Finding the right school and applying is a process that takes preparation. Most schools advise parents to start at least a year in advance because applications for most schools are due between October and December.
To ensure that the school you are interested in is the right fit, start your search by gathering information about various schools, visit websites, take tours, call, attend community education fairs, Open House/Preview days, shadow days. Open Houses are usually on weekends, if you’d like to see students and teachers on a typical day at the school, set up a tour and ask to visit classes. Some schools allow students to shadow another student during a school day. Ask when this is available before applying or after they have been accepted. Some schools will let you shadow before making the decision to even apply.
Here are some suggested questions to ask:
- Is there a character education program? How is conflict dealt with?
- What is the homework policy?
- What might a typical math/language arts lesson look like?
- What extra-curricular programs are available after school?
- Are there classes other than the core subjects, such as art, P.E., foreign language, music?
- Is there an after school program? Before school care?
- Is technology integrated into the curriculum? To what extent?
- What is the grading system and how are student assessed?
- What credentials do teachers need to have? Does the school provide professional development? To what extent?
- What sports are offered?
- Is there a lunch program? School nurse? Security and emergency procedures in place?
- What percentage of students go to college? Where?
- Are there scholarships and tuition assistance available?
- Are there specific entry years, does a school have rolling admissions?
Also, talk to students, ask about their experiences, what they like about that particular school. Ask to look at work samples, journals, student outcomes.
Some schools have an online application, some have hard copies. Be sure you know what is needed for a completed application. What additional documents are needed and where can it be found? Some schools can give application waivers, so certainly ask. And be clear on next steps, so nothing is missed. The more information you can provide, the better, especially if you are a long-distance applicant. Put current teachers in contact with admissions directors to send works samples and give insight
Tips on how to handle admissions testing varies by age. For young children, visit the school before testing to get them acclimated. Make it fun and exciting, don’t stress. Over prepping can backfire. For older children, more schools are using assessments and activities to evaluate a student’s character. Some schools use standardized testing as a baseline. Ask how much a test weighs in the decision-making and/or student success at the school? Visit www.ssat.org for parent webinars on how to prepare students and how to interpret scores.
Most decision letters are mailed in March and April. Some may be sent out earlier, but families do not need to make a decision until the common HAIS dates: April 15 for Grades 6-12 and May 10 for Grades K-5. See www.hais.org for more information.