It’s private school admissions season! Chances are, you’ve heard of the crazy private school admissions process in New York City. Applying to private schools in New York suburbs such as Westchester County, New Jersey and Fairfield County can be stressful too. As a private school mom, I went through the process multiple times! But with enough planning and preparation, you can take some stress off yourself. So if you are applying to private schools or even if you are just exploring the idea of sending your child to a private school, you should read this! I hope you find my private school admissions advice useful!
Private School Admissions Advice
1. Attend Private School Open Houses
Every Fall, starting sometime in September, private schools have open houses where you can learn more about each school’s curriculum, teaching philosophy and admissions process. Plan early and attend the open houses for the schools you are interested in. Check out Suburbs 101 Private School open house guides for Westchester County, Fairfield County and Northern New Jersey.
2. Start Planning Early
The private school admissions process starts a year in advance. Even if you are on the fence about private schools or you intend to apply a few years from now, I suggest you start planning now. Attend open houses and information sessions even if you are not quite ready to apply this year.
Check out our list of Best Private Schools in the New York Suburbs
3. Know the Private School Entry Years
This is probably one of my most important private school admissions advice, find out when the entry years are. Every private school is different. Entry years are the years when private schools add a new class to the grade level. It’s important to know when the entry years are because applying during entry years will increase your child’s chances of getting in due to the addition of more open slots. Plus it usually is the optimal time for your child to start a new school because there will be many new kids in class and your child will not be the only new kid. If you apply during a non-entry year, the chances of getting in are generally not as high. Depending on the school, some schools will have a few open spots in non-entry years or some schools will have no opening at all (ie: someone needs to leave the school for there to be an open spot). Know the entry years so you can plan the optimal time to submit your application. And if you are applying for multiple children at once, you can plan ahead and apply during the entry years. Don’t be afraid to call the admissions office to find out when their entry years are. Don’t assume every school has the same entry years, knowing when they entry years will increase your child’s chance of getting in.
4. Know the Private School Admissions Process
Research. Research. Research. Know the admissions process for private schools you are interested in (every school is different)- When does the school tour take place? Who conducts the tour (student, alum, parent volunteer, admission staff)? When is the parent interview? Some schools conduct the parent interviews right after the tour, don’t be caught unprepared! How many child visits are there? What is the format of the child visit? Is it a parent/child visit? Is it a playgroup? Depending on your child’s grade level, there may be different requirements. Older kids will be required to take standardized tests like the ERB. And they will be assessed during school visits. Don’t be afraid to call the admissions office to find out.
5. Prepare for the Private School Parent Interview
Probably one of the most important step of the private school admissions process is the parent interview. So do take time to prepare for the parent interview. The most important thing you an do to prepare for your parent interview is to know your child. Can you describe your child? What are his/her strengths? What makes your child unique? Come prepared with anecdotes to share. The parent interview is also a good time to share some of your family values, what you want for your child’s education and why you are interested in attending a particular school. Don’t expect a structured interview where the admissions director asks all the questions, most likely, the interview will feel like a casual conversation. So come prepared for a conversation and be ready with questions to ask. Don’t forget to relax and be yourself. The interview is a chance for the admissions director to get to know you, your spouse, your child and your family but also an opportunity for you to get to know the school.
Check out our Private School Parent Interview Tips
6. Be Available for the Private School Parent Interview and Tour
I can’t stress this enough for all steps of the private school admissions process. It’s important that both you and your spouse or you and your partner are present for the parent interview and the tour. And make sure you both come prepared, do your research and you should both be engaged at the parent interview asking questions and giving anecdotes of your child to the admissions director. Having both parents present is a demonstration of interest in the school and the value you place on your child’s education.
7. Don’t forget to send a Thank You Note to the Private School Admissions Director
Send the admissions director a thank you note. Let him/her know that you are very interested in their school. Send a thank you note via email and mail a handwritten note. Don’t drag your feet on this, do it immediately.
8. Find out if your child’s teacher is allowed to submit written recommendations to Private Schools
Written recommendations is an vital part of the private school admission process. However, believe it or not, there are some public school districts that don’t allow teachers to submit written recommendations to private school applicants. This may put your child at a disadvantage when you apply because the admissions director will have one less source to go on to get to know your child. One way to get around this is to ask your child’s teacher if he/she is willing to make a phone call to talk to the private school admissions director about your child.
9. Talk to Other Private School Parents
This is often an overlooked step in the private school admissions process. You may think you don’t know anyone with children enrolled in the school your child is applying to. I suggest you ask around. You will be surprised at how helpful your friends and colleagues are in connecting you to parents at private schools. I’ve personally received several calls from acquaintances and friends of friends and don’t find it out of the ordinary. In fact, I welcome these calls and try to help these parents. During your call, ask about their school experience. What is the school culture like? How involved are the parents? What kind of kids thrive in their school? Can they give you some pointers on the admissions process? Talking to current parents at your target schools will help you better gauge which schools will be a good fit for your child and your family.
10. Be Yourself
I admit, the private school admissions process is stressful. There are many aspects of the private school admissions process that are out of your control. It’s important to take a step back and just relax. Be yourself. Tell your children to relax and be themselves.
I hope you find my private school admissions advice helpful. Good luck with the process!
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