The temperatures are cooler, there's snow on the ground, the holidays are behind us and you're thinking you missed out on applying to private school, right? WRONG! The reality is that families search for schools all year ’round. In the fall, some families find themselves so busy getting adjusted to new schedules and routines that it is often hard to find the time to look for schools. Families may begin eying their top choices at that time, but may wait until the winter — or even later — to actually make a decision. That can sometimes be to your benefit, as you take time to consider all options, but be careful to review the individual schools’ admissions processes and application deadlines well in advance because they are all different!
To help you on your way, be sure to review our list of the top things every family should know before applying to private school to ensure you don't miss a beat during the next admissions season.
Know the Deadlines
When it comes to applying to a private school, it’s imperative that families keep track of each school’s application deadline. For Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child, in Summit, NJ, there is an early round for applicants who are only applying to Catholic schools or public schools, where Oak Knoll is the top choice. Oak Knoll also has a regular, later round for applicants applying to a broad range of schools. Not every school has more than one round, and it’s important for families to be sure to jot down the various deadlines on their list.
Know the Process
Regardless of which deadline or school you choose to apply, all require students and their families to complete some sort of an admission application. Some require families to fill out a parent questionnaire and separate student questionnaire to help get to know the family and applicant better. Others may just require the student questionnaire to be filled out. Many will ask families to schedule a student interview or a shadow day. With some COVID restrictions still ongoing, make sure you visit the school’s website to see if they are offering in-person or virtual interviews. Students will almost always be asked to submit teacher recommendation forms, so start researching how many to gather for the school your child is interested in attending. A good rule of thumb is to find out when the school’s deadline in and start working backwards to give teachers ample time to complete them for your child. Make sure to read up about the school’s financial assistance policies as well. Lastly, check out the school testing requirements. Most private, independent schools require ISEE or SSAT and school transcripts, but these requirements could have been altered during the pandemic.
Do Your Research
Why are you applying to this school? Does the mission and values align with your own? Is it because it has a great reptatution in STEM? Or, is the arts program top notch? How will your child thrive in this environment and how will they contribute to the life of the school? If a school on your list focuses heavily on science or math more than any other subject, think about if your child is the right student for that school. Understanding why you are choosing the school will help you in your application. Be sure to ask questions of the admissions counselor before applying, too, so that you understand what types of students they are looking for to be sure it’s a good fit.
Ask yourself the following questions: Is your child interested in getting involved in a variety of subjects such as the arts, athletics, community service or leadership endeavors? Is a private Catholic school right for your child? What about a single-sex school? Does the school offer more challenging honors or advanced placement classes? Spend some time focusing on and even writing a list about what’s most important to your family values and your child’s interest. Then, take this list and match it against each school your child is interested in applying to. Find out if your list matches up with all the schools or just a few of them. What’s important to some children will not always the same across the board for all.
If your family or child still has questions, reach out to admission officers via email or phone at the schools you are considering. The professionals working in admission offices have vast experience in this process and are there to help guide you and field any questions you may have.
Alexandra Holzman joined Oak Knoll School as Director of Upper School Admissions in August 2021. She comes to Oak Knoll from the Admission Office at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Additionally, Alex has previously worked in the Admission Offices at Newark Academy, Peddie School and Morristown-Beard School. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, paddle boarding and spending time with her family.
Alisia Nolan is the Director of Lower School Admissions (PrK-Grade 6) at Oak Knoll School. Nolan joined Oak Knoll School as Director of Lower School Admissions in 2019. She comes to us from the Hedge Fund Industry, having held senior positions at thinkAEN, CIT Capital Securities and Collins Bay Island Securities. In her spare time, she enjoys running, baking and spending time with her family.