If you are good at organizing projects, the challenges involved in getting your child into private school will not seem especially daunting. The timeline for the process has some sections which are rather elastic. They can take a lot of time or can be foreshortened depending on your requirements. For example, if you already have a pretty good idea of what kind of school you want, you will save time. Ditto if you actually have identified a couple of specific schools. That being said, I do want you to be aware of at least five challenges which I have identified when choosing a private school for your child.
Let's look at five of the challenges facing you.
Choosing the right school
Choosing the right school i probably the most time-consuming challenge. It can be as easy as surfing the Web and identifying three to five schools
right out of the gate. You will be able to take advantage of this shortcut when you have decided that your child will attend one of the local day schools in your community.
But if you are thinking about boarding school, the choices multiply almost exponentially. There are hundreds of schools to choose from. There are dozens of schools to consider seriously. So, how do you narrow the field in this instance? You do it by making a list of your requirements and systematically checking the boxes until you have a list of schools which matches or come close to matching your specific requirements.
If you can afford it, I do recommend that you consider hiring an educational consultant
to help you select schools for your short list. These professionals know their schools. While they will charge for their services, they can and will save you valuable time. They will also protect you and your child from the disappointment which results from setting your school choices unrealistically. When you hire an education consultant, listen to her advice and recommendations in order to achieve a happy outcome.
"Like" schools on your list in Facebook. Have your child do the same. That way you both can follow their news and activities on Facebook. This simple action will make her more comfortable when it comes time to visit schools. Literally she will feel as though they are her schools.
Many schools have their own apps. Have your child download these to her iPad or iPhone so she can see what's going on a regular basis.
Most schools have tours and videos of school happenings and events on YouTube. Encourage your child to watch these. Why not do this together?
If you have decided to go with the local day school option, you will save much time visiting schools
. A couple of hours for each school on your list and the job will be done. You will have to allow for the interview and any testing which the admissions office requires during the visit. In most cases you will probably be able to fit a visit and interview into a morning or an afternoon.
This short video illustrates the kind of things you might expect to see when visiting a school.
Visiting boarding schools, on the other hand, can be very time-consuming. It is always best to try to fit as many school visits of any kind in over the summer months if you can. Admissions staff will have more time to spend with you during the summer months. Visits during prime time or the late fall increase the likelihood that interview and tour schedules will be tight. Plan accordingly.
Ideally you want to leave yourself plenty of time to visit the three or four schools on your short list. Depending on where the schools are located you could need two, possibly three days to travel there, visit the school and return home. Plan as far ahead as you can.
Completing the admissions applications
Once you have determined to which schools you will be applying, schedule completing the admissions applications as soon as you can. Do not wait until the last minute. Just because the applications are online doesn't mean that you can leave the process until the eleventh hour.
Download teacher recommendation forms
and transcript requests as soon as you can. Deliver the teacher recommendation forms together with a stamped return envelope in October or November at the latest. Teachers appreciate the consideration you show them by not having to pay for stamps. Never ask what your child's teacher wrote on her recommendation.
This clip from Private Schools NYC briefly outlines the private school admissions process.
Schedule your child's standardized admissions test - ISEE/SSAT
- as soon as you can as well.
Complete the Parent's Statement
and the Candidate's Statemen
t as early as possible. It always makes sense to do a rough draft of your Statement. Then polish it so that it presents you in the best possible light. Resist the temptation to read much less write your child's Statement. Admissions staffers can spot a parent-assisted, professionally written Candidate's Statement a mile away. Don't do it.
At this point you will have begun to accumulate many important papers for your child's various applications and testing. Create files for these so that you have everything at your fingertips when needed. Scan any paper documents and save them on your Google Drive or other service in the Cloud such as Dropbox. Then you can access your applications from anywhere whenever you want or need to.
Seeking financial aid
If you require financial aid, you need to create an account online and begin work on the Parents Financial Statement
. This important part of the application process requires documentation. Once again, please do not wait until the last minute to complete your PFS and submit it. Absolutely do not miss any financial aid deadlines. Schools have a finite pool of funds available for financial aid. Once that pool is allotted to all applicants who have met the deadline, it is allotted. Missing the deadline means that you will more than likely miss out on financial aid as well.
Some schools have rolling admissions. Others have fixed admission deadlines. Enter these important dates into your iPad and Smartphone so that you can consult them as needed. Schools with end of January deadlines generally issue their acceptance letters on March 10 or thereabouts.
Laura Barr helps us understand wait-listing in the following video.
If your child is accepted at the school which is her first choice, that's wonderful. Mission accomplished. If your child is rejected by any of the schools, that closes another door.
What if she is wait-listed
at one school she really likes but accepted at her last choice? Discuss this sort of situation with your educational consultant. She will know whether holding out for the possible acceptance at the wait-listed school makes sense or not. This is yet another reason why it is so very important to find schools which are a good fit for both you and your child.
Once you realize that choosing a private school is a process which requires planning and careful execution of that plan, you will be well on your way to overcoming the five challenges discussed above.