means that the school initially determines whether an applicant meets the standards for admission without regard to the family's need for financial assistance.

However, with a comprehensive yet finite budget, financial need becomes a consideration when offers of admission are made. This process can be compared to how the limited number of available spaces or boy-to-girl ratio in a class also become considerations. Our advice to families in need of financial assistance is to apply to Catlin Gabel with confidence that their admission decision will be based on merit and if admitted, the school is committed to providing an appropriate level of finding to enable their child to attend.

Is financial assistance automatically renewed each year?

No. Families must apply annually for need-based financial assistance grants. However, as long as a family's financial profile remains similar from year to year and can be demonstrated through the application process, financial assistance grants will be renewed.

Does financial assistance cover the full cost of tuition and other school-related expenses?

Every family is expected to contribute to the cost of their child(ren)'s education to the extent they are able. In order to serve the most families, the school endeavors to meet an average of 85% to 95% of a family's demonstrated need for tuition assistance.

So that students may fully experience all that Catlin Gabel offers, financial assistance is also available for laptops (Upper School only), textbooks, learning center services, Middle & Upper School robotics, school trips, bus service, clubs and enrichment programs, outdoor education, and global education. Funds are generally calculated and awarded at the same percentage as tuition assistance.

There is also assistance for food services for those who qualify for free and reduced lunch.

What if parents are divorced or maintain separate households?

Financial need is determined based on the student's entire family's ability to pay tuition; therefor, Catlin Gabel requires both parents and their spouses or domestic partners, if any, to participate in the financial assistance application process. Each household must complete a separate Parent Financial Statement and provide required tax documentation. Exceptions to this policy will be considered only for extraordinary circumstances and on a case-by-case basis. Neither the school nor SSS will share confidential information between households.

We do not complete or file taxes until April 15 or later. How will that affect my application for financial assistance?

SSS must receive the Parent Financial Statement and all tax forms by the dates specified under Affording Catlin Gabel before an application can be considered. If your taxes are not completed by the deadline due to a high level of complexity, being self-employed, or missing IRS forms, you may submit a draft or estimate of your taxes with "draft" clearly noted. The committee will be able to provide a preliminary financial assistance decision that will be finalized upon receipt of your completed taxes. The preliminary award may change if there is a wide variance between the draft and completed taxes.

What if our family is still unable to pay the net tuition even after receiving financial assistance?

If you review the financial assistance decision and feel that the tuition is still not affordable, you may appeal. Please send your request in writing to the enrollment office within 15 days of receiving your award. Appeals must include new information that was not available to the committee during the initial review of your application. The committee will then review the appeal and decide if an adjustment can be made.

Are tuition payment plans are available?

Yes. For more information please visit our Payment Plans & Billing page.

Will my information be kept confidential?

The committee safeguards the confidentiality of all financial information supplied by families. Documents are closely tracked and locked away daily. The school's IT office ensures that our online and network systems are protected by the latest processes and methodologies available. SSS also has security protocols that can be found on their website under Information Security.

I need help with my Parent Financial Statment, who do I contact?

For help with your Parent Financial Statement, please contact the SSS helpline directly at 800-344-8328 or email sss@communitybrands.com. SSS representatives are available Mon-Fri 9am-8pm EST. January through March hours are extended to 11pm EST and Saturdays from 9am-4pm.

Palma Scholars Program

What is the amount of the Palma Scholars award?

The Palma Scholarship honors the accomplishments and potential of the students by providing funding towards Upper School tuition. The specific amount of the award each Scholar receives depends on several factors including the number of Scholars and the amount of available funds. Awards are typically around 25% of tuition and are renewed each year. Scholarship decision letter will outline the total Palma award package for all four years and will be delivered with the admission decision.

Families interested in receiving need-based financial assistance above and beyond the Palma Scholarship amount should apply by the financial assistance application deadline specified under Affording Catlin Gabel. It is important that you submit your financial assistance application by the deadline or we cannot consider you for need-based assistance in addition to the scholarship. Families will receive their need-based decisions with their offer of admission.

What level of athlete do I need to be for consideration?

Student-athletes applying for the award should be competing in athletics at a high level. This is an intentionally broad statement because there are many ways to demonstrate this requirement. High-level athletics could include regional or national level competition in a single sport. An applicant could also be considered high-level through competition on multiple varsity teams.

I don't currently do community service. Would I still be considered?

Yes. We are looking at each application in a holistic manner. Applicants should have an interest in making a difference in their school and community that can be demonstrated in their application, essays, or teacher evaluations. All Catlin Gabel students participate in community service, and we expect our Palma Scholars to become leaders in this area.

What criteria for leadership will you use when considering applicants?

Students can demonstrate leadership in a variety of ways. Various roles in sports teams, school clubs, and community organizations all could constitute leadership. Students should demonstrate a willingness to make positive changes within their school and community as they progress through the program. In essence, Palma Scholars should have the empathy to see the problems and issues around them and the acumen to create actionable solutions. These students will serve as catalysts for their classmates.

If I am not selected to be a Palma Scholar, will I still be considered for admission?

Absolutely. Students who apply to be Palma Scholars but are not selected will still be considered for admission and are fully eligible for other scholarships and financial assistance. The Palma Scholars Program is highly competitive so we are still very interest in the remaining candidates who will be considered by the admission committee and notified of its decision in March.

Wait Pool

How does the wait pool work?

Students who meet the standards but are not offered admission due to space limitations are offered a place in our wait pool. Not every applicant is invited to be part of the wait pool. The number of applicants in the wait pool evolves over time due to changing family circumstances. For this reason, we elect not to share specifics.

The wait pool isn't ranked. If an opening occurs, we will select an applicant who has the best potential to fill the needs of the class. Openings can occur any time between our initial offers of admission in March and shortly before school starts in September. We don't admit students after the start of the school year.

We do not carry over our wait pool from year to year. The application process starts over every September. We ask any applicant who wishes to apply for admission again to complete a new online application by the published deadline.

If my child is part of the wait pool, should I check in regularly?

Rest assured that we keep very meticulous records of everyone in our wait pool. We'll email you periodic updates throughout the spring and summer. If an opening occurs, we thoroughly review all eligible candidates and select one who best fills the spot.

You should contact us if you no longer want your child to be part of the wait pool, if your contact information changes, or if you will be travelling without phone or email access.

If I miss a phone call do I lose out on an admission offer?

No. When we make an offer of admission from the wait pool, we'll make several attempts to reach you via telephone and email with the contact information you provided on your application. After a connection is made, if you are interested in considering the offer, we will issue an electronic enrollment agreement that has additional details. Families typically have one week to make a decision and complete enrollment process.

What are the chances of getting admitted from the wait pool?

Every year we admit some students from the wait pool. There are some years when we admit quite a few and other years when we do not, depending on the acceptance rate of our admitted applicants.

If I have two children in the wait pool, is it possible that one will be offered admission and the other not?

Yes. We only offer admission to students when there is an opening in a specific grade.