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How to Apply to Private School: Admissions 101

If you’ve decided that private school is the best route for your child’s education, you may have questions about the application process. Each private school will have a different admissions process with different deadlines and requirements. Once you’ve chosen the right private school for your child, you will need to start the application process to try and secure your child’s placement. Some private schools are more competitive than others. Missing a step in the admissions process or failing to meet a deadline can have big consequences on your child’s future, so it’s absolutely critical that you do your research and prepare yourself as much as possible before you apply to private schools.

Take a look at our step-by-step guide below to learn how to apply to private schools and everything else you need to know about private school admissions:

Step 1: Plan Ahead Before Applying to Private Schools

There is so much you need to do as a parent between the time you start considering private schools and the day your child gets an acceptance letter. The best thing you can do is to plan ahead. Set some goals for yourself. Give yourself two weeks to compile a list of your child’s needs, three weeks to research schools in your area, and six weeks to visit your top school choices. Set a schedule that you can realistically stick to. Compile a list of contacts — one for each school — and information regarding each school’s application process such as key deadlines, fees, and required testing. Some families pay to work with a private school consultant instead of tackling the application process on their own. This is entirely up to you, so you need to decide what will be best for your child and your budget.

Step 2: The Admissions Interview

The admissions interview is a private school’s first chance to get to know your child face-to-face and talk to them about their goals and ambitions. It’s important that you schedule your child’s admissions interview well in advance of any deadlines to ensure he or she has enough time to prepare. You as the parent should take the time to ask your child practice questions that may come up in their admissions interview and help them express themselves in the best way possible. Your children will need to make a good first impression on the admissions staff, so make sure that you drop them off on time, dress them in school appropriate clothing, and instruct them to be polite, honest, and true to themselves during their admissions interview. Once your child has completed their admissions interview, it may be a good idea to write the admissions staff a thank you note. Be sure to check in on that status of your child’s application if you haven’t heard back from the admissions office a week or so after your interview.

Step 3: Admissions Testing

Most private schools require some sort of admissions testing as part of their application process for students in grades 5-12. The ISEE and SSAT are the most common tests given by private schools across the country. There are many practice questions and tests available online. Make sure your child takes the time to understand the format of the test, study the material, and complete practice tests, so they will be as prepared as possible for their admissions test. Most private schools also require applicants to submit an essay or writing sample. There are many things you can do as a parent to help your child prepare for their admissions test such as making flash cards, proof reading their writing, and ensuring your child gets a good night’s sleep before their admissions testing date.

Step 4: Applications

The application process will differ slightly from private school to private school, but nearly all schools will have a strict deadline for submitting applications. Application deadlines are typically late January to early March, but some schools accept applications all year long. It’s important for you to inquire within each school’s admissions office to be sure you understand the rules and deadlines for each school your child is applying to. Some private schools may accept online applications while others may require you to drop off an application by hand. Most private schools require parents to submit a Parents Financial Statement (PFS) as well. You will most likely need to obtain references from your child’s former teachers too. Lastly, your child will have to fill out and submit a Candidate Statement while you complete and submit the Parent Statement or Questionnaire. Certain private schools charge an application fee and not all schools offer a refund, so make sure to research these things before you start the application process for a particular private school.

 Step 5: Acceptances

The last and final step in the application process for private schools is getting accepted! Acceptance letters are typically sent out in late March or early April. If your child gets wait-listed, don’t lose hope. A place might open up for your child before the school year starts. However, if your child was accepted to one private school and wait-listed at another, it may help you decide between the two. If you plan for the application process ahead of time, prepare your children for the admissions interview and testing, and successfully complete the application paperwork, your kid should be in a great position to be accepted at every private school he or she applies to.

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