You thought everything was set. The test scores were excellent. She had glowing teacher recommendations. The visit and the interview went well. But the school didn't accept your child. What do you do now?
A private school does not have to accept your child. Nor does it have to give you any reason why it has refused your child admission. How can this be? Surely there must be some federal or state laws which govern the situation? There is no legal recourse because private schools don't take public funding. They pride themselves on their independence. They admit who they choose for whatever reasons they decide are best.
Most of the time parents find themselves in this frustrating situation because they thought they could chose a private school for their child by themselves. Of course technically you can do it. You can also write your own will or buy a house without consulting an attorney. But would you? Should you? Do you trust your limited knowledge of private schools? That is why you need to hire a professional educational consultant. A consultant offers you a wealth of experience for a very modest fee. While she can't guarantee that your child will get into a particular private school, a consultant knows private schools. He understands the process, knows who to call and the questions to ask.
So unless your father endowed the school or was its first headmaster, don't take a chance. Seek and pay for the expert advice you need. Here is a recap of some of the things you will have to do to choose a school:
Start the search process in April/May for fall admission 14 months out.
I realize that you and I are coming at this after the fact if indeed your child's application was rejected. However, if you are reading this before you have started your school search process, then take my advice and begin the process at least 18 months beforehand. For example, if you want your child to begin seventh grade, begin the search process by the end of his first semester in fifth grade. If that sounds like far too much time, it really isn't. You will find that you will use up the rest of his fifth grade year identifying schools. The summer and early fall will be spent visiting schools. Then admissions testing and applications will consume the balance of the year.
If you are reading this after your child's application has been rejected, find an educational consultant and explain your situation to him. Assuming this is late winter or early spring, you should still have time to find a place somewhere. Indeed, you may well be surprised at some of the options which your consultant presents you.
Develop a short list of schools to research and visit.
Ideally you will be working with your educational consultant to identify a list of schools which meet your requirements. She can ask questions which you may hesitate to ask.
Research and visit schools to see if they are a good match.
The next step is is to actually visit the schools on your short list. This is not optional. You must do it. Why is this necessary? Because those gorgeous catalogs and video tours which the schools have sent you are very fine public relations materials. They show you the school precisely as they want you to see it. You wouldn't by a home from a photo, would you? For the same reasons, you cannot decide which school is the best fit for your child without visiting it.
Fix any academic deficiencies as quickly as you can.
Whether your child has been rejected or you are just beginning the school search process, you know your child's academic strengths and weaknesses better than anybody. So, if you know that she is weak in math, hire a tutor. Arrange for extra help. Hopefully, when you start early enough, you will see better results both in her current school and in the admissions testing which she will have to take in the late fall before the year of her beginning classes in a new school. Online tutoring might work for minor deficiencies. 1-on-1 tutoring will generally produced the best results.
Schedule admissions testing.
Private school admissions testing is offered by SSAT and ISEE. Many Roman Catholic high schools use other admissions tests. The schools to which you are applying will instruct you as to which test must be taken. You can register online and I recommend that you do so well in advance. If your child has never taken standardized tests like these, download a practice test or two for her. It is important that she work calmly, efficiently, confidently and to the clock. A little practice never hurts.
Academic transcripts are part of the verification process each school to which you are applying has to go through. The schools need to confirm the courses which your child has taken in addition to the quality of the work which she has done. Submit these forms as soon as you can. They can take several weeks to process. This brief video explains what an academic transcript is.
Get teacher and principal recommendations.
These professional recommendations are an important part of your child's admissions portfolio. Download the forms and give them to the appropriate personnel. Be sure to enclose a stamp on the return envelope. Your consideration will be appreciated.
Prepare and submit applications.
The applications process varies from school to school. Some schools have the entire applications process online. Some schools use a common application. Still others ask you to download forms, print them, complete them and submit them. Review the applications processes for the schools on your lists. The best advice I can give you is to not leave applications to the last minute. Build some extra time into your schedule to allow for the unexpected yet inevitable last minute glitches such as a printer which has run out of ink or a wifi router which has decided to crash. Things always happen at the most inconvenient times.
Knowing how you will pay for private school is an important part of choosing the right private school for your child. If you require financial aid, the amount of the financial aid package could well be a determining factor in which school you decide to send your child to. Again, start the financial aid application process with all its forms and documentation as soon as you can. Financial aid budgets are generally finite. Once they are used up, that's it. No more. This brief video explains how to finance a private school education.
Hopefully, you have just begun thinking about private schools for your child. If you follow the steps outlined above, you will not be faced with the anguished expressed in this article's title.
Questions? You may contact me via Twitter. @privateschl.