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Admission Quest: Applying to Independent Schools

Independent schools ask students to apply for admission, and the admission process typically begins almost a year before the student wants to enroll. In the fall, families investigate school websites, visit school open houses, and narrow down a list of the schools they’d like to apply to. Most applications are due in the winter, but deadlines vary from school to school. It’s important to check the deadline for each school. Independent schools often require:

  • A completed application form, available from the school website or by calling the admission office;
  • Your child’s most up-to-date academic transcript, with grades, from his or her current school;
  • Teacher recommendations;
  • Results of a standardized admissions test and/or a school-administered entrance exam;
  • A formal interview with your child.

Depending on your child’s age, some schools may also ask for parent statements describing the child; student essays; and/or student artwork, writing, or portfolios.

The admission office is also the best source of information about various options for paying for an independent school education. Many schools ask families to submit an application for financial aid at the same time as the admission application.

Admission interviews with students and their families take place in the fall and winter. For very young children, schools often conduct group interviews or have the child visit a class to help gauge whether the school is the right fit for the student’s needs.

Each school works hard to assemble a student body that will benefit most from the type of education it offers. They also look for students whose strengths and personalities will complement those of other admitted students. Some schools weigh academic performance most heavily, but other schools look primarily at a student’s potential. Overall, each school aims to admit students who are the right “fit” for the school, just as parents are looking for schools that are the right fit for their children and families.

Independent schools typically send notifications about admissions decisions in the spring, but some schools offer rolling admissions (offers of admission are made until the class fills up). For a student who’s accepted into several schools, a new challenge emerges—how to choose which to attend. Many schools allow admitted students to visit on a special day or provide some opportunity for students to visit the campus again. Sometimes, shadowing a current student can give the best sense of what it would be like to attend. For parents of prospective students, talking to current parents may help, too. Many schools provide contact information for parents who’ve agreed to speak about their experiences at the school. Reading the school’s newsletters and following it on social media can also help you get a sense of the school’s offerings and culture.

© 2017, National Association of Independent Schools. Reprinted with permission.