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 critical part of the admissions process. The staff can see the academic progress by interpreting the transcripts. They can get feel for how she is performing in core subjects by reading the teacher recommendations. Those facts and figures give them an outline of who your daughter is. The interview and their admissions testing fleshes out that profile. At this point it's all about fit.
The admissions staff meets to review the applicants who have passed muster on the first cut. Will a B in English be a deal breaker? Not necessarily. If somebody feels that the child has potential, has the right attitude and really wants to succeed, that will more than offset a minor deficiency.
So, what's the real trick to getting into that highly competitive school? The answer is deceptively simple: offer everything they are looking for and more. How will you know what they are looking for? You won't. Unless you are the Admissions Director's spouse, at which point your child will be a shoo-in anyway.
The secret to getting into any highly selective private school is to hire an educational consultant. This is not a pitch for educational consultants. It is just common sense. Educational consultants know their schools. They make it their business to visit schools. They know the admissions staff. They know what the current climate is at each of the schools in their portfolio.
Not using an educational consultant for such an important matter as getting your daughter into a good private school is rather like writing your own will. Of course you can write your own will. But at some point you will need to run it by your trusted legal team to make sure that you have it right. Same thing with choosing a school. Just like your will, there is a lot riding on getting your daughter into the right school. Her happiness is at stake. You certainly don't want a miserable child, do you?
So when it comes to first choice letters, keep that to yourself. Express your interest in the school with sincerity. But have other options open. The same thing applies to the personal letter of recommendation. If a good, well-connected friend chooses to write a personal letter of recommendation for your child, let her do so quietly on her own. The school will most likely be impressed more if you don't mention it.