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.
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Admissions 101
Here is an overview of the private school admissions process, as well as the steps needed to find the right private school for your child.

Here is an overview of the private school admissions process, as well as the steps needed to find the right private school for your child. Depending on where you live, you will have several options from which to choose. I recommend that you look at every school objectively because you may discover that a school which you thought was not suitable, in fact, is one which you should evaluate in more detail. While private schools have missions which are fairly static and unchanging, they are constantly adding new programs, courses and activities to their mix to remain competitive. The market drives how successful private schools are. Parents have options. Private schools know that and will always try to match their offerings with what they know parents want.

An overview of the process

The school selection process has six components to it: 

  • discussion of your needs and requirements
  • a quick review of available schools
  • evaluation of a short list of schools
  • visits and interviews
  • testing
  • the formal admissions application.

You will notice that a couple of the components on this list overlap. It is perfectly normal to be working on components in a different order from the one outlined above. This list is flexible and is merely a guide to help you work through what is a fairly lengthy eighteen month process. You will discover that some tasks take longer to complete than others. That is to be expected.

Discuss your requirements.

First things first. Figure out what your needs and requirements in a school are. Yes, it is all well

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 Don't Forget These Admissions Deadlines
Getting into a private school is a time-consuming process. We look at the various deadlines involved.
Getting into a private school is a time-consuming process. There are many details to keep your eyes on. In particular you need to keep your eyes on the calendar and all the deadlines set by the various admissions departments of the schools to which you are applying. Most of the time you will be applying to two or three schools depending on the grade level your child will be entering. This further complicates the process because you will most likely end up watching three or more sets of deadlines. The best advice which I can offer as you deal with applying to schools is to begin the process as early as you can. Do not put things off until the last minute. 
 
With the objective of helping you prioritize all those deadlines let's look at the most important ones.
 
The admissions fixed deadline
 
What I mean by a fixed admissions deadline is that your child's application must be submitted and completed by a date certain. Most private schools have their fixed admissions deadlines occurring on January 31. Some schools position their admissions deadlines a week or two earlier. The issue with fixed admissions deadlines is that you simply do not want to miss them. This is particularly true when you are applying to a selective school which was far more applications than it has places for. If your application is submitted after the fixed deadline, it will more than likely be placed in a pile with the other late applications. These might
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Too Long To Read?
TLTR? There are a couple of private school documents which you need to read.
TLTR? Many parents don't take time to read the contract and other documents which the school sends you once your child has been accepted. It is time-consuming. The contract language is often confusing because it is written in legal language.

But you simply must take the time to read and understand those documents before you affix your signature and send off the deposit check.. Even if you happen to think that they are too long to read.

The two basic documents are the Contract and the Discipline/Honor Code. Not only should you read them carefully but make sure that your attorney reviews both documents as well. As Benjamin Franklin said so succinctly: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It makes more sense to understand what you are agreeing to before you sign rather than to discover material information after the fact. A contract is a legal document.  It is enforceable in a court of law.

Contracts
 
Start with that contract which the school sends you after it has accepted your child. Remember that it was written by the school's attorney, not yours. Since that is the case, you need to have your attorney view the contract before you sign. She will explain any of the legalese which is not clear. She will also explain your obligations as well as the school's obligations. Here's an example of the sort of wording which you need to read and understand carefully:
 
"I/we agree
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The Private School Interview
The independent school admissions process varies greatly from one school to another. There is, however, one critical requirement that is truly universal--the interview.
The independent school admissions process varies greatly from one school to another. There is, however, one critical requirement that is truly universal--the interview.  Students who apply to an independent school for admission to grades 6-12 are required to meet with an admissions officer in a one-on-one or small group setting.  You worry as a parent that your child simply can’t have the maturity or know-how to converse in the manner required with a strange adult who is lobbing questions at your child.   Yes, this can be anxiety producing for even the most savvy-minded parent.  But, I’d like to help reframe your thinking on the admissions interview.  
A Window into Your Child's Personality

The interview offers an admissions committee a window into your child’s personality--his or her academic and extra-curricular interests, unique passions, and other skills that matter to your son or daughter.  Keep in mind that the interview can be as short as 10 minutes for a younger child and up to 45 for the high school candidate.  The interviewer is focused on evaluating your child’s academic potential and overall personality by engaging them in a guided conversation that centers on your child’s current school experience, particular strengths--academic, as well as, athletic, artistic, service, leadership, and other special interests.
 
It may help to think of the interview as a detailed conversation for your child with a trained teacher.  It is the job of the admissions officer to establish a rapport with your child.  Admissions officers
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 Admissions Checklist
Keep yourself on track as you work through the private school admissions process.
Selecting schools which fit your needs and requirements takes a lot of time and effort just by itself. But once that part of the process of choosing a school is finished, you need to focus on the admissions processes for the three to five schools which you have selected. Use this admissions checklist to keep you and your child on track. There is much detail, plenty of forms to fill out and a standardized admissions test to prepare for.
 
Testing
 
I have put admissions testing at the top of my checklist simply because it needs as much advance preparation as your child can give it. While standardized admissions tests are just one of several tools which the admissions professionals at each school will use to assess your child, they are an important part of the assessment process. Most schools use the SSAT and ISEE. But there are other tests out there as well. Once you have narrowed your choice of schools to the magic three to five number, review the admissions requirements carefully. With luck you will dsicover that all the schools on your list use the same test. That will simplify matters enormously for both you and your child.
If, on the other hand, you end up with two or possibly three different tests, you will have those additional test registrations to schedule, register and pay for. Scheduling works best when you start as far in advance as you possibly can. The SSAT opens
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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.