As a parent or guardian preparing to enroll your young learner in an independent school, you may wonder how you can make their application stand out. While there is no way to guarantee that your child will be accepted to the independent school of your choice, there are easy ways to make your child stand out as the excellent candidate they are.
Independent or Private School Application Tips
1. Get to know the school.
Getting to know the schools you may want your child to attend is the first, and most important, step in the admissions process. Visit the school’s website and explore the information they share about their academic, athletic, and extracurricular programs, and campus life. Familiarizing yourself in this way will allow you to begin to decide whether the school is a good fit for your child and your family and will prepare you to ask the right questions during the admissions process. Many school websites host a wealth of information for potential students and their families. You may even hear from students and teachers or see a virtual campus tour.
You should also make note of important dates throughout their admissions process. For instance, most schools host virtual or on-site open houses, and families hoping to enroll their child will want to be sure to attend these events as they are a great way to get a true sense of the school culture.
2. Think deeply about what you’re looking for in a school.
It’s important to remember that your child might be the one attending the school, but you are applying for yourself and your family as well! For this reason, it’s critical to think deeply about what you are looking for in a school, not only for your young learner but for your family as a whole.
Think about what outcomes you are most hoping to achieve by enrolling your child in. Knowing what you’d ultimately like to achieve will help you know what elements to focus on and look for.
For instance, is the goal to ensure your child has the best possible chance of being accepted into one of their top college choices? If so, you’ll want to seek out schools with strong college counseling programs and excellent college placement records. You should also ask about the availability of advanced classes and interesting extracurricular opportunities that will add to college applications.
Are you looking to ensure your child contributes to your community in a positive and productive way? Schools that offer service-learning programs can help provide a community connection and focus on developing children into global citizens.
Ultimately, the elements that are most important to you when searching for your child’s school will help drive your school selection process. Knowing what you do and do not want from your child’s education can make clear whether a prospective school will be a right fit for your young learner and for you.
3. Think about your child’s interests.
It’s also important for parents and caregivers to remember that they are not just enrolling their child in a school; they are placing them into their new educational “home” for years. For this reason, it’s important to factor your child’s interests into your search and application process.
Engage your child in the search and application process and ask them questions. Does your child want to participate in athletics? Is your child interested in joining specific clubs or extracurricular activities?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help guide you to the school(s) that will allow them to explore their interests and will ensure your young learner feels excited and engaged about their prospective school. Excited and engaged children also have a much easier time interviewing for new programs and feel prepared and empowered in their school application process.
Remember that starting a new school can be a stressful experience for your child and making sure their hopes and concerns are addressed throughout the process is key to ensuring their success in this new journey.
4. Consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
It’s also important to consider your child’s academic and social strengths and weaknesses. Knowing where they excel—and where they may need additional support—helps you choose a school that will benefit your child, and benefit from your child’s enrollment.
If your child is a future engineer, choosing a school with a focus on STEAM and technology can ensure they see progress and participate in programs and activities that set them on the path for success. Are they a student who tends to get lost in the shuffle? A school with smaller class sizes and dedicated peer and teacher tutoring and mentoring programs can provide them with the support and individualized attention that will help them thrive.
Taking stock of where your child excels and where they will need additional support will guide your application process and help you focus on the independent school that will ensure they succeed.
5. Prepare questions for admissions.
Think of the admission interview as a job interview. Asking thoughtful questions can help guide your decision-making and demonstrates your interest in the school. It’s a great idea to sit with your child and craft questions you both may want to ask the admissions team.
Coming prepared with a chart or list of areas about which you’d like more information, and questions or concerns you might have about what you’ve already learned will allow you to organize your thoughts and ensure you have a comprehensive picture of the school. Don’t plan to take notes on your phone as it may appear that you are not focused on the conversation.
Finally, empowering your child to ask their own questions will help them feel engaged in the process and invested in your choice. It may help to host a test interview at home, and take turns asking each other questions and preparing thoughtful answers.
Connect with Your Prospective School
It’s important to remember that in the school application process, you have the experts right at your fingertips—school administrators and teachers! Members of the admissions team can often dive deeper into subjects and areas you want to know more about and can provide you with the resources you need to make the best possible choice.
It also helps to connect with the families of other students. These parents and children have the unique perspective of having already completed the admissions process and may have had many of the same questions or concerns you’re having now. Remember that your child’s school will become your community, and connecting early with the parents, teachers and administrators will help you begin to form your network and ensure you and your child’s interest and commitment to success are clear.