The private school admissions process can be quite long and taxing; applicants and their parents must tour schools, go on interviews, take admissions tests , and fill out applications. During the entire process, applicants and their parents wonder what admissions committees are actually looking for. Though each school is different, here are some the major criteria that admissions committees are looking for in successful applicants:
Academic and Intellectual Interest
For admission to the older grades, private school admissions committees will of course look at the applicant’s grades, teacher comments, and ISEE or SSAT scores . For younger students who are applying to pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, the schools may look at ERB tests, which are modified intelligence tests.
In addition to test scores, the admissions committee is looking for evidence that the applicant is genuinely interested in learning, reading, and other intellectual pursuits. In the interview, they may ask your child about what she reads or what she likes to study in school. The answer is not as important as the genuine interest your child shows in learning—inside and outside of school. If your child has a compelling interest, she should be prepared to speak about it in the interview and to explain why it means something to her. Applicants to the older grades in high school or in the postgraduate year should show that they have taken advanced coursework in an area of interest, if available to them, and that they are committed to taking this kind of classwork at their new school.
Applicants to older grades should show interest in an activity outside of the classroom, whether it’s sports, music, drama, publications, or another activity. They should research what the options to participate in this activity are at the school they are applying to, and they should be prepared to speak about this interest in the interview and how they will further it.
Character and Maturity
Schools are looking for students with a great deal of maturity. Boarding schools are particularly looking for a high level of independence, as students are expected to function independently in school. In addition, admissions committees look for evidence of the student’s having participated in public service. The committee also looks at the teacher comments to make sure the applicant is the type of student who works well with other students and teachers. Students can also show maturity through holding positions of leadership at their current schools or by leading extracurricular activities, sports teams, or community service programs.
Fit with the School
Admissions committees look for students who are a good fit. They want to accept kids who will do well at the school and who will find it easy to fit in with the school culture. For example, they are more likely to accept applicants who know about the school, its mission, its classes, and its offerings. They are less likely to accept a student who doesn’t know much about the school or who isn’t interested in the school’s mission. For example, if the school is a single-sex school, the admissions committee is looking for students who are knowledgeable about single-sex schools are who are interested in having this type of education. Some schools are more likely to accept applicants who already have siblings at the school, as these applicants and their families already know a lot about the school and are committed to the school. An educational consultant can help the applicant and his or her family understand which schools might fit the student best, or applicants can look over schools during the tour and interview to get a better sense of whether the school is right for them.