Applying to a private school is a process. It is a process with many sections and parts to it. If you are accustomed to managing projects and meeting deadlines, this is just another version of that kind of exercise. I strongly recommend that you set up up just as carefully as you set up a major 12 to 18 month project at the office. When you organize yourself this way, you can put the project on the back burner for a week or so in the first six months without losing any momentum because you have your notes and 'Must Do's' listed. You can see what has to be done at a glance.
Start the process well in advance.
Begin your private school search at least 18 months in advance of when you actually want your child to begin classes. For example, if you want your child to begin Grade 10, then you would begin your private school search process in the spring of Grade 8. That will give you summer and fall to identify and visit schools. That will also allow time for admissions testing and submitting applications. You can start earlier if you prefer, but this timetable will give you enough time to thoroughly research and visit schools without feeling rushed. You will be able to arrive at well-informed decisions about where to apply. Starting far in advance ensures that you have enough time to take care of all the details and arrangements involved with visit schools for the admissions interviews as well as allowing time for test and preparing the admissions applications. Each of these parts of the process is time-consuming on its own. You will appreciate having had that the cushion of extra time as the final deadlines get closer. Excluding the school visits. you are probably looking at a project which will require more than 100 hours of your time. Organize it thoughtfully and well and that 100 hours will fly.
Using the Applications Calender
If you're a little out-of-sync with the timeline below, not to worry. This calendar is only a rough guideline. While application and testing deadlines are key dates you will need to follow, families differ in how long they will need to explore and evaluate schools.
If you are starting the process late in the game or need help with particular parts of the process, seek the professional advice of an educational consultant before you get discouraged and frustrated. These professionals know their schools and will work through the toughest problems for you efficiently. They are well worth the fees which they will charge you.
|July - August|
|September - October|
|January - February|
Comments on the line items by month.
Begin with a self assessment. You need to agree on your requirements by creating the following lists. Take time to discuss this as a family in detail factoring in both your needs and your child's needs.
List the academic, athletic and extracurricular opportunities you seek.
List any academic or athletic goals you wish to achieve in high school.
Research a wide-range of private schools.
Review your initial list with your educational consultant.
It won't matter whether you have 10, 20 or 30 schools on your initial list. One by one you and your consultant if you hired one will reduce the list down to 3 to 5 schools which have just about everything you are looking for.
Whenever possible, try to visit the schools on your short list over the summer months. The admissions staff will be able to schedule a campus tour and your interview during the summer much more easily than if you try to visit in November or December, for example.
November and December have holidays in them. So, don't count on having 8 weeks to take care of admissions testing, completing applications and financial aid forms. You really only have 5 weeks by the time you factor in Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Be careful not to leave matters to the last minute. Whenever a school advertises a fixed deadline, it truly means fixed. Of course, if they have a place open up later in the spring, you might be in luck. Were it I, however, I would want the certainty of a place for my child wouldn't you?
Give the Teacher Recommendation Forms out in early November if not before. Please include put a stamp on the return envelope. That's just the courteous thing to do. And, no, you may not ask or see what your child's teachers have written. That is strictly confidential.
Assuming, of course, that you are applying to schools with fixed end of January deadlines, get those applications completed. Many schools use a common application which will simplify things somewhat. Do not wait until the last minute to click "Submit" with online applications. That will be the moment your system freezes or crashes or the cable company decides to perform maintenance. Submit your application at least 5 days ahead of the deadline.
Questions? You may contact me on Twitter. @privateschl