Your first step is to research and visit schools, ideally starting the search at least a year before you plan to submit the application for your child. It takes time to determine which school is the best fit for your child. Navigating the application process can be overwhelming, but it can also be exciting. Here are tips on how to get you and your child into the right school.

After creating your short list of schools, contact the school’s admissions office to find out about open house events, school tours, private visits, or other events that will allow you to get to know the school as best as possible.

The school’s admissions office will also tell you about application requirements, including deadlines and costs. While each school has its own criteria for admitting students, the typical application package involves:

• A completed application form, usually available from the school’s website, and application fee.

• Parent or guardian statements.

• A transcript of your child’s grades from her current school.

• Results from standardized tests or a school-administered test. For middle school grades and above, the most common tests are: The Independent School Entrance Examination, or the ISEE; the Secondary School Aptitude Test, or the SSAT; the High School Placement Test, or HSPT, for Catholic schools.

Depending on the grade to which you are applying, some schools might also ask for:

• Student writing samples.

• Student portfolios.

• A formal interview, though for elementary school students, the interview more often consists of a teacher observation or individual or group-administered diagnostic tests.

School admissions officers are there to help you complete your applications in a timely manner.  They also want to make sure that the process is a positive experience for you and your child and that there is a good match between your child and the school.

Try to avoid:

• While admissions officers want to be helpful, don’t call too often, overload them with additional information about your child, or try to impress them with your business or social contacts.

• Don’t jump on the bandwagon of applying to a school just because your child’s peers are applying. Similarly, don’t just apply to a school because it is one of the “top” schools in the area and boasts of its graduates who go to the Ivies. Be realistic about your child’s strengths, interests, and personality. Apply to schools which are a good fit for your child.

• Don’t shy away from disclosing vital information about your child or family—notably about any special academic needs your child has or about your family’s financial need for tuition help. 
While most private schools cannot afford to meet the academic and financial needs of all students they would like to admit, you won’t increase your child’s chances of acceptance by failing to be upfront about certain information. And if the school turns your child down for any special issues, it’s likely the school was not a good fit.

• Don’t miss application deadlines. But if you do, some schools have rolling admissions and admit students throughout the school year.