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How many schools should I apply to?

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Wondering how many schools you should apply your child to next year? Here's some advice and tips to keep in mind when choosing to apply to a school and what to expect during the application process.

How many schools should you apply to?
Lycée Louis Pasteur - Photograph by Chris Bolin

One of the most common misconceptions about getting into private school is that you should apply to as many schools as you reasonably can and then decide which one suits your child. But, as educational consultant Judy Winberg of Options Education notes, "Applying to too many schools can get stressful."

Indeed, the application process can be daunting for your child. As such, copiously applying to private schools would be unfair to him or her. Moreover, the majority of private schools in Canada charge application fees so, as Winberg points out, creating a budget would avoid unnecessary strain on your wallets.

How Many Private Schools Should You Apply To?

This application from Lower Canada College asks students to answer questions about themselves.

Winberg suggests applying to two or three. "My thinking there is you can't put all your eggs in one basket," she says. "It's a great, great disappointment if students have only applied to one school and then they don't get in for some reason."

Winberg explains that you must only apply to those institutions that match your needs. To prevent over-applying, you should visit prospective schools and try to identify whether you could envision your child in them. During these visits, talking to some of the school's current students is particularly helpful. At many private schools, including my alma mater, Crestwood Preparatory College, tours of the school were led by students. This system allowed parents to understand the school through the student's perspective and to receive balanced answers to their questions. Wherever possible, I recommend meeting some of the students.

What to Expect From the Private School Application Process

The private school application process generally varies according to your child's level of education. For example, an admissions team would be most interested in a kindergarten or elementary student's social skills, while they would most likely be especially interested in an upper year student's classroom abilities.

This application page from Crestwood Preparatory College asks parents to answer questions about their children.

Applying to a private school commonly begins with filling out a formal document. In some cases, this application merely asks for family histories, financial information, and other basic facts. But, at most schools, the application asks detailed questions that gives the administrators a simple profile of the child. The parent almost always has to complete this section, but the student's participation in it is usually dependent on his or her age.

The next stage of the application process takes place at the school. At Touchstone Community School in New Brunswick, which provides programs from kindergarten to Grade 5, kids meet with a few teachers and then have an interview with the admissions staff. At Crestwood, students in Grade 7, 8 and 9 typically write an admissions test, whereas those in Grade 10, 11 and 12 must submit their transcripts and report cards.

A few tips to get an edge:

  • Apply as early as one year in advance, as most schools have application deadlines.
  • Be as detailed as possible. Do not conceal anything.
  • If you have a young child, you should be careful not to stress him or her about the interview. 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."
Meet with students and representatives of prospective schools and get answers to your top questions about how to apply, information about financial aid and more at the Private School Expos held annually every fall in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Halton-Peel, and Vancouver. Register today for 50% off your admission voucher!
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