Admissions Checklist

Updated |
 Admissions Checklist
Keep yourself on track as you work through the private school admissions process.
Selecting schools which fit your needs and requirements takes a lot of time and effort just by itself. But once that part of the process of choosing a school is finished, you need to focus on the admissions processes for the three to five schools which you have selected. Use this admissions checklist to keep you and your child on track. There is much detail, plenty of forms to fill out and a standardized admissions test to prepare for.
I have put admissions testing at the top of my checklist simply because it needs as much advance preparation as your child can give it. While standardized admissions tests are just one of several tools which the admissions professionals at each school will use to assess your child, they are an important part of the assessment process. Most schools use the SSAT and ISEE. But there are other tests out there as well. Once you have narrowed your choice of schools to the magic three to five number, review the admissions requirements carefully. With luck you will dsicover that all the schools on your list use the same test. That will simplify matters enormously for both you and your child.
If, on the other hand, you end up with two or possibly three different tests, you will have those additional test registrations to schedule, register and pay for. Scheduling works best when you start as far in advance as you possibly can. The SSAT opens its registration on August 1 and offers test dates in October, November and December. It does offer dates in the winter and spring. But if the schools on your list have firm admissions deadlines, you will need to shoot for one of the fall test dates. Schools with rolling admissions offer you some flexibility.
The ISEE offers its testing through Prometrics. That's the outfit which administers tests for just about any certification you can think of. You can schedule your child's test virtually anytime. If the schools which you have selected for your short list use the ISEE, you will have great flexibility scheduling the actual test.
The next step is to purchase a test preparation book or the online test preparation materials as soon as you can. Schedule a mock test for your child. This will accomplish two things: give your child a feel for how the test is organized and paced; show you which areas you might want to remediate. 
Regarding the test itself it is very important that your child be comfortable and at ease with the test format and test conditions. She will be stressed out enough just having to take a test. Make sure she works two or three practice tests under conditions as close to actual test conditions as you can emulate.
Once you identify any deficiencies get your child the extra help she needs. A couple of tutoring sessions usually does the trick. This extra help will build her confidence so that she will do her best on the actual test date.
Recommendations don't seem like something which needs to be dealt with much advance. But they do and here's why. Your child isn't the only one asking for teacher recommendations. You should allow a week, possibly two weeks, depending on the time of the year for these to be done. You will never see the recommendations mailed. All you can do is take the teacher's word that she has filled out the form and mailed it in the envelope which you so kindly stamped. Try to hand out teacher recommendations in late September or October. November is problematic because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Interview
There are at least two parts to most interviews: the actual interview and the writing sample or essay. Even if the schools which you are looking at happen to be in your local area, interviews need to be schedule in advance and they do take time. Factor that planning into your list of admissions tasks. Yes, you could schedule back to back interviews at schools near you. But that is going to create huge amounts of stress for both you and your child. Space the interviews out. That will allow plenty of time for discussion and debriefing after the interview.
Always arrive at the interview as rested and relaxed as you can be. It is important to be able to read the admissions officer as best you can. While you can never be sure until you receive the acceptance letter, there will be telltale signs that they like you and your child.
Financial Aid
Will you need some help with private school expenses? Then the financial aid process must be started as soon as possible. Most schools use the PFS or Parents Financial Statement. While the application can be done online and the instructions are clear, make sure that you gather all the documentation you need in order to complete and submit your PFS application as soon as possible. Most schools have allocated a specific amount in their budgets for financial aid.  Once that has been spoken for, there probably will not be any more money forthcoming for financial aid.
Additional Items for International Students
Complete and submit your school application as soon as you can. Follow the normal admissions process for each private school. Do not hesitate to ask if you have questions or are not sure about anything. Once you are accepted by the school, it will give you a Form I-20 which allows you to apply for a student visa. The Form I-20 is part of the Student and Visitor Exchange Information System (SEVIS) which tracks information about all students coming to the United States.
Complete and submit your visa application. This is a very time-consuming process, especially if you live far from where the United States Embassy is located. The student visa application and interview is a detailed process requiring you to attend an interview with a U.S. Consular official. You will have to complete many U.S. Immigration Service forms. Check with your local U.S. Consulate for details of payment information.
Schedule your visa application interview. The student applying for the visa must meet with a U.S. Consular official. That means that you must spend time preparing for that interview. Know what questions will be asked. Understand how serious this part of the process is. It is often necessary to schedule visa interview appointments well in advance depending on where you live. Allow several months advance time to complete this part of the process.
Have all documentation in order. A passport valid for at least six months after date of entry is required. Academic documentation such as TOEFL test results, SSAT scores and transcripts of your high school work will also be reviewed. Documentation of adequate financial resources is required. Since your child might be traveling alone when she enters the United States, take time to coach her on the kind of questions she should expect when she is interviewed by the United States Immigration officers.
Pay attention to your visa restrictions. Student visas have strict time limits. You must adhere to these. Overstaying your visa by even one day can void your visa. In other words you cannot decide to change anything about your visa terms without serious consequences.
One Last Thing
Your child’s admissions file is not complete until all the forms have been submitted. No decision can be made unless the file is complete. Don't relax until your child's file is complete. Make sure that you beat any deadlines by several days at a minimum. Several weeks or a month in the case of domestic applicants is a good idea. The point of this admissions checklist is to help you stay organized throughout what is a rather lengthy and detailed process.

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