Tonight’s Meet a Dad, Tucker Hastings, is a career-long educator, and part of the Gowan Group, an innovative Independent School consulting firm comprised of of former school leaders–people who have taught classes, coached teams, advised students and parents and as such know young people.
Tucker shares with us why he became an independent school consultant, why you may consider getting one, and also what has changed in the admissions process in recent years.
Scroll down to learn more about Tucker and everything you need to start thinking about for independent school admissions.
Can you please tell us a bit about yourself personally? Names/ages of kids, etc.?
I am a career-long educator (French teacher and administrator) who loves the rhythm of the school year: traditions, athletics, musical and theatrical performances, etc. I play racket sports (tennis, squash, paddle) and spend a lot of time on “wood management”: cutting, splitting, stacking and burning firewood. My wife Kate and I have a Golden Retriever (Bruce) and three children: 14- and 8-year old daughters and an 11 year old son. They go to Greenwich Academy and Brunswick.
Please tell us about the Gowan Group?
The Gowan Group, unlike most other consultancies, is made up of former school leaders–people who have taught classes, coached teams, advised students and parents and as such know young people, know schools and know how best to navigate the admission process and the transition to a new school.
How did you get involved with the Gowan Group? What is your professional background?
The Gowan Group came to present at Brunswick three years ago: I was impressed by their approach and knowledge of schools. I have taught all levels of French for twenty-plus years in addition to being a dean of admissions, dean of student life and academic dean. I also coached soccer and tennis.
How do you know if you need to hire an independent school consultant?
What I say to prospective clients is a few things: 1) just like teaching and learning, this process is relational: a consultant from Gowan will be a positive connection for and advisor to your family and especially to your child. 2) Given our network in the school world and our credibility as educators, our ability to advocate for you is unique. 3) As parents, we all know that there are some messages delivered to our children that come best from a non-family member. Finally, admissions directors at some of the most sought-after schools tell us that 40-50% of their applicants are using consultants which is an indication of how many people are doing all that they can to have their children be admitted.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the past 5-10 years in the high school admissions process?
Not unlike with colleges, independent school admissions has become even more competitive. For example, being a nice, well-rounded kid from Greenwich used to get you pretty far; that may still be true at some schools but maybe not where mom and dad went in the old days. This is true for area day schools too–our schools in Greenwich have greatly benefited from the influx of families from the city in the past three years and there are not as many open spots as there used to be even as our schools here have grown in size.
What do you find the most challenging and most rewarding parts of being an independent school consultant?
While I do miss some of the energy of being in a school, this is an excellent space for me in which to work and stay connected to schools and young people. The upside, just like in teaching, is seeing your clients grow, represent themselves better and gain an understanding of what their desired next school community will be. And anytime you are working with young people it improves your outlook and your optimism.
The Gowan Group has a deep knowledge and expertise, if you could give someone applying one piece of advice, what would it be?
Put yourself in an admissions director’s shoes. What will they say about you and your family after your visit? Be gracious and understated. You can have a strong preference and a commitment to a top choice; overdoing it will not move the needle in terms of outcomes.
Any favorite admission success stories you would like to share with us?
When I worked in admissions the wins came when I was able to welcome awesome students to our school; working on this side now there are similar feelings when that alignment happens..
How do you balance work and being a parent?
Sunday team meetings for the week ahead and calendar invites! Our three kids are healthy and active (and a lot of fun to be around). With a bit of a plan we can check the boxes we need to and still have time to work, have fun and recharge.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another parent?
Put your phone down!
What do you like to do to relax/have fun for yourself and as a family?
Though we are outgrowing it, we have a couch in our tv room that still fits five so we are holding on to the days we can watch a movie together. We love a Sunday afternoon when kids’ sports are over and the patio calls for some downtime.