In the years ahead at independent or private school there will be new friends and challenging class work, sports and extracurricular activities. But first you have to apply.
When applying to independent schools students' skills are evaluated, their experiences and aptitudes considered. Tests are often taken, interviews are had and then parents are left waiting impatiently for an answer to arrive. But applying doesn't need to be stressful—not if you take your time to find the right fit and consider your child's needs along the way.
"I have met with parents who make this their full-time job…and the anxiety that they create in their children as a result is not helpful," says educational consultant Judy Winberg, of
Options in Education.
In other words, listen to what your child wants. The older a child is, the more involved in the process they should be, suggests Winberg. "But I always say - especially in children up to Grade 6 - don't give them the power to make the choice themselves because with that comes the responsibility, and if it doesn't work out then the child's going to think they've made a mistake."
Researching prospective schools
First things first and before you can choose a school you need to research the options. "It's important for the parents to do their homework," says Chantal Kenny, executive director of admission for Upper Canada College in Toronto, Ontario. "I would start, personally - in this day and age - with a web search. You can gain so much from websites and from the way schools present themselves, and you can dig a little deeper as well before you engage in conversation with the different people at the schools."
A web search will help you familiarize yourself with the options that are out there and give you an idea of what's around that will fit your child's unique needs. Do you want an all-boys' or all-girls' school, a boarding school or not? Are you looking for an excellent sports program or specific extracurricular activities that your child is involved in? Maybe you need a more challenging academic program?
Schools' websites will give you an idea of what each institution is all about and offer a starting point in determining which ones may be a fit for your child. This step should be done early. Many independent schools require a year's lead-time, which means that you should start considering where you want to apply the summer or fall a year before you want your child to attend. The applications at Upper Canada College, for example, are due the December prior to admission; deadlines at other schools may be earlier or later.
Each school is unique, so exploring what's out there is important, adds Pattie Edwards, director of admissions at The Study, an all-girls independent school in Montreal, Quebec.
Read more in this series of articles on applying to private schools:
You can also download our handy Application Workbook to help you plan and keep track of month-to-month tasks when applying to private schools.
By Lisa Van de Ven