I’ve been offline more than usual this winter, a combination of the rush surrounding admissions deadlines and, this year, my son’s journey through the college admissions process. It’s been a fascinating adventure, both as a parent and an educational consultant, and while I’ll spare you my parental observations (read: roller coaster ride), I’ve spent some time reflecting on the comparisons between college and private school admission.
If it feels like it’s a competitive arena out there, it is. In an article published in Time magazine last spring, author Dan Edmonds (@edmonds_dan) noted that although parents and students believe that getting into a selective college is harder than ever, in reality the number of high school seniors, and therefore the number of applicants, has been on the decline since 2011. What’s happened is that the near-universal use of the Common Application for college admission has changed the behavior of high school seniors, with more and more students applying to more and more schools, even those they are not qualified for, thus inflating the number of applicants and reducing the acceptance rates. Edmonds notes, “It has arguably become easier to get into a selective school though it may be harder to get into a particular selective school.”
Is this true for the Dallas private school admissions scene? Yes, I believe so, with one slight caveat. From July 2012 to July 2013, the population of Dallas County grew by 26,000, a trend that seems to be continuing. So there are more students vying for the same number of spots at any given school. Indeed, many parents are aware of the competitive nature of the admissions process and apply to multiple schools, thus lowering the acceptance rate and your child’s chances of getting into one particular school. This year I’ve seen very few families whose children have been accepted to every school they applied to, and the ones who succeeded in doing so have all been applying to preschool, where the most slots are available. My clients with older children have all had at least one school wait-list their child, as has also been the case with my friends and acquaintances.
So what’s the takeaway here? Well, there are several. If you’re looking at some of the more competitive schools in Dallas, you can’t just apply to one or two schools and expect to gain a spot. And, while the odds improve as you increase the number of schools you apply to, the same thing that Edmonds indicated holds true here as well. If you have your heart set on a particular school for your child, know that he might not get in there, but he’ll get in somewhere. You’ve got to be flexible and start early. Most important, I believe, is to try and find a handful of schools that will be a good fit for your child’s abilities. As I’ve mentioned before, there are lots of very good schools in Dallas. Just be willing to open your search.
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