Once you and your child decide to start applying for private schools, there are a series of steps you need to take to prepare the application.  What test does your child need to take? Do they need letters of recommendation? How do I prepare for the interview? Here is everything you need to know about applying for private schools.

Taking an Exam

Your child will need to take either the SSAT or ISEE before applying for private school. Both exams focus on vocabulary, reading and math.  Although both exams are fairly similar, there are some minor differences that may lead students to perform better on one vs. the other.  This blog post will lay out the differences in both tests (ISEE vs SSAT: What’s the Difference?).  Some schools may allow you to choose which exam you want to take while others may prefer one over the other.  Make sure you look into the specific school you are applying to to see what their requirements are.

Private School Application

Basic information about the student will be asked on the application including participation in extracurricular activities and current grades.  Students will also be asked to fill out short answer questions in addition to writing an essay.  These are areas where students can show their writing skills as well as express who they are as a candidate.  Some applications include a parent statement section in which parents answer a few questions on the application about their child. 

Letters of Recommendation


In addition to filling out the application, most schools require a few letters of recommendation.  Schools may request that recommendations come from specific adults such as an English teacher, math teacher, or counselor while others may just request 3 letters of recommendation from anyone.  If the application does not specify who to ask, be sure to ask adults who know the child well and can write a personal letter that highlights his or her positive qualities.  Some recommended adults to ask would be your child’s teachers, a coach, a school counselor, or a family friend.

Student Interview


When applying for private schools, the application is only one part of the admissions process.  Many schools require students to attend an interview session as part of their application.  This is for the admissions officers to get to know your child on a personal level rather than just being a candidate on a piece of paper.  The interview is advantageous for both your child’s application as well as the admissions officers.  For your child, it is an opportunity to share things they were not able to write on the application.  For the admissions officers, it is an opportunity to get a feel for your child’s personality and to determine whether or not they would be a good fit for their school.

Parent Interview/Statement


Some schools require a parent statement on the application.  The parent statement is an opportunity for parents to highlight their child’s strengths as well as a place to write down what they are looking for in a school.  This helps schools determine if they are a good placement for your child. Be honest and find a way to make your child stand out.  Admissions officers have read thousands of applications where parents mention their child as smart and hardworking.  Think about what else you can write about your child.   Schools may also require a parent interview.  During the parent interview, admissions officers want to get to know you as a parent and how your family fits into their school.  Be honest and true to who you are.  The parent interview can also be a good place to get to know the school better as well.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the interview. 

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