10 Tips for Stress-Free Private School Enrolment


When you’re looking into private schools for your child, there is a lot to consider, including comparing and choosing a school, based on reputation, education philosophy, and whether the gifts and talents that your child possesses will have the chance to flourish and be put to good use. There’s also the question of getting into the school of your choice and navigating all the steps leading to enrolment.

But it need not be stressful. There are multiple ways to ensure that enrolment is painless.

1. Know what to expect from the process. This can include:

  • a written application detailing your child’s personality, academic history (for upper years), your financial standing, and your family history
  • a school visit or tour
  • an in-person interview with you, your child, and an admissions team
  • an entrance exam (upper year)

2. Start early. Give yourself at least one year to complete the process. But, most private school administrators advise starting even earlier. Suzanne Poole, the director of enrolment and marketing at St. John’s-Kimarnock in Breslau, Ontario, points out: “One advantage of independent schools is we do have maximum class sizes, so when we’re full, we’re full.” As such, beginning your search early, particularly 16 months in advance, may give you an edge.

3. Do your homework. Research all of the schools in your area to identify which one meets your child’s specific needs and aptitudes.

4. Ask questions. Many parents fear that asking an administrator questions will jeopardize their chances for a successful application. In so doing, as Poole says, they miss a lot of necessary information. What are some of the school’s hidden costs (e.g., field trips, textbooks, uniforms)? How large are the classes? (See a list of questions to ask at school visits or expos.)

5. Visit the school. Poole recommends touring the school about 16 months before your enrolment. Here, you can speak to other parents and students. Students are especially useful, as they will frankly tell you about their experiences. After all, they can provide the most detailed evaluation.

6. Be open and honest. Concealing information can only hurt your child, as it will not allow the school to make a fully informed choice about whether it can or how best it can serve your child.

7. Show enthusiasm for involvement. Educational consultant Bill Ford notes that admissions teams are skeptical of parents that merely seek “to offload their own parental responsibility.” When you meet with a private school’s executives, be sure to show them that you are prepared to join the community.

8. Apply to more than one school. As educational consultant Judy Winberg puts it, “My thinking there is you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. It’s a great, great disappointment if students have only applied to one school and then they don’t get in for some reason.” However, applying to too many private schools is unnecessarily stressful, especially for your child. Winberg thus recommends that you apply to two or three private schools.

9. Don’t stress out your child. If you have a young child, you should be careful to not make him or her anxious about an interview with the school. Touchstone advises parents to assume the following pre-interview attitude: “This is a school we like; you have been invited to visit and see what you think of it. You’ll play games with other children and the teachers, and I’ll be close by.”

10. Allow your child to be involved in the enrolment process. Giving the student ownership over this important decision may motivate him or her to excel.

If these steps are followed, your child and yourself will surely have a smooth and steady journey during enrolment!

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  • Kate Hansen

    It’s good to know that you should have one year to complete the process. My 6-year-old daughter will be starting elementary school in the fall, and I want to be able to enroll her without a lot of stress in the process. I’ll make sure to keep these tips in mind once I find a private school for her to go to.

  • Gary Puntman

    I agree that you should start the search process early. It’s good to know that you should start at least one year beforehand. I’ll have to remember that when I move and find my kids a new school.