Private-school admissions 101
Part 02

Private-school admissions 101

Understanding the key steps in the application process

Okay, parents, you’ve done your homework, attended open houses and whittled down the list of potential private schools for your child. Now comes the most daunting task: navigating the admissions process.

Whether you’re applying to one private school or several, the steps are the same:

Step 1: The application

Every private school requires the completion of a formal application. Make sure you provide all the supplementary materials the school requires, which could include test scores, report cards, school transcripts, reference/recommendation letters or an essay from your child. Always be honest and transparent—and note your child’s achievements as well as any challenges. Most importantly: always meet the application deadlines.

Step 2: The admission exam

Many private schools require a standardized academic-assessment exam as part of the admissions process. “Without a solid academic foundation, it can become challenging for students to find the time to fully embrace all of the learning opportunities that exist beyond the classroom,” says Dave Darby, assistant head of enrolment at Lakefield College School, just north of Peterborough.

Some private schools require additional testing, such as the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test), or personality-centred evaluations, such as the Character Skills Snapshot or the VIA Character Strengths survey.

Step 3: The interview

Private schools typically conduct interviews with prospective students—and sometimes with parents, too. This gives the admissions team an opportunity to meet applicants face to face and ask questions to determine whether the school will be the right fit. “At Lakefield, we provide a guide to help students prepare for their interviews,” Darby says.

Every admissions officer has different questions and traits they seek in applicants, but success is not solely about having good grades. “Involvement with clubs, the arts and athletics provide so many authentic learning opportunities that lead to improved academic and physical performance,” Darby says.

Step 4: The wait

This is often the most stressful period for parents and students. Admissions officers review the student as a whole—their academic abilities, extracurriculars and character. In some cases, the parents are also assessed to determine whether they’ll be active, supportive participants in their child’s education. And while the wait can be challenging, avoid contacting the schools to “check in” on the status of your child’s application: this can brand you a “problem parent,” which may negatively impact your child’s chances.

Step 5: The verdict

Private-school offers of admission are usually sent out in February or March. Prospective students may also be waitlisted or offered temporary admission for a probationary period. The most important thing to remember is that private schools receive far more applications than they have available openings, so competition is very high. If your child is rejected, don’t despair and don’t take it personally. You can always try again the next year.

Above all, don’t feel like you have to figure out the admissions process on your own. “When in doubt, reach out to a member of the admissions team,” Darby says. “There is never a question too big or small.”

More from Toronto Life's Private and Independent School Guide

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