Q: Should I complete my application online or mail in a paper copy? Is one method better than another?
It makes no difference. If your child is applying for 5th grade or above, he will be asked to provide handwritten answers to a number of short answer questions and an essay. For that reason, part of the application must be mailed in. Whether you do your part on paper or online is up to you – neither one gives your child an ‘edge’ in the application process.
If you choose to complete your part of the application online, I recommend that you print out the pages and handwrite your answers. First, this will give you a sense of how long your answer should be (online there is an infinite amount of space to write, and the admissions committee does not want a dissertation). Second, it’s a good idea to compose your answer, walk away from it for a day, and then go back and revise it before typing it in online.
Q: Do you have any tips for how to complete the short answer questions?
Yes! Most importantly, be yourself. The school wants an understanding of your child and family. Also important:
- Use your best handwriting. Think of how many applications the schools read. Make your child’s easy to read.
- Answer the question. There’s no doubt about it, filling out these applications is stressful. In your anxiety-induced state, it’s easy to ramble on about your child with no direction. Instead, focus on the question, reread many times and stick to the topic.
- Present your child’s best self, but be honest. It won’t benefit your child in the long run if you overestimate your child’s abilities or accomplishments.
Q: Can I have my assistant fill out my applications?
No, even if you are very busy it’s important that you complete the application. Choosing a private school for your child is one of the most important decisions that you will make as a parent and you, with an intimate knowledge of your child, should be the one to provide the answers. You may provide some nugget of information that strikes a chord with the admissions committee.
Q: As a parent, how much should you ‘help’ your child with their portion of the application?
This is a tricky question, for sure. Admission directors read so many applications each year that they can easily spot an application completed solely by a parent. While you don’t want to write the answers yourself, you also don’t want to hand the papers to your child, get them back, and mail them in sight unseen. I recommend reviewing the questions with your child, asking for their comments as you go along. Instead of taking their answers at face value, ask probing questions that encourage them to provide a deeper and more reflective answer. Help them to find their voice.
Last thoughts… Don’t forget to make a copy of your entire application. Schools are inundated with papers from other applicants, teachers, and schools. Unfortunately, at times things do get lost. Make it easy for yourself and keep a paper copy of every application you send – either written or online.
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