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.
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Every application to private school goes through a thorough review process. The more competitive the school, the more exhaustive that review process becomes. So, the question we parents want answered is simply: how do we make sure our child's application gets to that final, all important "Approved" stack of folders. Put another way, how do we ensure that our child's application has legs? (Having legs is an expression which speaks to the endurance of whatever is supposed to have legs.) With respect to admissions applications the idea is to advance your child's application from one stage of the process to the next until finally you achieve a positive outcome.
 
Here is what to do to ensure that your child's private school application has legs.
 
All required documentation has been submitted.
 
This sounds so simple, yet you would be amazed at how often an admissions application can founder right at the beginning of the review process. The staffer who reviews your child's application has a checklist of the required materials which must be in the folder. If something is missing, the folder goes into a stack for applications which have missing documents. It cannot normally advance to the next stage of the process for the reading and critical assessment of all those materials unless it is complete. 

Ann Dolin sheds some light on the private school admissions process in this short video.
 
 
Note: each school has its own admissions procedures and protocols. The more competition there is for places
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In Why Should I Admit Your Child? I looked at the admissions process from the school's perspective. We discovered that schools were looking for specific criteria in their applicant pool. They wanted to make sure that any student they admitted was capable of doing the academic work. They also wanted to make sure that applicants would be a good fit for the school.
 
Now let's turn the tables and look at the question from a parent's point of view. There are many specific reasons why you would want to send your child to a particular school. You also want to make sure that the school is a good fit for your child. Let's examine the principal items on your school selection bucket list.
 
The school offers the amount of financial aid I require.
 
For most of us financial aid is at the top of the list. It is a top concern when it comes to selecting a private school. Whether you need everything paid for or just a bit of help to make attending private school viable for you and your family, you need to calculate the amount of aid you need. Then be very clear with the schools which you have on your short list precisely what your financial requirements are. Laura Volovski explains what is involved.
 
 
Completing the Parents' Financial Statement as soon as you can before the end of a calendar year will help immensely. That data is sent
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Why should they admit your child? Admissions to a private school is not a beauty contest. Neither is it a forgone conclusion that just because she offers most if not all of the things the school is looking for that your child will get in. With that in mind let's examine some of the things a private school admissions director will be reviewing and considering when he reviews your child's admissions folder.
 
1. Your child's file is complete.
 
While you would think this is simply common sense, there are many parents who leave things to the very last minute. If we have a deadline posted for submission of applications, we have it posted for a reason. Yes, we are aware that some of the schools to which you are applying do not have admissions deadlines. They have rolling admissions. Each private school sets its own admissions requirements and deadlines. It is your responsibility to keep track of those requirements and deadlines.
 
Failure to meet the application deadlines without a really good, compelling reason will generally mean that we will put your child's file in the incomplete category. In other words, we cannot make any decision until we have everything in the file. Test scores. Teacher recommendations. Academic transcripts. The complete application. The works. All applicants are treated in the same way.
 
2. We met you and your child.
 
Whenever it is practical, we expect you and your child to visit the school. We want to meet you. We want you to experience our school
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Admissions to Private School: A-Z  puts all the information you need to navigate the private school admissions process in one convenient place.  Whether you are just beginning or have been through this before, you will find help and advice to guide you.
 
The Admission Process
 
Our Application Calendar will keep you organized throughout the stressful process of applying to private school. There's a lot to keep track of. So plan your work carefully and try to stick to the schedule. Ideally you out to start the process at least 18 months before the expected date of starting school. For example, for fall 2012 admissions, you need to begin in the spring of 2011. If you are an international student, you need to allow an additional 6 months because there are some additional steps which you need to follow.
 
Applying to any private school is just that: an application. The school is under no obligation to accept your child. You also need to be aware that places in schools in certain metropolitan areas are very limited. Enhance your prospects by avoiding common admissions mistakes. What if they waitlist your child? Is that the end of the world? Not exactly. What if you start the process late for some very good reason such as a job relocation and miss the deadlines, does it matter? It depends.
 
The most important thing to understand about the admissions process is that it allows you
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The following five common admission mistakes can and should be avoided. With a little advance planning and organization this is quite doable. The point of avoiding these common admissions mistakes is to improve your child's chances during the entire admissions process.
 
Plan your private school search process. On this site we have several articles which you can bookmark and refer to from time as you work through what is, after all, a lengthy, 16-18 month process on average.  Our Admissions Calendar will help keep you organized from week to week, month to month. With a long term project like choosing a private school it is easy to lose site of some of the important deadlines. When that happens, you will stress yourself unduely as you try to accomplish several month's work in a few weeks.
 
1. Not Observing the Deadlines
 
Deadlines are set for a reason. The admissions staff has hundreds of applications to process. If you miss the deadlines, it may not be a big deal to you. But it does send a signal to the admissions staff. Most likely the wrong signal.
 
Missing deadlines due to unforseen circumstances happens. If that happens to you, then call immediately that you realize you will not be able to meet the deadlines. People will be much more accommodating when you alert them before, not after, the fact.
 
Remember that each private school is unique. Many have the same deadlines. Others set their own cutoff dates. Be careful to observe those.
 
2. Not Giving the Recommendation Forms
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