The Admissions Process
Select the topics at right to learn more about the admissions process.
Families often take an initial look at many schools. After this first look, it is wise to narrow the number of applications to a manageable number so that the family and the applicant do not become overwhelmed by the process. If an applicant is already attending a school, seeking advice from the school might be a logical starting point. Other helpful organizations that are familiar with New York’s independent schools include Early Steps, The Parents League, Prep for Prep, the Oliver Program, and the TEAK foundation.
There are many important elements to consider when selecting schools, including: the ages or grade levels the school serves; the program’s mission and educational philosophy; logistical concerns, such as transportation, school hours, and financial considerations; and your sense of the school community.
Learning About Schools
There are many ways to learn about a school prior to submitting an application. You can find basic information by using the “School Directory” on this website. Many schools have their own websites, which are linked to their directory listings. The Parents League sells the “New York Independent Schools Directory.” Some schools allow interested parents to attend an open house or tour prior to submitting applications, while others ask parents to fill out an application first. Most schools send printed materials about the school along with the application, so that you can consider the information and then decide how to proceed.
Requesting and Submitting Applications
Applications may be requested on the phone or online, depending on the school. Generally, applications are submitted early in the fall of the year preceding enrollment. Some schools distribute an unlimited number of applications and accept them up until a published due date, while other schools will distribute applications until they have distributed a particular number or accept applications until they have reached their limit. Some schools allow you to request materials at any time, while other schools do not accept requests until a particular date, such as the day after Labor Day. Some schools ask families to take a tour and distribute applications at the conclusion of the tour. A school that publishes a due date will accept applications all the way to the due date. It is important to read a school’s particular policy in order to meet the deadlines. Most schools ask for an application processing fee; this fee may be reduced or waived for applicants requesting financial aid.
The school tour is an important way for parents to learn about a school. At some schools, the tour is combined with a parent interview or information session. Some tours are led by school admissions officers or administrators, while other tours are led by current parents. Depending on the school and the age of the applicant, students may or may not be included in the tour. Make sure that you understand the format and expectations for the tour before your appointment. Think about what you are seeing, and feel free to ask questions:
- How does the school look, feel, sound?
- Are the rooms cheerful and well equipped? Is children’s artwork on display?
- Do the students seem engaged in their work or play?
- Are you comfortable with the degree of formality/informality in the school?
- How does the school evaluate student work and when?
- Does the school seem like a competitive environment?
- What kind of academic support is available to students?
- What is the role of the arts, music, drama, and athletics in the school?
- Is the school diverse?
- What expectations does the school have for parents?
- How do teachers and students interact?
Interviewing at Schools
Most schools will meet with both parents and children at some point during the admission process. Make sure you know what to expect prior to these experiences, especially for young children, so that you will be able to tell your child about the procedure. Child visits might be in a small group or one-on-one with an admissions officer. Some schools require children to separate from their parents, while some (including many early childhood programs) do not. Students applying to older grades are often asked to visit with the current class during the school day.
Visiting schools with younger children can be an area of concern for both children and their parents. If separation is required and your child does not want you to leave, do not be distressed; admissions officers are sensitive to this and will provide guidance. You might be invited to come along, or you might be asked to bring the child back another time. If you are asked to accompany your child, remember that your child is the applicant, and you are there as support. Children usually enjoy their visits, and even though some are hesitant or shy, most respond in an age-appropriate manner.
The Educational Records Bureau (ERB) administers formal testing required for admissions. To learn more about ERB and to schedule an appointment, visit ERB's website (www.erblearn.org) or call (800) 989-3721 or (212)-672-9800.
ERB Testing Fee Reduction Program
In conjunction with the Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY), the Educational Records Bureau (ERB) administers standardized testing for students applying to ISAAGNY Member Schools. ERB administers both the Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA) for students applying to Grades Pre-K through 4 and also, in association with the Ben D. Wood Grant Program, the Independent Schools Entrance Exam (ISEE) for students applying to Grades 5 through 12.
Upon registering your child for either the ECAA or the ISEE, you will find information regarding the fees associated with the tests. To learn whether or not your family qualifies for an ERB Testing Fee Reduction and to download the applicable forms, please visit www.isaagny.org. Please note that all forms must be filed by December 1st of the application year.
