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.
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Updated May 25, 2016 |
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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Updated May 26, 2016 |
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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Updated May 26, 2016 |
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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Updated June 11, 2016 |
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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Updated June 11, 2016 |
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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