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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Preparing for TOEFL
Applicants to American private schools for whom English is not their first language must take a test known as TOEFL.
If you are thinking of applying to an American private school and English is not your first language, you will be required to take a test known as The Test of English as a Foreign Language. Known more commonly as TOEFL which is pronounced TOE-full, this is an important part of the private school admissions process.
 
TOEFL used to be a paper-based test which is known as TOEFL PBT. This older method of taking the TOEFL test is being phased out. The newer form of TOEFL is TOEFL iBT. This is the test which is administered online in test centers worldwide. This video gives you an overview of what TOEFL is.
TOEFL is administered in most countries. You take the computer-based test at an examination center under supervised testing conditions. Watch this short video to see how the test is administered. 
 
So let us examine what is involved and how to prepare for the test.
 
What is TOEFL?
 
TOEFL is a standardized test administered by the world-famous Educational Testing Service. ETS is based in Princeton, New Jersey and has been around since 1947. It is an old, very established, highly regarded testing service. ETS is a not for profit organization.  ETS administers all kinds of tests which are given at over 9,000 locations in 180 countries. The tests with which we are probably most familiar are the SAT and AP tests which high school students typically take in their junior and senior years.
 
Why do you need TOEFL?
 
TOEFL
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5 Admissions Mistakes
These five common admissions mistakes can and should be avoided.
The following five common admission mistakes can and should be avoided. With a little advance planning and organization this is quite doable. The point of avoiding these common admissions mistakes is to improve your child's chances during the entire admissions process.
 
Plan your private school search process. On this site we have several articles which you can bookmark and refer to from time as you work through what is, after all, a lengthy, 16-18 month process on average.  Our Admissions Calendar will help keep you organized from week to week, month to month. With a long term project like choosing a private school it is easy to lose site of some of the important deadlines. When that happens, you will stress yourself unduely as you try to accomplish several month's work in a few weeks.
 
1. Not Observing the Deadlines
 
Deadlines are set for a reason. The admissions staff has hundreds of applications to process. If you miss the deadlines, it may not be a big deal to you. But it does send a signal to the admissions staff. Most likely the wrong signal.
 
Missing deadlines due to unforseen circumstances happens. If that happens to you, then call immediately that you realize you will not be able to meet the deadlines. People will be much more accommodating when you alert them before, not after, the fact.
 
Remember that each private school is unique. Many have the same deadlines. Others set their own cutoff dates. Be careful to observe those.
 
2. Not Giving the Recommendation Forms
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First Choice Letters and Personal Letters of Recommendation
Getting your child into a competitive school is a tough assignment. Don't let the many challenges overwhelm you. There is a simple solution.
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 applicant's profile is a
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Is It Too Late to Apply?
Starting the admissions process and getting into a private school in late spring and early summer is a challenge.

"Is it too late to apply?" is a nagging question many parents find themselves asking. The circumstances vary, of course, but typically you find yourself deciding in late winter or early spring that either you want to or have to get your child into a private school for the coming fall. Feeling that your child will be better off in private school is a circumstance which gives you the luxury of a flexible schedule. On the other hand, if your organization plans to relocate you, then finding a new school for your children becomes an urgent matter. Time is probably not on your side. 

A friend of mine was facing the first situation. She was not happy with her child's public school. Therefore, in January, she and her husband decided to see if there were a place at a local private school about which she knew and of which she thought highly.  It turned out that the school did have room, subject to the standard testing and formal admissions process. My friend did have to meet deadlines to complete her child's admissions portfolio, but she did not have the pressure which the second scenario of finding a school in a new city or country entailed.

The just-announced job transfer makes finding a private school in a hurry an absolute necessity. The resulting pressure is enormous. After all, you not only have to uproot and move your family, you have to find a school for your children as well.

So, are you indeed

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Admissions - The Acceptance Letter
The desired result of taking the admissions test, visiting schools and submitting all that paperwork is to receive an acceptance letter. Here's how to handle this part of the admissions process.
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 are your options? Discuss your situation with
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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.