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Private School Applications



Private schools require students to submit applications. Applications are a key way private schools get to know prospective students and their families. Find out more about the process of private school applications in this article.

Many private schools offer campus visits and a student interview (and sometimes a parent interview - or at least a conversation) with an admissions officer or other contact, and you may wish to complete the application after any of these for two reasons. First, you will know more clearly if you and the school are really a good match and so won’t spend time and money unnecessarily. Second, you will have an idea of your audience, and this is likely to make it easier to write the application and give your writing more coherence.

A student’s recommendations, grade reports, and parental input give a great deal of information about the student, but the application is a chance for the student to communicate directly without the on-the-spot pressure of an interview that prevents from some students from doing their best in that setting.

If there is a required writing sample or essay, students for whom writing is not a strength may choose to use a piece of writing that they have worked on in school, if possible, in order to show their best effort. If the student is writing particularly for the application, it may be important to clarify - either by carefully reading the application directions or asking - what the limits are on parents or teachers offering proofreading or other kinds of assistance.

If your child has a disability, speak to the admissions department about how it is appropriate to handle the application under the special circumstances that prevail.

If your family plans to request financial aid or apply for scholarships, this will probably come in the form of a separate application and be filled out primarily by the parent.

Application Etiquette

It might not be immediately apparent that there is etiquette attached to applications, but there is. Imagine receiving hundreds of illegible, smudged, crumpled documents, and you’ll immediately recognize that typing or clear writing and care in keeping the document neat and clean will make a difference to the reader(s).

Whether you consider it etiquette or put it in another category, honesty is another bottom-line requirement for the application. Keep in mind that schools are no longer resting their decisions solely on information that the student and his or her family provide them. School admissions officers have learned the value of Googling and looking at students’ MySpace or other websites to gain a more complete view of their applicants. As well as being an additional incentive for honesty on the application, it’s also an incentive for the student (and parents) to consider what the student is conveying to the world through the Internet.

Helpful Hints for a Successful Application:

  • Not every answer has to be long - answers should fit the detail specified by the question, but if there is additional important information, feel free to add on. If there is not enough space, you can attach additional pages, even if the application does not directly invite you to do so. 
  • Be honest. But remember that you have choices about how to present things. You could say “one of my weaknesses is . . . ” or you could say “one of the areas in which I’d like to improve is . . . .” Match your choices for how you communicate to the circumstances for best results. 
  • Lists can help. Walk away from the application and make a list of anything it asks for: awards and honors, leadership positions held, your strengths, your weaknesses, your favorite books, your favorite school subjects, your hobbies and special interests. Put it down for a bit and come back to it. This will allow you to avoid omitting something that you missed in your first thoughts, to organize the list in a way that makes sense (e.g., putting the most important item first, alphabetically, or categorically), and to figure out how it’s going to fit in the space provided, so you don’t end up squishing the last items, for example. 
  • Even if the essay is to be done in handwriting on the application, you may wish to draft it in a word processor and print it out to check it. You can sometimes see spelling and punctuation errors more clearly in print, and you can use this printout as your model to copy into the application. 
  • Nowadays, many schools have applications available on line, so that if • for whatever reason - you need to begin on a fresh copy, you have easy access to one.

Follow Up

If, after you’ve sent out the application, you find that you’ve left out something important, misspelled a word, put the wrong year, or made some other error that you’d like to see corrected, don’t hesitate to contact the school to make the correction.