"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 too late to apply to and get into a private school? Let's look at some of the reasons why you may be too late. On the other hand, you may still have time to get your child into a private school on short notice.
Finding a private school on short notice depends on
- The grade
- The school
- The academics
- The financial aid requirements
Into which grade are you seeking admission? As a rule, it is not easy to find places in a popular nursery or pre-school later than April or May. Despite that reality don't hesitate to call around. If the school entertains your application, perhaps you can be put on a waitlist.
Kindergarten, 6th grade, and 10th grade are the most common entry points for private school admissions. Late acceptances will depend on the availability of places at the school in which you are interested. The only way to know if a school has room for your child is to call. If you are lucky, the school might have a last minute cancelation or withdrawal. Or better yet for you, the particular grade in which you are seeking a place was not filled. That can happen in these tough economic times. Most private schools need full classes to balance their budgets. So, the viability of your application may well depend on the state of the school's census. If the school bases its budget on 15 students in 8th grade and it only has 11, it will be much more receptive to considering late applications. It's a polite way of saying that they are open to accepting applicants until they have filled all their places.
If you are thinking about applying for late admissions to a selective school, I would recommend against that idea. Selective schools always have plenty of applicants on their waiting lists and fill places from that pool. The SSAT website has a list of schools which are currently considering applications. Have you investigated private schools in your area? Admissions offices are open during business hours. Call and find out if places are available.
If your organization has offered you a transfer, ask your Human Resources staff to help you with finding private schools in your new location. Frequently the HR staff will have a list of recommended schools with which they are familiar. In many cases, the HR staff will also know the admissions staff because they have handled many employee transfers before yours. An email or phone call will start the process for you.
Help from your Human Resources Department is particularly valuable when you are dealing with an overseas transfer. If you are moving to a major urban area such as London, Berlin or Barcelona, your Human Resources Department will have a list of international schools which cater to expatriates. When my late wife accepted an overseas posting years ago, we still had one child in school. Her organization facilitated finding a school for our daughter. Everything worked out for the best.
What kind of academics?
Academics are important to most of us parents. Most private schools expect a high academic standard because the curriculum is intensive and demanding. Schools which focus on preparing their students for college will want to confirm that your child can do the work. If your child can offer solid test scores, transcripts, and excellent teacher recommendations, she will enhance her chances for late admissions immeasurably. All this assumes, of course, that there is a place for her.
You may well have other kinds of private schools on your list. Perhaps your child has a learning disability or some other special need. Assuming that you are not moving overseas, you should have no trouble finding a school which will meet your requirements. You can expedite the admissions process for special needs schools by having professional evaluations on file. Schools will conduct their assessments, but having a dossier of professional evaluations to present to the admissions team will save time.
Do you need financial aid?
Unfortunately, in most schools, financial aid will probably be out of the question for late admissions. Why is that? Private schools usually disperse financial aid on a 'first come, first served' basis. Consequently, applicants who met the set deadlines or were ahead of you in a school with rolling admissions will be the ones considered for financial aid first. However, it never hurts to ask.
Are you too late applying to a private school? It depends. In the meantime, good luck.
If you have questions, you may contact me via Twitter. @privateschl