4 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Private Schools

4 Crucial Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to Private Schools


By Admissions Expert, Dr. Paul Lowe

My team and I personally work with U.S. as well as international families (who reside in the U.S. or are abroad) during the private school application admissions process. We have worked with families from over 130 different countries and on all seven continents. My firm works with families who are interested in top day and boarding schools primarily on the east and west coast. Year after year, I hear about the number of mistakes that parents make during the admissions process. As I now receive phone calls from parents whose children were rejected from schools and now wish to engage our services, I thought I would share what I believe to be four frequent, significant mistakes.

  1. Assuming that it’s all about your connections. Many parents assume that admissions into competitive schools are about connections. Parents often ask me if they should have their friends, neighbors and/or colleagues who have a relationship with a private school write a recommendation letter for their child. As I always state to parents: everyone has connections. But the truth of this matter is those connections do not always result in connecting your child to receive an acceptance letter. The letters of recommendation should be meaningful and demonstrate that the recommender knows your child well.  
  1. Not preparing for the parental and student interviews. Being thorough and picky about a private school choice is extremely important. But one thing is certain; top private schools will be equally as picky when choosing your child to be a member of their prestigious community. Is your child ready to answer any and all of the private school interview questions? In addition, admissions officers are proficient in observing non-verbal cues that communicate true student feelings and whether parents complement a school’s educational philosophy. Though the private school exam results are very important in the admission’s process, the interview is another hurdle, set to be more selective. The admissions committee is going to judge your child (and parents) based on the way they answer their questions. I personally conduct in-depth, multiple interview-preparation sessions with my clients.
  1. ProcrastinationIdeally parents should start researching and visiting schools at least a year before they plan to apply. The private school admissions process is competitive and it takes time to research schools and determine which schools are appropriate for your child. I often see my clients’ peers beginning the process late in the game. These families usually do not have a good admissions outcome – the child is rejected. I work with many international families who are quite accustomed to competitive private school placement. Together, we start to plan admissions strategies a year in advance. The result of this strategy: this year, all of my clients (both international and U.S.) were accepted into their top choice schools.
  1. Parental Hubris. Many parents may assume that their skill sets, professional title or socio-economic status will be the ticket for their child to be accepted to the school of their choice. Simply put, schools are accepting the entire family. They carefully take into consideration parental behavior at interviews and throughout the admissions process when considering a child as a part of their community. Parents, if you think that only your child needs to prepare for the admissions process, think again. You have just as much homework as your child does. Top private schools take the whole family into consideration when they are making their decisions. Schools interview parents because of the crucial role they play in their child’s experience at school. They also want to know that you are applying for the right reasons, share their educational philosophy and will carry it over at home. 

Dr. Paul Reginald Lowe is the managing director and lead admissions expert at Greenwich Admissions Advisors. Tel. (203) 542-7288, and founder of Private School Admissions Advisors a part of the Pinnacle Educational Center Admissions Advisors Group network. 

Dr. Lowe specializes in providing exclusive concierge-type admissions advisory services for families and students who are interested in applying to and experiencing the unique educational environment and communities of Ivy League and highly selective colleges and elite private day and boarding schools.

Dr. Lowe is an active member of several professional organizations including: the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), the New York Association for College Admission Counseling (NYACAC), the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling (NJACAC), the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), and the Admissions Leadership Consortium (ALC).