Once you've searched online, narrow your choices down to a few and then visit the schools that seem like the best fit. "We hold an open house in the fall," she says. "Usually it's through a visit to the school that parents determine that this might be an appropriate environment."
Some families apply to more than one school, she adds. And that's something Winberg, for one, recommends. "My thinking there is you can't - pardon the cliché - put all your eggs in one basket," she says. "It's a great, great disappointment if someone's only applied to one school and then they don't get in for some reason. So I would apply to two or three, but I wouldn't go crazy."
Applying to too many schools can get stressful, and it can also get expensive. Most schools have application fees attached, so Winberg suggests that setting a budget for the application process might also be a good idea for some parents.
Bear in mind that many schools have waiting lists and they accept applications more than a year in advance. Some schools also have very specific application deadlines; be sure to use our application calendar as a guide.
Time to Apply
Once you've chosen the independent schools you want to apply to and spent some time at each - even bringing your child in to see if they're comfortable too - then it's time to fill out the applications. As long as you have all of your deadline dates straight - as well as any supporting documentation, such as the teacher recommendations sometimes required from your child's current school—filling out applications is pretty straightforward, says Winberg.
What admission advisors do recommend is giving as much information as possible on the application, including learning disabilities or anything else that might mean your child will need special attention in the classroom. It's not in the student's best interest to hide any of that, says Susanne Raye, director of admissions at Aberdeen Hall Preparatory in Kelowna, British Columbia. "We need to be sure we can provide them with the education they require," she says. "If we really couldn't help that child enough then we would be very honest and say we just don't have the capacity."
And if you've missed the application deadline for any reason, don't give up completely. While it may be tough in the more sought-after schools to apply outside of deadline dates, others are more flexible—and either way, it never hurts to ask. "Contact the school to find out if there's availability," suggests Edwards.
By Lisa Van de Ven