If you’re applying to private high schools soon, you need to plan the months you’ve got ahead of you. The admissions process is very competitive, and you have to make sure you’re on top of your game every step of the way. While there are definite protocols to follow such as reading the application instructions carefully and going through multiple drafts of your essays, there are also some don’ts to keep in mind. Take a look at 5 mistakes to stray away from throughout your private high school application journey.
Underestimating the Campus Visit
Campus visits can be a critical part of your evaluation by the admissions office. You’re being observed more carefully than you might think, as the tour is not just for your benefit. From the administrative staff processing your intake information at the admissions office to the student guiding your campus tour, each person has the opportunity to provide feedback on your disposition, demeanor, side conversations with your family, eye contact, general level of interest in what was going on around you, or anything else they might want to include in your file. Instead of being distracted elsewhere, take advantage of the visit to convey that you’re genuinely excited about the school through active engagement and enthusiasm.
Scripting Your Interview
There is a happy medium to strive for in order to excel with your interview. The interviewer is trying to ascertain your fit for the school and how you might interact with other students in activities and the classroom. They want to see your interest level, palpably, in the interview. This means that you need to express your passion and have specific anecdotes and examples about yourself at the ready. However, you do not want to script your answers. It’s tempting to come up with a practiced monologue in response to “tell me about yourself” or “why do you want to attend this school?” These rehearsed answers interrupt the natural flow of conversation and make you seem robotic rather than the autonomous, critical thinker that the school is hoping will thrive in their community.
Failing to Include Anecdotes in the Parent Statement
Parents find it hard to resist the temptation to go on and on about their kids in these “formal” essays that they write as part of the application. Nonetheless, the same lessons of application writing for students apply to parents as well: it is imperative to show rather than tell. Parents need to channel the impulse to talk about their kids into a productive stream of honest anecdotes that show what the student is like, as if it were a short clip being played to the admissions office. This is far more effective than reciting conclusory praise!
Banking On - or Only Applying to - One or Two Schools
Most people acknowledge that it would be silly to only apply to one or two colleges if you are aiming at the most selective schools in the country, but don’t carry over that attitude to the private high school application process. In some cases, these high schools are even more competitive than certain colleges, especially in the case of highly esteemed and historically successful schools such as Horace Mann and Harvard-Westlake. Don’t underestimate the selectivity of your top-choice institution and keep a variety of options open for yourself as you work on your school list.
Assuming Standardized Timelines for Application Deadlines
The bottom line is, different schools have different deadlines. Some will be at the end of December or in early January. Some will be as late as April or March. Often times, students are completing their interviews and campus visits well before their applications are submitted, whereas this would be an unusual process on the college side. With different admissions testing requirements, various deadlines, and limited timeframes that students can take off to conduct interviews (October break, Thanksgiving, etc.), it’s imperative to plan early.
As you can see, mistakes can occur as early as your initial visit or as late as the interview phase! You must be careful throughout the application process and maintain a high level of organization to stay ahead of what needs to be done. Carefully avoid these errors, and you should be on your way to presenting your best self to the admissions office.
About the Author
By David Mainiero, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of InGenius Prep.