Most private schools require a candidate statement as part of the application packet for students who are applying to grades 6 through the post-graduate year. Many schools accept a common application provided by the SSAT to simplify the process of applying to more than one school. You can either fill out a paper copy of your application and send it to the schools you are applying to, or many schools also now offer online applications that you can submit electronically to the school.
As part of the application, you will have to answer short questions about your interests and activities and write an essay that usually asks you about yourself. The essay is about 300 words in length, which is roughly one typed page. Admissions committees tend to ask common kinds of essay questions, such as asking about what you like to do or what you want in a school.
There are some steps you can follow to complete your application essay:
Take time to brainstorm about the essay.
Before writing the essay, take time to assemble all the activities you have participated in, including classes, extracurricular activities, sports, community service, and travel. You will have to fill out a chart listing your activities on most applications, so it’s helpful to write them out beforehand. Think about what your activities have meant to you, and try to think of one activity in particular that could be the basis of your essay. You can also form your essay around something you want the admissions committee to know about you—whether it’s your family, your background, your neighborhood, or your values. Jot down a few ideas on paper and give yourself time to think about them.
If you are stuck and don’t know what to write about, think about how you would introduce yourself to a stranger. What would you want that person to know about you? What are the most important interests or values that make up your personality? These should be the subject of your essay.
Start writing—in your own voice.
Admissions staffs can sniff out insincerity, and they do not look favorably upon essays that are written by adults. Write your essay by yourself, and make sure it reflects you and your interests. Remember, you are looking for a school at which you will do well and that will help you develop your interests. If you write about something that you think the schools want to hear rather than what you want to say, you may not impress the admissions staff that reads your work. You will also have an interview, and the admissions staff wants to see the same kid at the interview who is presented in the essay.
Avoid topics likely to put off the admissions committee.
What you write about is up to you. The essay should reflect your passions and why you want to attend the school. However, you should be sure to avoid controversial topics or topics that might turn off your committee. Your essay should avoid criticizing teachers, schools, other people, or groups of people. Stay positive, and instead of writing about what you don’t like at school (unless the application asks for that information), generally write about what you do like. That’s what’s important for the schools to know.
Do some research about the school.
Make sure that you research the schools you are applying to and that your essays reflect this research. For example, if you are writing about how you want to row crew in high school, be sure the school has a crew team. If you are knowledgeable about the school, you will make a more convincing case that you are right for the school.
Leave time for revisions and corrections.
You should spend some time reading over your essay and making sure that it contains no grammatical or spelling errors. Make sure you have expressed yourself clearly and that your reader can understand what you have written.
Use your essay to prepare for your interview.
By writing your essay, you are also preparing for your interview, in which you will tell the admissions staff what’s important about you. If you think about your activities and values and your goals for yourself in school, you will be prepared to speak about these topics at your interview. Therefore, you should take your time when writing the essay because it will also help you prepare for your interview.