I wrote this article and its companion article Applications - The Candidate's Statement to explain how to understand and complete these important forms. The problem with these parts of the application is that they require you and your child to express your thoughts in your own words. You won't be able to check any boxes to select from prepared answers. You will have to write out responses to the school's questions in any way you choose.
David Petersam of Admissions Consultants offers some tips in the following video. While he targets colleges admissions, the advice is quite sound for private high school admissions.
Many schools require a statement from the applicant's parents. After all, you probably know your child better than anybody. The school also wants to know what your concerns and educational objectives are. The goal here is to make sure that everybody's expectations are the same. For example, if you want your son to play on a varsity hockey team and the school offers limited hockey time, you need to deal with that before you decide to send your son to that school. Perhaps your daughter finds math challenging. You will want to point that out so that the school can discuss how it might deal with that concern.
The following questions posed by McCallie School and The Hun School are fairly typical of what you will encounter as you prepare your applications. I will add editorial comments to try to give you some insight into what the school might be looking for.
- What do you hope your child will accomplish at McCallie?
- From what activities does your child derive self-confidence?
- What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses? (Please comment on social characteristics: e.g., self-reliance, sense of humor, ability to mix, shyness, assertiveness, etc.)
- Include any particular concerns of which the school should be aware: e.g., Has your child experienced any difficult challenges or personal setbacks in recent years? Are there any medical conditions of which we should be aware?
- Has your child had any psychological or educational testing?
- Does your child regularly take any prescription medication?
- Does your child's health limit or interfere with the normal performance of everyday activities, including classwork, athletics, or other duties?
- Please make any additional comments about your child which you feel may be helpful to us.
The school is asking a lot of questions but, as this video demonstrates, the school is asking those questions for all the right reasons.
Always be realistic and honest. As far as accomplishments are concerned, you may want your child to go to Harvard but since that is a long shot, I would suggest mixing in your academic hopes with every parent's hope that your son will emerge at the end of high school confident that he can take on anything life throws at him.
You can probably assess your child's strengths and weaknesses better than anybody. Choose your words carefully. Allow the reader to feel your unconditional love and involvement with your son's upbringing through the years. A statement similar to the following acknowledges that there was a weakness and demonstrates how you addressed that weakness. "Jon used to struggle with math, but we found this wonderful tutor who showed Jon how to work math problems logically. Now he loves the subject."
If there are health issues, discuss them candidly but with bold strokes. There is no need to delve into clinical details. What the school really wants to know is that any medical issues have been dealt with.
Be careful with the last section which asks you to make any additional comments which you feel may be helpful. Focus on the positive. "Rich has just taken up riding. He really enjoys it which is why we decided to apply to your school." The school may be asking the questions but never forget that you are also a potential customer.
It is very helpful for us to learn about our applicants through their parents’ eyes. Your answers to these questions will help us to better understand your child’s social and educational needs. Please attach additional pages if necessary.
- Please list any relatives who have attended The Hun School (name, class, relationship).
- Please discuss your primary reason for considering a new school for your child.
- Describe your child as an individual, explaining briefly what you believe are his or her strengths, weaknesses, goals, and aspirations.
- Has your child ever had an educational evaluation? If so, please explain the circumstances and send us a copy of the written evaluation.
- Has your child ever required any academic support or accommodations? If so, please explain.
- What are your expectations of The Hun School?
- What role do you play in your child’s education?
- Please list the names, ages, and current schools of other children in your family.
- We welcome any additional comments you may wish to make.
Once again each school will ask for a snapshot of your child in your own words. Their reasons for wanting to know your child has much to do with getting the fit right, both for your child and the school.
As you can readily see from these two examples, the schools are assembling a composite picture of your child via written applications and statements, an interview and academic testing. Once the admissions staff has a clear idea of your child's strengths and weaknesses, interests and achievements, then it can begin to make a final determination as to whether your child will fit in and vice-versa. What you may not be aware is the size of the applicant pool. If there are fewer applicants for the available places, your child's chances could improve markedly.
Since so much is riding on the Parent's Statement, do the following:
- Download and print out the forms, even if you plan to apply online.
- Prepare a rough draft of your answers.
- Put that draft away for a day or two.
- When you have some quiet time, review the draft and revise it as necessary.
- If you have an educational consultant, be sure to discuss and review this part of the application with him.
- Make a fair copy of your answers.
Then set aside 30-45 minutes to enter the information online or to write it out in your neatest penmanship. Some schools may have PDF forms that you can fill out and print. In any case, take time to complete this step with great care. Your statement will create an impression of you and your family. You want that impression to be the best one possible.
One last tip: use the Applications Calendar to keep on top of all the deadlines involved in the admissions process. There is much to organize in the application process. In most cases, the application process will collide with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and vacations. Bear that in mind as you schedule time for completing applications.
Don't forget to start your search for a private school at least 18 months before the date your child will actually start school. For example, if you are thinking of having her attend 10th grade, begin the process in the spring of her eighth grade. You will find that the last three or four months will be rather hectic. There is much to do at what is historically a very busy time of the year.
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