Families who are applying for financial aid at an ISAAGNY school are welcome to apply for an ECAA or ISEE Testing Fee Reduction until December 1st of the application year. Interested families should follow the instructions in forms below.
An official transcript (or its equivalent) is an important part of an admissions file. This includes a confidential school report form from the current school. ISAAGNY schools share the same form for various age levels, including students applying to 3-year-old groups through the eighth grade, so that sending schools should be able to fill in one form and mail it to multiple schools. Ask the schools to which you are applying whether they request these records or if you should request them. A school will not formally enroll a student without first receiving an official transcript or report from the student’s present school.
First Choice Letters and References
ISAAGNY does not encourage formal expressions of first choice. If schools do not request references, it is not necessary to send them.
Tuition and Fees
ISAAGNY schools are non-profit organizations, with a few exceptions; in almost every case, tuition fees cover a significant portion of the school’s budget, while fundraising and other sources of revenue cover the balance. Tuition and fees vary greatly. In comparing costs, you should consider such things as the length of the program, whether lunch and/or books are included, and whether there are additional fees or other financial expectations.
You may request financial aid information from the schools to which you apply. Many schools subscribe to the School and Student Services for Financial Aid, which analyzes your responses by computer and reports them back to member schools. Reports can be generated for multiple schools, which may simplify your paperwork. Many schools also require copies of your most recent tax forms. Be sure to check on individual schools’ requirements and due dates for this information in order to be given full consideration for financial aid. Financial aid decisions are usually made during or soon after the admissions notification period.
For more information about Financial Aid, visit our [link] Financial Aid page.
How Schools Make Decisions
Schools seek to put together communities each with their own particular mix of children and families depending on the school’s philosophy and criteria. Schools make admission decisions in committees. The members of these committees vary, but usually include the Admissions Director, Division Head, Learning or Reading Specialists, teachers, and sometimes the Head of School. The Division Head and teachers, as the ones who will be working with children accepted to a school, are focused on whether they see a child as having the profile that will succeed in their program. Committees form opinions about which children would be a good fit for their schools, considering their school visits, their ERB testing results, and reports from the present school. Each school weighs the different sources of information according to its beliefs about their relative importance. They then work to put together a well-balanced community. First and foremost, Admissions Directors seek to make decisions with the child’s interest in mind.
Notification dates are set by the ISAAGNY members and are agreed upon each year. These dates include when parents will be notified as well as the deadline for accepted families to respond to schools. If you have not heard from a school shortly after the notification date contact the school. Once you have selected a school, you should immediately notify all of the other schools to which you have been accepted, declining those acceptances. Such prompt notification of your decision is helpful to families who are on a waiting list.
Notification dates for this year are available in the “Printable Resources” area, or by choosing it from the menu at the left.
In order to promote a sense of community, schools have the option to offer early notification to siblings and legacies. Parents should ask each school to clarify how it defines a legacy/sibling since there is variation among schools. Schools should give parents in this category the option to participate in early notification if they so choose. If they do not choose, they will be informed of the school’s decision during the regular notification period. If families choose early notification and decide to enroll their children, they must withdraw all other applications at that time (prior to the regular notification period). Parents have the option of doing early decision at more than one school if their child is a legacy or sibling at multiple schools. It would be considerate to tell the schools they are doing so. Parents needing financial assistance should ask schools about the timing of financial aid grants and how this affects early decision. Schools cannot require parents to opt for early notification before December 1.
Wait lists are active during the notification period, particularly as the family’s response date approaches. Once parents have signed a contract with an ISAAGNY school, no other ISAAGNY school may offer them a contract. In most cases, the wait list ends on the ISAAGNY response date. If you have not enrolled your child in an ISAAGNY school by this date, speak directly to those schools where you were on a wait list to find out if they continue to keep this list after the response date.
Though the ideal time to apply is the fall preceding enrollment, do not hesitate to contact a school to find out if they will accept an application at a later date. The Parents League often has information in the spring about which schools might accept late applications.