Ann and Karen Wolff are education consultants at Wolff Educational Services in Toronto, Ontario.
We asked them several questions related to the issue of how to get into private school. We covered topics such as what schools look for, interviews, and grades. Here’s what they had to say.
For more expert advice on a wide range of questions related to “getting in,” read our comprehensive guide. For valuable insights on the more general question of choosing the right school, read our in-depth education expert and parent interviews. You can also read our choosing guide.
Q: How hard is it to get into selective private schools?
A: It’s a fact that there is competition to get accepted to some of the more “high profile” private schools. The question is always, “This is a good school, but is it good for my child?” The first step is ensuring there is a “fit” between school and student and that it is a “realistic” option. Attending open houses and speaking with the admissions office will help determine if it is a good fit.
Q: What is the admissions timeline and process like? What steps should parents follow?
A: The first step should be to attend the Our Kids Private School Expo. It’s the easiest way to investigate and learn about school options. The second step should be to attend an open house. Each school has its own “atmosphere.” Parents should say, “Can I see my child here?” But, students must also attend and should ask, ”Can I see myself here?”
Q: What do schools look for in the admissions process?
A: Schools look for balance in their school population, often a gender balance (if it’s a coed school). They also look for balance in strengths. For example, is the student artistic? Musical? Athletic? Schools assess the whole child: socially, emotionally, and academically.
Q: How important are report cards and marks?
A: This relates back to realistic choices. If parents know that a particular school’s priority is on high marks, and the student does not have strong marks on their report card, a parent can request a meeting with the admissions director to discuss the situation.
Q: What are interviews normally like?
A: Parents should inquire about this. We have clients who we advocate for and can sometimes obtain the interview questions on behalf of our clients. Those are cases where we are confident that the school is a good fit for our client and we do whatever we can to assist in the process to maximize the chances for a positive outcome.
Q: What is the best way to prepare for an interview?
A: Students should listen carefully to the questions in the interview and answer them. If they have prepared scripts that don’t address the questions, it will not reflect well on the student. The student should be sure to explain why it is important for the school to accept them. What do they have to offer the school? What will they be able to contribute?
Q: How upfront should families be with admissions officers?
A: Parents must be honest. It is not in the best interest of their child to “hide” learning and/or behavioral problems. Ultimately, it will be the student who suffers, when the school cannot provide the supports that the student requires.
Q: How many schools should families apply to?
A: When we assist families with the onerous task of choosing schools, we usually provide them with three very good options. Based on consultation, a review of assessment data and interview, we narrow the field and come up with three very realistic, viable options.
Read our other "getting in" interviews