Getting into Private School

Here we cover the private school admissions process from the application to the interview. Get information on how admissions works, when and how to apply, and tips on preparing for testing and interviewing. Learn what you should look for on a school visit and questions you should ask during the interview.
View the most popular articles in Getting into Private School:
The competition for places at some schools is intense. There are thousands of applicants for a hundred places. The school admissions staff is sphinx-like about letting you know whether your kid stands a chance or not. You can afford the fees and all the extras. You really want your daughter to get in because you know that the school does a great job of getting its graduates into the best colleges and universities.

So, what do you do? Do you push? Do you flaunt your wealth? Do you try to impress with your social pedigree? What about sending the school a first-choice letter? Will that help? Do you have the CEO of a Fortune 100 company write the school on your daughter's behalf? Do personal recommendation letters really help? For the answers to these questions you need to look at the private school admissions process and understand how it works.

Understand the Admissions Process
Admissions to any private school seems like an arcane process. But it really isn't all that mysterious. After all, the staff know who they want to admit based on a stack of criteria they have in place at the moment. Market conditions have an effect on those decisions. If they have four applicants for every place available, they will be selective. Why wouldn't they be? The school has a reputation to uphold. So it makes sense to them to offer places to young people who can do the work and fit into the community.

 

An . . .read more
It's a nagging question many parents ask themselves. You suddenly decide in late winter or early spring that you want to get your child into a private school for fall. Or perhaps a job transfer makes finding a private school in a hurry an absolute necessity. So, are you indeed too late?
 
It depends. Let's look at some of the reasons why you may be too late and some reasons why you still may have time to get your child into private school on short notice.
 
It depends....
 
  • On the grade
  • On the school
  • On the academics
  • On financial aid requirements
 
Which grade?
Which grade are you trying to get into? It is normally really difficult to find a place in a good nursery or pre-school by April or May. But call around. If they will entertain your application, perhaps you can be put on a wait list.
 
Kindergarten, 6th grade and 10th grade are the major entry points for private school. Finding places will depend on the availability of places. The only way to know if a school has a place is to call. If you are lucky, the school might have a last minute cancellation or withdrawal. Or better yet, the particular grade you are seeking to find a place in was not filled. That can happen. Especially in tough economic times. Most schools need full classes in order to balance their budgets. If your budget is based on 15 children in grade 8 and you only have 11, you will be much more receptive to . . .read more
The final step in the process of choosing a private school is dealing with the acceptance letter. These letters are typically mailed in mid-March for schools which have a January 31 (or thereabouts) deadline for applications. If the school has rolling admissions, you will receive your acceptance letter or an offer of a place at the school once your admissions file is completed and a decision has been made.

If you have been accepted
Schools will give you a date by which you must accept or refuse the offer of admission. Acceptance requires the return of the acceptance forms together with payment of a deposit for next year's tuition.That is usually 10% of the fees. So, for example, if next year's tuition is $25,000, you will need to return the acceptance forms with a payment of $2,500. If you applied for financial aid, you will also receive a letter detailing the terms of your financial aid package.

It is very important to read all the materials which the schools send you and deal with them immediately. You have a limited window of opportunity in which to respond. If, for some reason, you do not reply to the acceptance letter, the school will most likely give away your child's place.

What if the financial aid package is not enough?
It is possible that the financial aid award letter will contain some perplexing news. You may have required $15,000 in aid and the school is only offering $10,000. What . . .read more
Teacher recommendations and transcripts are an important part of the applications process. They have to be handled according to each school's very specific instructions. They are the evidence the school needs to substantiate and all oral or written statements about your child. These documents are not hearsay or anecdotal. They are professional opinions and records which the school needs to review.
 
Teacher Recommendations

Most schools require your child's current math and English teachers to complete a teacher recommendation form. These are fairly detailed evaluations of your child's efforts and abilities in these core subject areas. They take about 15-20 minutes for the teacher to complete. So be thoughtful and considerate of the current teacher's time by giving him these forms to complete well in advance of any deadlines.

You typically will download the teacher recommendation forms. You complete the information at the top of the form, then hand the blank form to your child's teacher. Be sure to include an envelope addressed directly to the school's admissions office. Stamp the envelope before you give it to the teacher. Remind the teacher to submit the recommendation forms as soon as possible, in any event no later than December 31 for mid-January deadlines.

Note: you waive your right to review or even see what the teacher writes in her evaluation. This information is strictly confidential.
Here are some examples of the forms:

From Miss Porter's:

 

 

 

Many schools require a statement from the applicant's parents. After all, you probably know your child better than anybody. The school also wants to know what your concerns and educational objectives are. The goal here is to make sure that everybody's expectations are the same. For example, if you want your son to play on a varsity hockey team and the school offers limited hockey time, you need to deal with that before you decide to send your son to that school. Perhaps your daughter finds math challenging. You will want to point that out so that the school can discuss how it might deal with that concern.

 

Here are some examples of the sort of questions schools will ask:

From McCallie School

 

 

  • What do you hope your child will accomplish at McCallie?
  • From what activities does your child derive self-confidence?
  • What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? (Please comment on social characteristics: e.g., self-reliance, sense of humor, ability to mix, shyness, assertiveness, etc.)
  • Include any particular concerns of which the school should be aware: e.g., Has your child experienced any difficult challenges or personal setbacks in recent years? Are there any medical conditions of which we should be aware?
  • Has your child had any psychological or educational testing?
  • Does your child regularly take any prescription medication?
  • Does your child's health limit or interfere with the normal performance of everyday activities, including class work, athletics, or other duties?
  • Please make any additional comments about your child which you feel may be helpful to us.

 


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Getting into Private School

How Admissions Works

The private school admissions process can be competitive. Explore the process, compile your profile and submit your application with help from our tips and tools. Explore the challenges of getting into private school and the most common mistakes made during the admission process.

Applications

An in depth look at the private school application process. From teacher recommendations to the acceptance letter, we'll explore some of the most crucial aspects of applying to private school. Learn more about when and how to apply, why the deadlines are important and what to do when your child is accepted.

Test Preparation

Standardized tests are a large part of the admission process at many private schools. Here you'll find information on the most commonly used exams and how to prepare for them. Explore the tests, what the scores mean, and how the schools will use them.

School Visits and Interviews

School visits and interviews are an integral part of applying to private school. Learn why it's important to visit and what to do if that is not possible. Explore school visit options like open houses and shadowing. Get valuable tips on a successful interview and learn what questions you should be asking.