The private school search process is complicated enough without making it more complicated. Use these five tips to keep you focused and on track. Most of these suggestions are common sense and you are probably following them anyway. But take time to review them well in advance of visiting schools and doing the actual applications. You will save valuable time.
1. Write a good essay.
"Essay?" " Write?" I can just imagine what you are thinking about howyour 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 or any other time which works best for you, have your child work the questions and think about the answers. That way, when it comes time in December and January to complete those important parts of the application, she will be able to write confidently, clearly and concisely. This brief video will explain how to write an essay in terms she will understand.
"But her spelling is atrocious. She texts all the time and doesn't spell or capitalize according to the rules." These days 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 accepted 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 her then.
2. Visit schools on your short list.
You will most likely be asked to visit schools on your short list. This is not optional. 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. Yes, the school looks very closely at how your child will fit into its community and whether she can do the academic work.
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. Don't be fooled into thinking that because the school is one of the top ten private schools that your child will fit in there. Maybe she will. Maybe she won't. This short video shows you the steps in the private school selection process.
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 her perspective. Going to a private school is a big change for her. New friends, new teachers, unfamiliar surroundings can and often do test a teenager's confidence and self-esteem. Try to get out in front of those feelings and concerns so that going to private school becomes an adventure as opposed to just one more thing her parents insist that she does.
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 more 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 shadowing. Overnights and shadowing are all 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 and facilities in which these programs thrive. 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. Most private schools understand the need to make their students aware that they are citizens of the world, not simply their local community.
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 your child has the intellectual equipment to handle its 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. This video offers some valuable tips for your private school admissions interview.
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.
Questions? You may contact me via Twitter. @privateschool