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Private school enrolment: ten stress-free tips

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The process of enroling your child in private school can be stressful–but it doesn't have to be! Here are ten tips to help take the stress out of applying, interviewing, and taking entrance exams.

Tips for applying to school
Sacred Heart School - Photograph by Scott Munn

Private School Enrolment: The Process

Enroling your child in private school is an important process that requires careful thought and extensive research. But, it need not be stressful, as there are multiple ways to ensure that enrolment is painless.

You must first know what to expect from the process, which can include:

Here are 10 useful tips for a stress-free private school enrolment:

  1. Start early. You should give yourself at least one year to complete the process. But, most private school administrators advise starting even earlier. Suzanne Poole, the director of enrolment and marketing at St. John's-Kimarnock in Breslau, Ontario, points out: "One advantage of independent schools is we do have maximum class sizes, so when we're full, we're full." As such, beginning your search early, particularly 16 months in advance, may give you an edge.
  2. Do your homework! You should research all of the schools in your area to identify which one meets your child's specific needs and aptitudes.
  3. Ask questions. Many parents fear that asking an administrator questions will jeopardize their chances for a successful application. In so doing, as Poole says, they miss a lot of necessary information. What are some of the school's hidden costs (e.g., fieldtrips, textbooks, uniforms)? How large are the classes?
  4. Visit the school. Poole recommends touring the school about 16 months before your enrolment. Here, you can speak to other parents and students. Students are especially useful, as they will frankly tell you about their experiences. After all, they can provide the most detailed evaluation.
  5. Be as detailed as possible. Concealing information can only hurt your child, as it will not allow the school to make a fully informed choice about whether it can or how best it can serve your child.
  6. Do not evade parental responsibility. Educational consultant Bill Ford notes that admissions teams are skeptical of parents that merely seek "to offload their own parental responsibility." When you meet with a private school's executives, be sure to show them that you are "prepared to join the community."
  7. Apply to more than one school. As educational consultant Judy Winberg of Options Education puts it, "My thinking there is you can't put all your eggs in one basket. It's a great, great disappointment if students have only applied to one school and then they don't get in for some reason." However, applying to too many private schools is unnecessarily stressful, especially for your child. Winberg thus recommends that you apply to two or three private schools.
  8. Don't stress out your child. If you have a young child, you should be careful to not make him or her anxious about an interview with the school. Touchstone advises parents to assume the following pre-interview attitude: "This is a school we like; you have been invited to visit and see what you think of it. You'll play games with other children and the teachers, and I'll be close by."
  9. Get ahead with a summer reading list. Once your child is accepted, you should get him or her a summer reading list if possible.
  10. Allow your child to be involved in the enrolment process. Giving the student ownership over this important decision may motivate him or her to excel!
Learn more about the application process by attending one of the Private School Expos! Attend information seminars and meet with school officials and current students face-to-face. Register now to get 50% off your admission!
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