Admissions 101

Updated April 13, 2017 |
Admissions 101
Here is an overview of the private school admissions process, as well as the steps needed to find the right private school for your child.

Here is an overview of the private school admissions process, as well as the steps needed to find the right private school for your child. Depending on where you live, you will have several options from which to choose. I recommend that you look at every school objectively because you may discover that a school which you thought was not suitable, in fact, is one which you should evaluate in more detail. While private schools have missions which are fairly static and unchanging, they are constantly adding new programs, courses and activities to their mix to remain competitive. The market drives how successful private schools are. Parents have options. Private schools know that and will always try to match their offerings with what they know parents want.

An overview of the process

The school selection process has six components to it: 

  • discussion of your needs and requirements
  • a quick review of available schools
  • evaluation of a short list of schools
  • visits and interviews
  • testing
  • the formal admissions application.

You will notice that a couple of the components on this list overlap. It is perfectly normal to be working on components in a different order from the one outlined above. This list is flexible and is merely a guide to help you work through what is a fairly lengthy eighteen-month process. You will discover that some tasks take longer to complete than others. That is to be expected.

Discuss your requirements.

First things first. Figure out what your needs and requirements in a school are. Yes, it is all well and good to say that you want to send your daughter off to junior boarding school. But realistically, that is the headline. You need to have an extended discussion about what your ideal private school will offer to fill in the details.

Think about the academics and your daughter's learning style at the moment. Anticipate what she will need next year and the years beyond. Select schools which will build a solid academic foundation, as well as create an environment which encourages exploration and learning.  Are small classes important to you? Do you prefer a traditional curriculum or will a progressive approach work better for your child?

Think about the facilities which you expect a school to have. Not every school is going to offer riding, for example, or have a world-class natatorium. 

What about religious instruction? Does it matter to you whether the school is non-sectarian, i.e., not favoring any one specific religious denomination, or must it follow a particular denomination's teachings?
Private schools cover the gamut of religions. You will be able to find schools which match your requirements.

Create a list of things your ideal school must have.  Don't hesitate to add to it as you discover things which you had forgotten. Your list of needs and requirements should be dynamic. Constantly refine and update your list.

Review available schools.

This is the fun part of the school selection process because you get to browse dozens of school websites. The most efficient way to do this is to being at our website  www.privateschoolreview  Our search engine is very powerful. Set the filters to 25 miles around your zip code. At this stage, a quick browse of individual school websites should be enough to allow you to determine if a school is worth exploring in greater detail. Create a list those schools which you want to review later.

Evaluate schools on your short list.

Let's assume that you have 9-12 schools which you want to review in depth. Keep your list of requirements close at hand as you examine school websites in detail. The object of this part of the school selection process is to eliminate about half the schools on your original list. Ideally, you will have 3-5 schools on your short list. Why do you want just 3-5 schools on your short list? Because that is a comfortable number of schools to visit in order to evaluate them thoroughly as well as to have the admissions interview. 

I also recommend that you hire an educational consultant early on in the process. Her expertise will save you much time and effort. For example, look at your original list of 9-12 schools which you thought might be good fits. How many of those schools are highly competitive schools? (Schools which accept less than 20% of applicants are competitive.) Applying to only competitive schools is not something a professional educational consultant will counsel you to do. It's like investing. You should never put all your eggs in one basket. Your consultant will help you identify schools as safe schools, schools which are a reach and competitive schools. By doing that, you know that a school meeting your requirements will admit your daughter.

Of course, you can identify which schools are competitive by looking at individual school profiles on Private School Review. That will take a bit more time to research, but it is doable. In my opinion, you still need the expert advice of a professional educational consultant who will look at the schools on your list and look you in the eye and state quietly "I suggest that you also consider __________. Here are my reasons why." When you buy a house, you hire a building inspector to advise you on the condition of the house which you plan to purchase. Educational consultants have the expertise to see things in schools which you and I could never know on our own. They have the professional network which gives them the kind of granular facts which allow parents to make informed decisions about choosing the right private school for our children.

Visit schools.

Most schools will insist on your visiting their campuses. They want to interview you and your child in person. Now, obviously, if you live in Malaysia, schools will interview you either online or via a visit during a local or regional recruitment tour. Those tours usually occur in the fall. The school visit is your time to look under the hood and see what really makes the school tick. The admissions staff need this one-on-one time with you to confirm that you and your child will be a good fit for them. Besides knowing that she can do the academic work, they need to assess her as a person. Plan for those important school visits to take place over the summer or in early fall. The final three months of the calendar year will be overloaded with testing, applications and holidays.

Arrange testing.

Admissions testing is another part of the admissions process which you should not leave to the last minute. The testing which schools require at the various entry points varies. Normally independent schools use the SSAT or the ISEE. If you are applying to a Catholic high school, your child will have to take a standardized test customized to that school's needs. Common tests for Catholic high schools are COOP, HSPT and TACHS. Make sure that you understand which standardized tests schools on your short list require. Once you have that information, register your child for a test at a convenient date and location. Don't forget that if you live abroad and English is not your child's first language, you will also have to schedule her to take the TOEFL.

Preparing carefully for any standardized test is essential, as this short video illustrates.

Submit the formal admissions application.

Now you are in the home stretch. While you can leave the formal application until the last minute these days because most schools have online applications, I do not recommend doing that. At a minimum, create your online admissions application profile in the fall. Take time to review all the components in detail. Print out forms such as the Candidate's Statement and the Parents' Statement and begin writing those as soon as you can. You will very quickly note that each school will require Teacher Recommendations and Academic Transcripts. Again, do not leave these tasks until the last minute.

The private school admissions process is not inherently difficult. It just happens to be a major project which has a lot of components to it, each of which has many subheadings and tasks. Allow yourself plenty of time to get everything done. A happy child in a great school which loves her as much as you do will be the happy outcome.

Questions? Contact us via Twitter. @privateschoolreview


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