Have you ever wondered...
Why a private school doesn't have to tell you why it refused your child admission?
Private schools do not have to accept applicants who do not meet their specific admissions criteria. Each private school has its own unique admissions criteria. Each school reviews its own applicant pool. Each school makes its own decisions completely independent of what any other school may decide. There is no appeal process once that decision is made. Neither does the school have to tell you why it made the decision it did. One way of 'reading the tea leaves' as it were is to hire an educational consultant. Her long experience with and knowledge of schools and their admissions process will generally be most helpful.
What happens if your kid gets caught breaking the rules?
This question is important. Unlike public schools where there is due process and something called student rights, private schools are governed by contract law. You and the school signed a contract covering the various terms and conditions of your child's stay at the school. While it may seem like a lot of fine print and legal language, it is there for a purpose: to protect the school. Read your contract carefully and understand that the school may discipline your child for breaking school rules. Depending on how serious the infraction is, the punishment could include expulsion.
Most private schools have a student handbook which explains all the rules and their infractions in great detail. The handbook is covered and explained during orientation at the beginning of the fall semester. Most handbooks are also online for ready reference by students and parents alike.
Why some schools have rolling admissions and others have fixed deadlines?
Highly selective schools have fixed deadlines as a rule. Rolling admissions give you some flexibility when applying. But be aware that schools with a rolling admissions policy also have a finite number of places available just like highly selective schools. Once those are filled, late applicants who qualify would have to wait for an opening. So, while rolling admissions makes it sound as though you can wait until June or July to apply to private school, there may be no places when your child's application is approved. Whenever and wherever possible, apply as early as you can once the visits and interviews have taken place.
Where some private schools got those huge endowments they have?
Indeed the endowments at Exeter, Andover, Hotchkiss, Milton Hershey School and The Kamehameha Schools, to name just five private schools, are impressive by any measure. But none of these schools was founded recently. Exeter and Andover date back to the 18th century. The Philips family was responsible for establishing those two very fine schools. Hotchkiss was established in 1891 by Maria H. (Bissell) Hotchkiss as a feeder school for Yale University. After his wife died in 1915 Milton Hershey gave land and his controlling interest in Hershey Chocolate to the school. That original gift of approximately 60 million dollars has grown to about 6 billion dollars. Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop established The Kamehameha Schools after her death in 1884. Her will gave approximately 375,000 acres in Hawaii to establish a school for Hawaian native children. That gift is now worth approximately $9 billion dollars.
The dollar amounts are impressive. But more impressive from my point of view are the purposes each of these founders had in mind: they truly wanted to better society by giving ordinary children a solid educational foundation. There are many more private schools which were established with similar wonderful motives. As you review the history of private schools, you too will be fascinated by their origins. Is such munificence a thing of the past? Fortunately it is not. Philanthropists continue to give significant sums of money to private schools.
Why some schools are so competitive?
Supply and demand drives competition for places at our country's top private schools. So does the belief that an excellent high school education will somehow guarantee admission to one of our top colleges. A growing international pool of well-qualified applicants who do not require financial aid is another factor. Finally, the highly selective schools themselves have engaged in proactive marketing efforts which have increased their awareness both nationally and globally. As a result, a more diverse applicant pool is driving demand for places.
Gone are the days when you were able to get into a private school simply because your uncle Percy went there. That legacy connection may get your admissions folder reviewed. But that folder better have everything the school is looking for. And more.
Which private school is the best one?
This a question which comes up all the time. I wish there were an easy answer to it. Essentially the best school or schools are the ones which best suit your requirements.
You and your child will have different requirements, of course. You will be looking at test scores of a school's graduates, the colleges to which they matriculate, the quality of the faculty, how competitive the admissions are, and so on. Typical adult benchmarks.
She's more concerned with what kind of kids go to the school, what her social life will be like, whether she can bring her horse to school, how much homework there is and how difficult the work is. Typical teenage concerns.
What you must do to determine which is the best school for your child is to examine and discuss all the things which matter to you both. This is not a discussion which can take place while stopped at a traffic light after field hockey practice. Set aside some quality time in a neutral location - a quiet booth in a diner will do just fine - and explore the issues with your child. You will develop a list of items which will help you define the ideal school. Proceed from that common ground.
A much more important question than "Which is the best school for my child?" is "At which school will my child be happiest?" Sending a child off to private school is a tremendous step. She needs to understand that enormous opportunity your decision entails. She will have a chance to develop learning habits and skills which will set the course for the rest of her adult life. She will become part of a community which truly cares about her, wants only the best for her and sets standards of excellence to which she can aspire. The bottom line is that the best school for your child is the one at which she will be the happiest.