Here is another way of looking at the private school search process. This checklist highlights the main tasks in what is, for most of us, an eighteen to twenty-month-long project. While circumstances will occasionally require you to do everything in a rush at the last minute, we will review progress from the point of view of the more customary time frame. Work transfers or some other event requiring you to move to a new city never happen conveniently, do they? When you have to find a private school quickly, you will have to telescope the full-length search into a few months. That is doable, and I discuss how to handle that situation in Is It Too Late To Apply? In the meantime, let's review the five signs that you are on the right track in your private school search process.
You have scanned dozens of private school websites.
In step one, you look at as many private school websites as possible. Start with the powerful search engine right here on Private School Review. We have over 27,000 schools in our database. As a result, you should be able to find plenty of material. The only filters which you might want to use at this early stage are the following: kind of school, i.e., religious, military, and special needs; and the grades offered. Before you start searching, determine the kind of school which you want for your child. If you are looking for schools for a young child, for example, in primary school, don't involve your child in the details. Mention that you are thinking about a new school for her. When she asks "Why?", state truthfully that you want her to be in smaller classes. Now, with teenagers and pre-teenagers, your family discussion should center around the advantages of attending private school. Push his buttons when you see him becoming skeptical. "Everest Country Day School has an amazing hockey program" will shift the focus to "What's in it for me?" faster than you can say slap shot.
This video offers an overview of Marquette University High School.
I suggest that you bookmark schools that you like in your Favorites folder in your browser. Create a sub-folder and call it Schools. Using the power of your browser to save your search results is much easier than creating a spreadsheet and copying and pasting information onto it. I also recommend that you not spend more than twenty minutes scanning for schools at a time. Explore. Think outside the box. If you are not sure about a school or have questions which the website doesn't seem to answer, add the school to your list anyway.
You have created a shortlist of schools.
Things get a bit more complicated in step two. Why? Because now you need to comb through that list of 10-15 schools, or possibly more, That sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Unfortunately, the problem lies in the Acceptance Rate at the schools which you have chosen. If the schools which you want your child to attend are competitive, highly competitive or very competitive, then you should consider hiring an educational consultant. This expert will know the schools on your list or can find out what you need to know through her well-established network of admissions professionals at dozens of schools. Let's circle back for a minute to the Acceptance Rate issue. Where do you find that information? Most of the time it is part of the school's profile on Private School Review or Boarding School Review if you are looking at boarding schools. Here is a screenshot of that part of a profile.
You can also find Acceptance Rates listed by state on a page entitled Most Selective Schools. This video offers an overview of the Nichols School.
Why are Acceptance Rates important in your developing a shortlist of schools to visit and apply to? Because you will probably visit and apply to three to five schools, depending on what your requirements are and where you are looking. If you ignore Acceptance Rates, you could end up in the position we did years ago, when we visited three wonderful schools and got turned down by two of them. Thank goodness the third school admitted our daughter! Our mistake was selecting two very competitive schools and one slightly less competitive school. We should have chosen a safe school, a slightly competitive school, and a more competitive school. That way you know that your child is going to be admitted to at least one school. Frankly, we didn't want to take a chance with daughter number two. We hired a well-respected retired head of school to help with our school search. He looked at our list of six schools, smiled politely, and stated that five of the six schools would reject our daughter. You see, he had reviewed our daughter's transcripts, had interviewed her, and, as a result, he had a markedly different assessment of which schools would be a good fit for her than we did. And he was right. Two out of three schools accepted her. The one which rejected her was a reach, but we all knew that.
You have arranged school visits.
Visiting schools on your shortlist is the next step in the process. This can be time-consuming if you are looking at boarding schools at a distance. Try to plan your visits in the summer. The admissions staff will be around, but with the school not in session, your visit will be a bit more relaxed. Wrap up school visits by the middle of October wherever possible. Most private schools have impossible schedules in November and December anyway. The weather is also more problematic in the northeast, midwest, and west in October and November.
School visits offer you an important opportunity to evaluate the schools in some detail. Use our checklists to help keep all that information organized.
You have scheduled the standardized admissions tests.
Scheduling the standardized admissions testing is quick and easy to do because you do it online. There are two critical issues to bear in mind as you begin to look at this step in the process. First of all, make sure that you have remediated any known gaps and weaknesses in your child's academic learning. For example, if your son is weak in mathematics, hire a tutor and try to bring those skills up to par. Secondly, set aside a couple of Saturday mornings for your son to work a couple of practice tests against the clock. No matter how brilliant he is, nerves can do strange things on test day. However, working several tests under simulated test conditions will build his confidence and allow him to do his best during the actual test.
This video offers a look at what some alumni think of the school they attended.
You have planned for submitting your applications a week or two before the deadlines.
Applying to most private schools is much easier these days because most of the application process is online. Having said that, start the application process in the fall. Scope out the requirements for each school to which you are applying. One size does not fit all in the private school world. Each school will require some form which the others don't require. Fixed admissions deadlines are fixed. Don't even think about missing them. Submit your application as soon as it is complete. In the case of schools that have rolling admissions, most definitely apply as soon as your applications are complete.
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