Updated: Apr 27, 2022
You’ve done your initial research and have decided a private school education is what you seek for your child; smaller class sizes, an academically rigorous environment, and a connected community.
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Now, you will take a deep dive into searching for the private school that fits your child and their interests best and embark on the admissions process. As this can be a demanding process, below are steps and suggestions for how to navigate the private school application and the admissions process best.
Start researching schools well in advance of when you will apply, usually the year prior to when your child will enroll in the school. Knowing exactly what you want in a private school and the goals you hope for your child to achieve is crucial as you research each school.
Does the school have activities your child enjoys, sports they love to play, music lessons, or clubs they wish to engage in? Consider if the mission of the school and the standards they set are a match for your family.
Should you seek a specific academic or extracurricular program, explore and hone in on the schools that offer these programs. Once your shortlist of schools is complete contact each to request admissions information and schedule visits.
Visiting schools is essential as this is the only way to genuinely decide if a school is a fit for your child, and keep in mind, the school is evaluating if your child is a fit for their school as well.
After visiting each school consider the advantages and disadvantages as they apply to your child. Evaluating each school on the opportunities they offer and the community and education they provide will be up to what your family’s expectations are.
Remember to engage your child in this process, gaining their opinion and insight into what they think about each school, after all, they will be the ones to interview and write essays, articulating why they want to gain admission at the school.
Prepare Your Application
You’ve decided on the private schools you will apply to, now you must gather the required admissions materials and prepare to test, write essays, and interview for schools.
Begin by verifying the deadlines of schools as each can vary, some offering early deadlines and some accepting applicants on a rolling basis. With your calendar marked, work on each piece needed for a competitive application.
Most private schools require a standardized test to assess the academic readiness of an applicant. The most common test taken is the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE).
The ideal time to take this test is early in the fall, providing your child plenty of time to retake the test should they need to in the Winter. The test can only be taken once per testing season.
Studying for the test should start months before the test date. Purchasing study guides and practice books, taking prep courses, or hiring a tutor are all great options to prepare your child best and maximize their chances at the school they hope to attend.
Aside from your child’s academic performance, private schools want to see how your child is involved outside of the classroom. Your child’s extracurriculars demonstrate their interests and passions, allowing schools to see what they will bring to the school community.
Some extracurriculars include involvement in sports, music, art, robotics, debate, and more. Make Sure your child is engaged and showing commitment within the activities they care about regularly.
Letters of Recommendation
Two letters of recommendation are typically required for each applicant. You should ask two of your child’s core discipline teachers, English and math are the recommendations of most schools.
Ask teachers early so they have plenty of time to write a strong letter in support of your child. Some schools might also allow an additional recommendation from an extracurricular supervisor or coach so it can’t hurt to ask them for a recommendation as well, setting it aside and providing it if given the option.
Essays are an important part of your child’s application. Your child needs to show they have the characteristics that fit each school. Start on the essays early by knowing what the essay questions are and discussing them with your child.
This will provide your child time to think and brainstorm ideas before they begin writing. Have your child write a few drafts until they have answered the essay prompt to their satisfaction and are happy with the outcome. Often, having someone outside of the house, like an English teacher or essay consultant proves to be helpful in the writing and editing process.
Some schools also ask parents to write an essay, statement, or fill out a brag sheet. Whatever is asked of you, write about your child honestly. You know your child best and representing them through your eyes will provide a true picture of who they genuinely are. Remember, you want the right fit for your child and providing honest answers helps in this process.
The interview is crucial in the admissions process. This time allows the admissions committee to really get to know your child in a one-on-one setting. They have seen your child on paper but now is the time for your child to shine, showing who they are and why they want to be at the school.
Prepare your child for the interview by asking questions. Guide them in their responses while reminding them to be themselves. You don’t want them to come off as scripted, but you want to remind them of the key points they should include when asked a specific question, highlighting particular characteristics of who they are and what makes them special.
Plan on doing a few mock interviews to prepare your child for what the real interview will be like. Hopefully, this will help shake out some nerves and give your child the confidence they will need as they speak to the admissions member.
Remind your child that the school is essentially gauging if your child is a fit for their school so there is no right or wrong answer.
Make sure you continue to engage with the schools you apply to. Attend open houses and events as they will allow you to experience what the school community is like and the camaraderie within their environment.
Engage with students and families already attending the school to gather their perspectives and experiences. Ask teachers and admissions members questions while you have the opportunity.
It’s important to remember that not only is your entire family evaluating the school but that the school is also evaluating your family. Schools want to know that they share the same goals, will support, and fit in their school community.
Select A Private School That Fits Your Child
Choosing a private school that fits your child best takes considerable time. Starting the process early, staying organized, and managing your time well will help you succeed through this journey.
Working with a private school admissions consultant allows you to work with people who understand what needs to happen and what will help your child become a top choice at one of the top private schools in the country.
By working with an admissions consultant you don't have to worry about forgetting something in the process and you can work with someone who knows what the schools are looking for to get your child accepted.