If you have read 5 Simple Steps to Choosing the Right High School, you know that an obvious step in the process is applying for admission. If you haven’t read that article, do so!

The application process allows you to learn more about the school but also lets you share your strengths with the school. So, what can you expect as part of the actual application process? We’ve got your answers below!

Application for Admission—The application for admission is the minimal requirement for private schools. This application will be available as a printed document, but more and more schools are offering online applications also. The application itself is where you will share basic information about the student, parents, and, in some cases, grandparents. Additionally, expect to share things such as:

  • Self-assessment of academic performance
  • List of activities and/or accomplishments
  • Areas of interest in high school
  • Essay(s)

Be sure to understand whether or not there is an application fee, and be sure to meet all published deadlines. You would not want to put yourself at a disadvantage just because of a missed deadline! Most schools have an application deadline in December, but some do offer early admissions options with earlier deadlines. Other schools have rolling admissions, meaning that you can apply whenever it is convenient for you, as long as the school has open spaces.

Tip: instead of typing online essays directly into the application, use word processing software (e.g. Word) so that you have features such as spell check. Then copy and paste corrected text into the response area(s).

Academic Records—Requirements will vary slightly from school to school, but most schools will ask for two or three years of academic records. Required documents will include transcripts or report cards, plus standardized testing results such as ISTEP+, ERB, Terra Nova, etc.

Recommendations—Many schools will require you to obtain recommendations from a couple of teachers. If so, there usually is a form that you will give to the teachers. Schools expect these recommendations to be confidential, so teachers submit them directly to the schools in most cases.

Tips: Ask teachers early. Be sure they know exactly how to submit the recommendations. Give them a stamped envelope if recommendations must be mailed. And send them a handwritten thank-you note afterward (yes, a handwritten note!!!).

Placement/Admissions Test—Most private schools have some sort of test required as part of the process. Catholic schools in the Indianapolis area require the STS High School Placement Test (HSPT), while other schools utilize the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE). Be sure to understand the requirements. Schools that use the same test usually will share scores with each other, if you ask. And, in some cases, merit (academic) scholarships are determined by these tests.

Tip: Be sure to ask each school how this test is used. Some schools use the test for admissions purposes, so there is a set minimum score required for admission. Other schools use the test for placement purposes only. There is a difference!

Interview—Not many schools require an interview, but this is a step in the process at a small number of schools. This is an opportunity for the school to get to know the student (and perhaps family) a bit better, but it also is an opportunity for you to ask questions and learn more as you consider the school.

Tip: Don’t overthink the interview process. Schools are not trying to throw you curveballs. They genuinely like students, so they’re not looking to trip you up here!

Decision Notification—After you have submitted your application, just be patient and wait for what hopefully will be good news from your school(s) of interest. Most schools with a December application deadline will notify you sometime in early February. Early notification options might offer you admission earlier.

Tip: Don’t think that the school that admits you first is the one most interested in you. Since each school has a slightly unique process, the notifications might just arrive at different times. Schools with interviews generally might take a bit longer to send you an admissions decision.

Enrollment Decision—Most schools give you a deadline date for letting them know that you plan to enroll, and most of them require some sort of enrollment deposit as part of the enrollment process. This deposit is an advance payment toward your freshman tuition, and it represents your family’s sincere desire to enroll at that school. In most cases, this deposit is nonrefundable. Like the application for admission, be sure to meet the published deadline. Enrolling after this date could result in you losing your space in the class. If you think you need more time, ask the school(s) for an extension of this deadline.

Tip: At some schools the deposit is refundable under a limited number of circumstances. Schools often will refund a deposit if cost is the reason (after you’ve exhausted financial aid options) and/or if your family has to move out of the area. If you simply change your mind, though, you likely will forfeit your enrollment deposit.