Most of these suggestions are common sense. But take time to review them well in advance of visiting schools and doing the actual applications.
1. Write a good essay.
"Essay?" " Write?" I can just imagine what you are thinking about what your child will do on this part of the application. However, why not do what you always do: plan ahead. Download the Candidate Statement portion of the school's application. Print out a couple of copies. Then, starting in July or August, though you can do it any time, of course, have your child work the questions and think about the answers. That way, when it comes time in December and January to complete those parts of the application, she'll will be able to write confidently, clearly and concisely.
"But her spelling is atrocious. She texts all the time and doesn't spell or capitalize according to the rules." That is a very real concern that you should have. And it's another reason why she needs to do a couple of dry runs before the real thing. While I don't suggest that you correct her work for content, I strongly suggest that you remind her how important it is to follow the rules of good grammar and syntax. Teach her the skill of mirroring the context or person she is dealing with. It's a valuable life skill as you very well know. Again, don't attempt to write the essay for her. Why? Because when you go for the interview, the admissions staff will probably ask her to write a short essay. And you won't be able to help.
2. Visit schools on your short list.
You will most likely be asked to visit schools on your short list. The school wants to meet you and your child. Whenever and wherever possible, visit the school. This is so important because it is truly the only way you can determine if the fit is right. And vice-versa. The school also wants to make sure the fit is right.
It's kind of like buying a dress or a suit. You have to try it on. That outfit looks great on the rack just like all those schools do on the web. But trying on the outfit reveals details which tell you instantly that the clothing just won't work for you. Same thing when you visit schools. You will spot something or overhear something which just doesn't make you feel comfortable.
Conversely, when the fit is right, you will know it. And you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made the right decision. Remember, if the fit is right, your child will be happy. That's what you want. A happy child.
If you live abroad, the school will most likely be able to make arrangements for the interview to take place in a locale near you. While you will have to pass on the school visit, meeting a school representative is the next best thing.
3. Think carefully about what interests, hobbies and sports your child wants and needs.
This goes back to the early stages of the school search process. You need to sit down as a family and discuss all the implications of a private school education. You need to do your homework. You also need to be open to your child's ideas and feelings. If you can somehow make her think that all of this is her idea, so much the better.
Am I suggesting that you be manipulative? Not really. Just do your homework. Marshall all the facts. Lay out the advantages and disadvantages of a private school education. And try to see things from from her perspective.
One of the most effective strategies you can use is to send her off to a summer session. Most private schools have summer sessions which will make her feel quite comfortable with the idea of going there full time. Barring that, a sleepover is always a good idea if you are looking at boarding schools. Day schools often offer similar opportunities to spend a day on campus. Worth doing.
Then you can circle back and point out how terrific it will be for her to enjoy lots of field hockey and riding at her new school. Or perhaps she is an artist or musician. Private schools have some very fine arts programs. Put that on your list. There will be a school or two which have the programs she needs and wants.
4. Read widely.
Encourage your child to read. Widely. Anything and everything. In several languages if possible. Understanding the world around him is a critical part of raising a child who will be a good world citizen. You and I both know that being iconoclasts just won't cut it in the 21st century.
Reading widely also gives your child lots to talk about. While he needs to be a good listener, he also needs to know how to guide and direct conversations. Those leadership skills can be taught at a young age.
5. Practise interviewing skills.
Depending on how you have brought up your child, she may be at ease conversing with strangers. In any case, a little role playing never hurts. Have a trusted friend play the part of the admissions staffer. Give him a list of questions to ask. Encourage your child to express herself in her own way. The school is assessing personal characteristics like poise and confidence. It also wants to confirm that she has the intellectual equipment to handle their academic work load. While test scores and transcripts tell much of the story, her answers to their questions will confirm and/or reveal much more than numbers on a piece of paper.
Choosing the right private school takes a lot of time. You have to be well-organized. There's only a certain amount of the process which you can do at the last minute.