Private School Admission Decisions 101: Everything to Know (And More)

Class is in session, and the first lesson is that private school admission decisions typically result in one of three outcomes—accepted, waitlisted (or wait pooled), or denied. Each scenario has different factors to consider, and we’ve packed our syllabus with a decision process outline, an insightful #admissionchat, and advice articles. Is that your hand up in the back? Check out our parent questions.

A hand drawn butterfly graphic.A hand drawn graphic of a plant and a cocoon. A hand drawn graphic of a plant and a cocoon. A hand drawn plant graphic with a caterpillar.

3 Things to Know Before You Begin

An icon for the number 1.

Be prepared.

Apply to multiple schools with varying acceptance rates to increase the chance of a positive outcome. Discuss the possible scenarios as a family to mentally prepare for the decisions to come.

An icon for the number 2.

It's okay to ask.

If you have questions about a school’s admission criteria, acceptance rate, or waitlist policies, don’t hesitate to ask its admissions team. They are there to help!

An icon for the number 3.

Keep an open mind.

Admission denials are heartbreaking, but they may also be a blessing in disguise, as the school often identifies that it isn’t a good fit for the student.

Admission Decision Process

The following outline details the traditional private school application review process. Please note that timelines may vary by school and geographic region, and some schools operate on a rolling admissions model where these steps are continuous.


Application Deadline

A hand drawn graphic of a cloud.

The private school application deadline for most schools operating a traditional admissions timeline falls between mid-December to mid-February, with January 15 as the most common date. Many Canadian schools have October 31 or early-November deadlines. Schools also vary on late-submission policies—for example, most will accept January SSAT scores after the deadline. Given these variances, it's critical to double-check deadline dates and policies for each school.


Candidate Review

After thoroughly reviewing each application for completeness, schools thoroughly review each applicant's candidacy. Candidate review typically occurs during February into early March for traditional-timeline schools, but for schools with November application deadlines it can occur as early as November and December. Most schools have a committee of admission officers and others from various departments who weigh all aspects of a candidate’s application to determine whether the student and school are a good fit.


Admission Decision Letters

A hand drawn graphic of a hot air balloon.

The magic date for families to receive admission decisions from most private schools on the traditional timeline is usually in early spring, with the week of March 10 being the most common. Canadian schools are often the exception as many give decisions in November. Schools will provide admission decisions and financial aid awards together so families have the information necessary to make enrollment decisions.


Revisit Days

A hand drawn graphic of a cloud.A hand drawn graphic of a hot air balloon.

Many private schools offer revisit days and open houses in March and early April to help families make their enrollment decisions. Try to line up visits on days when an activity of interest, like a musical performance or athletic event, is taking place. Check out more tips for making the most out of revisit days.


Enrollment Decisions

Private schools typically require enrollment decisions and deposits in early to mid-April, providing families anywhere from two weeks to a month to weigh their options between acceptances, waitlists, and financial aid awards. Canadian schools with November decision letters typically require enrollment choices by late December. Review our parent questions and advice articles to learn more about waitlists and your options.


Waitlist Decisions

A hand drawn graphic of two kites.

Schools typically start making enrollment offers to waitlisted students in late spring and early summer after they’ve processed all commitments from accepted and returning students. Waitlisted notifications are ongoing as a waitlisted student offered enrollment may accept or decline, in which case another student would subsequently receive an offer. It’s even possible to receive an offer after school has started if a student backs out of their enrollment commitment.

A hand drawn graphic of a bee.

Let's Talk About Admission Decisions

Listen to Randie Benedict from St. Anne's-Belfield School and Kitsana Salyphone from the Enrollment Management Association field parent questions on everything from waitlists to financial aid appeals.

Admission Questions

If you have questions about admission decisions—you're not alone. Check out the most common questions we hear from parents below.

Hand drawn bird graphics. A hand drawn sun graphic.

Getting waitlisted means the student is a good fit, but unfortunately, the school doesn’t currently have enough space to offer enrollment. It’s possible that a waitlisted (or wait-pooled) student may receive an enrollment offer after the school gets commitments from new admits and returning students.

Every school has a set number of open “seats” available to new students each academic year, but not every accepted candidate enrolls. The percentage of admitted candidates that enroll is the school’s “yield.” So if a school has 100 openings and an average yield of 50 percent, it will likely accept 200 students to meet its enrollment. But it’s also possible that a school’s yield may fluctuate, or a student might unenroll later. The waitlist is utilized to fill open seats with qualified applicants in these situations.

Waitlisted students are often ranked or ordered, so if a seat becomes available, the offer goes to the next student on the list. Conversely, there’s no ranking with a wait pool, and admission offers are extended based on the needs of the school’s programs. For example, if the school’s concert band is short a tuba player after new admits and returning students have committed, it can offer an open seat to a tuba player in the wait pool. It’s easy to see why many schools prefer wait pools, but this process does provide less clarity to families trying to forecast their chance of enrollment.

If you’re still interested in the school, let them know and accept a position on the waitlist. It’s okay to ask about your chances of being admitted and a timeline; just be prepared that the purpose of the waitlist is to fill unexpected openings, so they may not be able to provide the desired clarity. The hard truth is that only a small percentage of students are admitted off most schools' waitlists, so your best option is to accept an admission offer at another school. If you subsequently receive an offer from the waitlisted school, you can still take it; however, it will likely mean forfeiting your deposit at the second school.

The good news if you don’t receive an acceptance on the first round of applications is that the number of schools offering rolling admissions, or a second application review period, is on the rise. By late April, the Still Accepting Applications feature on our school search will begin populating with new schools with open seats for the upcoming school year.

When asked, some schools may provide feedback on your application. This conversation can help you understand the type of schools that might be a better fit—the admission officer may even recommend good-fit schools. It never hurts to ask your admission contact for feedback—just know that the decision period is a busy time for them, so they may not be able to respond immediately.

Let’s get going!

A hand drawn graphic of two rabbits running.

Save time applying to private schools with the Standard Application Online. Apply to any of over 400 participating schools with one set of documentation and a single student essay.