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.
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. Most schools have their own websites, which are often the best source of information about a school.. 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.
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 or students. 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?