Applying to private school is an exciting but demanding process. There is a wide range of schools to apply to, and it's hard for the first-time applicant to know how to manage the process. To ensure a smoother process, try to start early, leave time to visit the schools, and look for the school that fits your child best. Here are common pitfalls to avoid when applying to private school:
Mistake #1: Not Considering a Broad Range of Schools
Parents often become enamored of the vision of their children at a very prestigious boarding or day school, and there is no doubt that the top boarding schools, for example, have amazing resources and faculties. However, as experienced educational consultant Howard Greene suggests, you want to choose a school at which your child will be in the top one-third of the class. If she isn't, she may not feel positive about her experience, and being in the lower half of a school, even a prestigious school, may eventually hurt her chances for college admission. Be honest about who your child is--and where she is likely to succeed. In addition, when looking at schools, consider more than just how the school is ranked, or where many of its graduates attend college. Instead, look at the entire experience for your child. If she loves sports or other extracurricular activities, will she be able to participate in them at that school? Consider how well she is likely to fit into the school, and what her quality of life--and yours--are likely to be at school. Remember, you are not just looking for prestige; instead, you are ideally looking for the right fit between the school and your child.
Mistake #2: Overcoaching Your Child for the Interview
While there is no doubt that the private school interview can be very stressful, there is a line parents must walk between preparing their children--and over-preparing them. It's beneficial for a child to practice speaking about herself in a poised way, and it helps if the child has visited the school she is applying to and knows something about it and why she might want to attend that school. However, the child should not be coached to say things that aren't really true about her interests or motivations. This type of over-coaching can be detected in the interview, and it will hurt her chances. In addition, too much preparation will make the child often feel overly anxious instead of relaxed and at her best during the interview.
Mistake #3:Waiting for the Last Minute
Ideally, the school selection process starts the summer the year before your child will actually attend the school. By the end of the summer, you should've identified the schools you are applying to, arranged tours, and hired an educational consultant, if you plan to do so. Use this calendar to organize your school-search process. If you start too late, you may not have a chance to apply to all the schools you would like to or that would be the best fit for your child.
Mistake #4: Having Someone else Write the Parent's Statement
Most schools require both older students and parents to write statements. Though it may be tempting to farm out your parent's statement to someone else, such as an assistant at work, only you should write this statement. The schools want to know more about your child--and you know your child best. Leave time to think and write about your child in a candid, vivid way. Your honesty enhances your chances of finding the right school for your child.
Mistake #5: Not Comparing Financial Aid Packages
If you are applying for financial aid, be sure to compare the financial aid packages at the different schools your child to which your child is admitted. Often, you can convince a school to match another school's financial aid package. By comparing financial aid packages, you can often manage to attend the school you like best for the best price.