Is your college-bound student considering private day school? Many parents believe that a private school gives students the upper hand when it comes to college admissions and is more conducive to individual learning.
Whatever your reason for making that choice, what do you need to know? What does it take to get into one of the top-notch private schools?
Much like college admissions, the private school process can be long and taxing. Families must tour the schools, and students must take admissions tests, be interviewed, and fill out the applications. Each school is different in their criteria, but they all look for many of the same qualities and application components in a successful candidate for admission.
Parents and students who are pursuing a private school education should be prepared before applying. If you know what to expect and present the best impression, the school will be more likely to accept your student.
1. Academic performance
Your student’s academic performance is certainly a key component in the admissions decision. The grades communicate your student’s commitment to study, participate in class, and pursue excellence in academics. The admissions committee is looking for evidence that applicants are interested in learning and other intellectual pursuits. High school applicants should be able to show they have taken advanced coursework and that they are committed to this kind of classwork at their new school. One way to demonstrate commitment: Consider an academic summer program at a college or boarding school.
2. Standardized tests
Most private schools require standardized testing. The two most commonly used independent school tests are the SSAT or Secondary School Admission Test and the ISEE or Independent School Entrance Examination. These tests help schools assess language and mathematic skills which include reading comprehension, vocabulary, reasoning, mathematical concepts and problems. Just like with the SAT and ACT, there are tutors who help with test prep.
Application components include teacher recommendations, the student's own essay and standardized tests. These components help the admissions committee determine a student’s academic strengths, and whether a student needs extra assistance. Private schools pride themselves in helping students perform to their fullest potential.
The personal interview is also a valuable tool to help the admissions committee make their decision. Brainstorm some possible questions with your student. For example, students might be asked to discuss what they like to read outside of school. The answer is not as important as the genuine interest your student shows in learning, both inside and out of the classroom.
5. Extracurricular activities
Students who are applying to top private schools are expected to show interest in an activity outside of the classroom. These might be sports, music, art, drama, community service or any other activity that interests them. Private schools expect their students to get involved in an activity outside of the classroom.
If your student is involved in multiple activities, however, it might be a red flag. Some private schools are cautious about admitting students who are over-involved or overly scheduled. It raises the question of whether or not they will be able to handle the strong academic course load of a private school. Will a student be late to school, leave early or take school time off because of outside commitments?
Private schools are searching for students who will contribute and be positive members of the student body. They look for students who are curious, open-minded and care about others. These schools pride themselves in having a supportive and inclusive environment for students and they want new students to contribute to their community. The admissions committee will also evaluate your student’s ability to work well with other students and teachers based on current teacher comments and recommendations.
7. Supportive parents
You might be surprised, but parents have an impact on the student’s application and acceptance at private schools. Many schools interview the parents, as well as the student. They will question your ability to be involved in your child’s education and partner with the school.
In the interview, they will ask questions about your family dynamic and your willingness to support the school’s expectations. Over-involved, entitled or unsupportive parents can have a negative impact on the student’s application. Some schools will deny students based on the parent interview and evaluation. It’s up to you to communicate a positive, supportive parent image.