How to Be Admitted to Private School

No matter how excited you and your child are about the perks of private schooling, there's nothing like an intimidating application process to kill the buzz. We talked to insiders at three private schools in Charlotte to find out what to keep in mind when applying.

Shake the shyness before the interview

It's easy for kids to get nervous or uncomfortable during admissions interviews, so make sure they've gotten some rehearsal time. "Eye contact and engagement are essential," says Stodghill. "Sometimes students act as if they would rather be elsewhere!"

Don't let them go into an admissions exam cold turkey

Kate Smith, director of admissions at Davidson Day School, points out that many schools require applicants for middle and upper schools to take the ISEE or the SSAT. Just like the SAT, no matter how comfortable they are with the content, learning the tricks of test taking is crucial, so log them on to or to find practice tests beforehand.

For financial aid, start early

"We have limited budgets, and those will get depleted," says Cannon School Director of Admissions Bill Diskin. "It's basically first come first served, so getting your application in on time can mean the difference between thousands of dollars or no aid at all." Diskin suggests checking with the school to see if there's a way to apply online for financial aid, and to try and have your taxes done in January, so you don't have to worry about doing them right before the deadline.

Show evidence

Particularly for lower- and middle-school applicants whose extracurricular achievements might not be racking up awards quite yet, Smith
advises showing evidence of their strengths. "If they are artistic, samples of artwork are great," she says. "If they've been
involved in academic challenges, sports, or community service projects, copies of newspaper articles or pictures of them in action gives their profile extra personality."

Don't despair over a bad grade

If an applicant has a glaring "C" on his transcript, all is not lost. Think of ways to show that, even if the test scores weren't there, the interest and effort was. "If a student has had bad luck on tests in social studies, for instance, it's good to share with us a paper they've written," says Diskin. "One that demonstrates a personal interest in the Civil War or some aspect of government."

Ask questions

Admissions officials value interest and enthusiasm, and like to know that you want to find a great academic match just as much as they do. One way to show this is to make a list of questions [for yourself and your child] before doing a campus visit. "Asking good, unscripted questions about topics that are truly important to [applicants and parents] shows they are invested in the process of finding the right school," says Smith.

Prep the little ones — early

Toddlers don't have an academic transcript they can show admissions officials, but they can show them that they're ready to learn. Providence Day Director of Admissions Cecil Stodghill advises parents to read to their children often, to develop vocabulary, and to make sure they participate in "unstructured play" with other children: "Working constructively and positively in group settings is essential to being a good candidate for admission."

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