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:
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Applications  - Teacher Recommendations and Transcripts
Teacher recommendations and transcripts are an important part of the applications process.
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:
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Applications  - The Parent's Statement
Part of most school's admissions package is something called the Parent's Statement. We take a look at this document and offer advice on how to complete it.

I wrote this article and its companion article Applications - The Candidate's Statement to explain how to understand and complete these important forms. The problem with these parts of the application is that they require you and your child to express your thoughts in your own words. You won't be able to check any boxes to select from prepared answers.  You will have to write out responses to the school's questions in any way you choose.  David Petersam of Admissions Consultants offers some tips in the following video. While he targets colleges admissions, the advice is quite sound for private high school admissions.

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.

The following questions posed by McCallie School and The Hun School are fairly typical of what you will encounter as you prepare your applications.  I will add editorial

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Do My SSAT or ISEE Scores Really Matter?
SSAT and ISEE scores are one part of the total picture which most private school admissions staff review. These standardized tests reveal what you have learned in key mastery areas.
Standardized admissions tests are part of the drill in most private school admissions offices. Why is that? Because the school needs to know what you know and don't know academically.

The SSAT and ISEE are the two most commonly used admissions tests. They measure your language and math skills. How do the admissions offices use the test scores which the testing organizations send them? Largely for comparison purposes. For example, if a school has an applicant pool with an average verbal score of 600 and yours is 700, you will be at the top of the list in that one aspect of all the factors the school looks at. Conversely, if your quantative score is 550 and the pool average is 750, you will be at or near the bottom of the list in that comparison.

Bear in mind that the admissions office looks at many things when it reviews your application. If teacher recommendations corroborate the test score results, that is a very strong plus or minus for you. For example, if you scored well in the verbal section of the SSAT and your teacher writes glowing comments about your language arts skills, that will improve your chances significantly. The reverse is also true. A poor quantitative score combined with a weak or vague reference from your math teacher ("Johnny has challenges with his math lessons.") won't help your case.

Many factors come into play when it comes to standardized tests. The most
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Admissions Test Preparation: 2 Strategies
Admissions tests are supposed to measure accomplishments. But what if your child has serious problems in math or English? What do you do then?
Admissions tests in private schools are supposed to measure your child's aptitude and readiness for the work in a serious private prep school. They are merely one tool for assessing a child's progress to date. Some children have learned their lessons well. Some children take tests well. Other children have deficiencies in certain skill areas. Still others do not test well.
 
Long-term Test Preparation
In a perfect world every child would master all the skills necessary to succeed academically. But children learn differently. Their teachers teach the same material differently. The school expects certain results in certain subject areas. That's why a standardized admissions test is a critical part of most private school admissions requirements.
 
If you can take the long term approach to admissions test preparation, it certainly is the ideal. But you need to start a few years out from the actual admissions test itself. Here's what to do: monitor your child's progress carefully. Identify any deficiencies and remediate them. Hire tutors if necessary. Create and maintain a climate for academic success. Set expectations accordingly.
 
Then about eighteen months before the admissions test date purchase the test preparation materials which are so widely available. Read about the test your child will be taking. Understand what is required. Then have your child take at least 2 practice tests six months before the actual test date. That will give you enough time to tweak any parts of the test which require extra attention.
 
The Crash Course
Last minute cramming can pay
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5 Tips for a Successful Admissions Interview
When you meet with the admissions staff, create a favorable impression by following these tips.
When you and your child visit schools that you are seriously interested in, you will also have an appointment with the admissions staff. Depending on the school, you might even meet with a dean or perhaps the head of school. Obviously when you meet with these people, you will be trying to put your best foot forward. However you will be in unfamiliar surroundings. So, my advice is simply to relax. Stay calm. Above all don't let your nerves get the better of you. Follow these tips for a successful admissions interview.
 
1. Don't draw attention to any minor learning issues.
 
I am not for a minute advocating that you cover anything up. Nor I am suggesting that you dissemble. What I am reminding you of is the fact that admissions staff are professionals. They have reviewed hundreds, even thousands of applications over the years. They know how to interpret test scores and transcripts. So let the test scores and academic records speak for themselves. Blurting out that your son has a slight learning difficulty is not going to enhance your chances of his getting in to some schools. It will not matter much in others. On the other hand if he has been diagnosed with dyslexia or ADD or some other learning difficulty, then you need to be applying to a school which has qualified staff and programs in place to address those learning issues. But your son's B grade in mathematics or his lack of prowess in fine arts
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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.