Give yourself at least a year. That's the advice of admissions
directors to parents hoping to enrol their child in a private school.
While it's ideal to start making inquiries a year before the
September the child is to enter a school, start the process even
earlier when trying to place two or more siblings, advises Suzanne
Poole, director of enrolment and marketing at St. John's-Kilmarnock
in Breslau, Ontario. Traditional entry years are kindergarten, Grade
7 and Grade 9. You'll need extra time to find a school with
space in another grade.
Marilyn Andrews, director of admissions at the York School, recommends
starting the previous May - a 16-month lead time.
Demand for places in private and independent schools continues
to rise. The Kuper Academy in Montreal saw a 70 per cent increase
in its high school enrolment last year. A waiting list for junior
kindergarten at St. John's-Kilmarnock stretches all the way
"One advantage of independent schools is we do have maximum
class sizes, so when we're full, we're full," Poole
Educational consultant Bill Ford says admissions staff are wary
of parents who want to send their children to private school to
"shape them up," to offload their own parental responsibility,
or because they put private school education on a pedestal.
Schools look for families likely to participate in fundraising and
volunteering, he adds. "You have to be prepared to join the
Here's a checklist to guide you through the process:
Find out what you can about schools in the area. Use the Our
Kids Go To School directory, use Web sites, call schools, ask
around. Look for a school with strengths in the areas that interest
your child: science, sports, art, music etc. ; or with
programs for special needs.
Contact admissions offices to pick up information packages and
learn the next step. Which documents will you need? Is academic
testing required? What are the fees and other costs? When are
the key dates? Perhaps afraid to jeopardize their chances, "most
parents aren't asking enough questions," Poole says.
If your child has a special need, if your family is moving,
or if you want a residential school, consider hiring an educational
consultant for objective information about the options.
Arrange a visit to the school, if possible. "Children need
to feel part of the process," Poole says. "Changing
schools is a big step." Most schools hold open houses in
October or November. Attend as many as you can. Some schools offer
open houses in the spring for entry some 18 months later. In the
fall, Andrews often sees seven or eight families a day. "If
it were me, I wouldn't want to be the eighth."
a good time to visit, 16 months before the planned entry. Attend
the school's art display, games or community fair, Ford says,
and speak to other parents and staff.
Apply to the schools of your choice. Poole reports an increase
in families applying online.
Pinning your efforts to a single school is unwise, cautions Catherine
De Silva, admissions director of The Kuper Academy in Montreal, but
don't expose a child to the stress of too many exams and
interviews. Andrews recommends applying to three or four schools.
Many entrance exams, as well as interviews of the student and
the parents, take place in November, but may be staggered into
January. For Ontario schools requiring the Secondary School Admission
Test, find information at www.ssat.org/ontario.
Acceptance dates vary. SSAT results and acceptances are revealed
the week before March Break. Andrews says parents usually have
about three weeks to finalize the enrolment. After all, parents
have to round up the money.
Once accepted, a student should obtain a summer reading list.
To help a timid child, ask for names of a couple of other new
students so children can make friends over the summer.
A late application could work at some schools, since families
move or face financial catastrophe, leaving a space open suddenly
in the summer that might not be filled from the waiting list for
that grade. It doesn't hurt to ask.
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