Managing the Stress of Applying to Private Schools

Posted by Theodra Washington on 10/5/17 12:48 PM

I often hear parents say that the process of applying to an independent or private school for their children reminds them of their college application experience. This, in plain English, means that the experience was very stressful. 

As I work with families and students, I remind them that the objective of this journey is to land each student at the best available destination for them, one that will help them reach their maximum personal and educational potential. Although there is no way to totally eliminate the stress, here are a few things that you can do to help you manage the stress during the private school admissions process.

  1. Examine WHY a private or independent school. As an educational consultant, one of the first questions that parents and I discuss is why a private or independent school will be the best route for their child. Because of the personal and sometimes financial commitments and sacrifices that this single decision will require, the question must be understood and answered for every student.
  1. Have a “Plan B.” Prior to submitting applications, you should consider what steps can be taken if your child is not accepted into a private school or the private school of your choice. I always encourage parents to look at additional sources of enrichment for their child—summer or weekend programs, tutoring, etc. Schools often take more students in some grades than others, and openings vary from year to year. So, we also talk about the possibility of deferring the application process to a year that schools have more openings.
  1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Apply to more than one private school for your child. There are many private schools that can meet the needs of most students. I encourage you to investigate and apply to both well-known schools and those that you may not be as familiar with but that could be the “right fit” for your child.
  1. Seek professional guidance and input from others. In addition to a knowledgeable educational consultant, there are many people in your support circle that can help point you in the right direction. The family pediatrician, teachers at school, or a piano instructor can all provide invaluable input regarding what your child might need from an educational institution and community.
  1. Monitor your stress level. Hopefully, the tips above will help you put everything into perspective. If you take care of yourself and manage the stress you do feel as you go through the process, you can avoid passing it on to your child.
  1. If your child is feeling stressed, start a conversation. Answer questions in age-appropriate, relatable language and reassure them that you are there for them. Remember that every child is different; some can handle more information than others. Know your child’s limits and fears, and proceed accordingly with the need-to-know information.

Extra Tip: The school visit can make some children anxious. Don’t overdress or over prepare your young child. Casual clothes are usually best, and you can say that they are going to spend some time playing with other children while you meet with some adults. No matter what the age of your child, don’t ask too many probing questions after the visit. Allow your child to initiate the conversation.

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Looking for a school for your child?

Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Topics: Private School Admissions

Theodra Washington

Written by Theodra Washington

Founder and Managing Partner, Metropolitan Educational Consulting Group