Whether your family applies to elementary, middle, or high school, private school application deadlines are typically intertwined with the winter holidays, school concerts, theater productions, sports, dance recitals, and other youth activities.
Amidst the frenzy, the following tips will help you avoid costly application mistakes, prioritize, stand out, and, hopefully, keep your head on straight!
<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">Stay organized and prioritize.</span>
As you research and connect with numerous schools, it’s easy to confuse details between them. Find an organizational structure that works best for you, whether keeping a spreadsheet or setting reminders in your calendar (or both!). You’ll want to track and double-check deadlines and critical milestones for each school and set reminders for following up on items such as recommendation letter requests.
The Standard Application Online (SAO) also provides a convenient dashboard showing your application progress for each school.
Schools with set application deadlines wait to review all applications after the deadline, so it doesn’t matter if you apply a day or three weeks prior. Therefore, prioritize applications based on the earliest deadline and your top-choice schools. That said, be mindful of schools with rolling admissions that review applications as they are received.
Schools typically don't close their online applications at midnight on the deadline day—that said, it's better not to chance it. Make sure you submit applications well ahead of time, and if you are cutting it close to the deadline, be mindful of timezone differences.
<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Track your pros and cons for each school.</span>
As you research schools, keeping a list of pros and cons will help you understand those that fit your family well and prioritize your applications. This exercise will also give you a list of talking points for admission interviews and any follow-up communication (see #9 below).
<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">Consolidate your questions.</span>
If you have questions—ask. Just remember that, like families, admissions teams are extremely busy as application deadlines approach, and schools often close during holiday breaks. Consolidating questions helps admissions representatives maximize their time and boosts your chances of getting everything answered.
Brainstorm questions for each school as a family during dinner or on a long car ride. In the best-case scenario, your questions list is ready before the school visit and interview; if not, sending a follow-up email is typically best.
<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">Take advantage of school breaks.</span>
Finding time for students to write their admission essays and study for the SSAT is also challenging amidst current school work and activities. School vacations often offer a necessary respite to focus on essay writing and SSAT studying. From a parental standpoint, it’s best to discuss taking advantage of this time with your child well ahead of vacations so they are mentally prepared and not caught off-guard.
Likewise, working parents with spare vacation or personal days may want to plan time off to focus on completing applications. You typically have parent statements to write, and having the time to double-check and proofread everything will help ensure a quality submission.
<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Communicate with schools about late assessments.</span>
Students taking the SSAT or Character Skills Snapshot late in the application process may not have assessment results before a school’s application deadline. Private schools are typically understanding and willing to accept results after the deadline, but you should still inform them of the situation and confirm that it is acceptable.
Review the assessment release schedules:
For the SSAT, don’t forget that parents must complete the Testing Experience Statement for results to be released. Complete the statement as soon as possible after your student takes the SSAT to ensure a timely score release.
<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">File taxes ASAP for financial aid applications.</span>
Families applying for financial aid are typically required to submit current-year income tax returns. Prepare to file your taxes as soon as possible to have this information available for each school’s financial aid application deadline. If this isn’t feasible, communicate the situation to the school’s financial aid representative and ask if it is acceptable to submit tax information after the application deadline or if you can submit your previous year’s filing.
<span class="text-color-orange" role="decoration">Save time applying to schools with the SAO.</span>
After inputting the necessary information for one private school application through the Standard Application Online (SAO)—the user-friendly and most widely accepted K–12 common application—your family will save seven hours or more with each additional submission. That’s 14 hours with three applications, 28 hours with five applications, and 49 hours saved when submitting eight applications!
<span class="text-color-lightblue" role="decoration">Expand your application pool.</span>
With 60 percent of schools receiving more applications from qualified candidates than they have openings, waitlists are growing. Plan for the possibility of getting waitlisted by keeping an open mind and expanding your application pool to include more schools. The SAO and our Private School Search make identifying and applying to additional schools that meet your preferred criteria easy.
However, simply applying at the last minute without engaging with the school may not improve your chances of getting accepted. You don’t want admission officers to ask each other, "Who is this candidate?"
Make your family known to the school by contacting its admissions team. Tell them you recently learned about their school and explain why your student is interested in attending. Ask if it’s too late for an interview—possibly virtually?—and if your student can still apply. Most will encourage your application.
If you miss the application deadline, look for schools with rolling admissions still accepting applications.
<span class="text-color-green" role="decoration">Confirm that your application was received.</span>
Once the application is submitted, contact your admissions representative to confirm they received it and that you met all requirements. This communication is also an opportunity to leave a positive impression as the admissions committee goes into the review process, so reiterate why your family is interested in the school. For students applying to high school, sending this message themselves will be even better received.