The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA

The Private School Admission Process (K-9)

The Private School Admission Process: What You Need to Know

Why choose private school? The answer to this question is a complex one, and parents opt for a private option for their children for a host of reasons. For some families, the local public school option may not offer the small class sizes or individualized attention that their child needs to thrive. In other cases, parents may feel that a specific private school offers unique academic programs or arts and athletic opportunities that simply aren’t available anywhere else.

If you’re new to the private school world, don’t feel daunted! Whether you’re considering private school at the beginning of your child’s school journey or thinking about a shift mid-stream, here are some factors to keep in mind.

Not all private schools are the same.

While nearly all private schools charge tuition and require students to apply, the similarities end there. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that all private schools look like the stereotypes you see in movies and on television: each institution has its own unique history, mission, and campus “feel,” and odds are good that you can find a school that’s a great fit for your child and your family. Before you begin your search, it can be helpful to know how to identify and assess the differences.

It might be more affordable than you think.

Many parents don’t even let themselves think about a private school option because they assume that it won’t be affordable. It’s important to know that most schools have generous financial aid budgets to offset the cost of tuition, and that families earning a range of incomes qualify for aid. In some markets, even families making $150K may be eligible for assistance.

It’s also helpful to know that unlike college, where a significant portion of financial aid comes in the form of student loans, at the K-12 level most schools award grants that do not need to be repaid.

Families considering the cost of private school should also factor in the extras that are included in the cost of tuition. At Fay, for example, tuition includes early morning and afternoon care, all athletic fees, field trip costs (including weeklong service trips in the Upper School), and family-style hot lunches. 

Pay attention to the calendar.

The private school admission season mirrors the college admission timeline, which means that the best time to begin your search is the fall before the fall you want your child to enter school. The application deadline for most private schools is mid-to-late January. That said, many schools also do rolling admissions and continue to accept applications through the spring if there are spaces available. But if you’re thinking about private school as an option at all, it’s best to start early so you don’t miss the boat.

Know the right questions to ask.

A campus visit or admission interview can feel overwhelming if you don’t know what to expect. Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the school’s mission, philosophy, and distinctive programs. Most schools these days have comprehensive websites to introduce you to their program. Once you’re at the school, know what to look for to assess whether the school will be a good fit for your child and your family (here’s a handy checklist to get you started).

Know when to get buy-in from your child.

The degree to which a child participates in choosing a private school is going to be different for every family and will also differ depending on the age and maturity of the child. That said, every family needs to consider how to incorporate the child’s questions, concerns, and desires in the process in order to facilitate a smooth transition further down the line. If your child is entering kindergarten, for example, it may be prudent to wait on telling them about the shift to a new school until just a few weeks before in order to minimize anxiety. If your child is older and reluctant about a shift, you might want to employ a different strategy to help them see the benefits of a new school.

Ask lots of questions.

The private school admission process may feel intimidating, but remember that there are people who are happy to help! A good admission officer will walk you through every step of the process, answer your questions thoroughly and truthfully, and help your family get to know the school well so you can make an informed decision. Most admission offices also have a team member whose primary focus is financial aid, and he or she is available to help you understand the financial aid process and consider your options.

It can also be helpful to talk with other parents whose children are attending the private school you are considering. Don’t hesitate to ask the admission officer to put you in touch with a current parent who can provide a valuable perspective on important factors such as parent-teacher communication, homework, and even the day-to-day issues such as carpool and playdates.

Focus on the big picture: who do you want your child to become?

Most importantly, remember that it’s great to know and understand all of your options as you think about the best path forward for your child. Ask yourself: who do you want your child to become, and how can you help him or her get there? If you think that a private school option is part of your solution, now’s the time to begin your search.

More Articles About The Private School Admission Process

List of 11 news stories.

  • So, You’ve Been Waitlisted: Five Essential Steps to Navigating the Uncertainty of a Waitlist Decision

    Your family spent months waiting for an admission decision from your child’s top choice secondary school. During that time, you imagined the jubilation of an acceptance and even pondered the crushing possibility of rejection. But what happens if your child is waitlisted? The waitlist is the limbo of admission decisions, and it can be incredibly frustrating. Instead of the certainty of acceptance or rejection, families are relegated to weeks and months of waiting for a decision that may never come. Schools are adding to the uncertainty by increasingly rebranding the experience as a waiting “pool” rather than a “list,” acknowledging that at this stage, they are often looking for certain kinds of students to fill spots rather than taking students in any particular order. 

    Frustrating as this experience may be, there are proactive steps that families can take to navigate a waitlist decision successfully.
    Read More
  • Why Work With an Educational Consultant?

    Stressed out by the school application process? You’re not alone. For many families, the prospect of researching, visiting, and applying to multiple schools in the hopes of finding the one is simply overwhelming. Perhaps that’s why an increasing number of families are seeking the assistance of an educational consultant.
    Read More
  • Five Hidden Costs of a Public School Education

    Dec 16, 2019
    Everyone knows that the price tag of a private school education can induce a serious case of sticker shock. Let’s face it, it looks positively extravagant when compared with the cost of its public school competitors. After all, isn’t public school free?
    Read More
  • Transitioning from Homeschool to a Traditional Classroom Environment? Here’s Why Private School Might Be a Smart Move

    Feb 14, 2019
    It’s impossible to talk about homeschooling without first acknowledging that parents choose to homeschool for a wide range of reasons and that there is no “one size fits all” approach to a homeschool program. Just as diverse are the many reasons why parents may choose to transition to a traditional school environment at some point in their child’s schooling. The impetus could be a change in the family’s schedule, a desire for increased social stimulation with their peer group, or the need to prepare the student for a mainstream high school or college experience.

    Transitioning to a private middle school for the seventh or eighth grade--or to a school like Fay that also offers a capstone ninth grade program--can be a great way to manage the transition to a traditional school environment while maintaining the academic rigor and specialized attention of a homeschooling experience. Here are some features to look for as you consider making the transition.
    Read More
  • Enrolling Your Child In Kindergarten: Four Things to Think About

    Jun 15, 2018
    Kindergarten is the first formal step in your child’s educational journey, but like most childhood firsts, it can raise a lot of questions for anxious parents. How will I know whether my child is ready for kindergarten? What does my child need to know before the first day? What does a good kindergarten program look like? As you start to weigh your kindergarten options, here are some factors to consider.
    Read More
  • Transition Fatigue? Consider the Benefits of a K through 9 Education

    Jun 14, 2018
    In many towns, students transition between multiple schools in the elementary and middle school years, sometimes experiencing as many as four different school communities before they even reach high school. School transitions can be a time of anxiety and apprehension for students as they navigate the routines and expectations of a new school community and try to find their place within it. Independent schools that offer a K through 9 or K through 8 program can provide a more stable and consistent alternative, as students progress through their school years in an environment where the focus is on learning, rather than constantly adapting.
    Read More
  • Private Schools and Independent Schools - What's the Difference?

    Feb 19, 2018
    When you research alternatives to public school, you will see some schools referred to as “private” schools and others as “independent.” Often these terms can seem interchangeable, but there are distinct differences between the two that can make a world of difference to your child.
    Read More
  • What To Do When Your Child is Reluctant to Change Schools

    Feb 15, 2018
    So your child isn’t thrilled at the idea of leaving their friends to start over at a new school. Can you blame them? Each year, more than 6.5 million students nationwide change schools. The prospect of making new friends, adjusting to new academic expectations, and integrating into a new community can be daunting. Parents often struggle with this reluctance, unsure how to calm their child’s natural anxieties and worried that those fears will derail the whole undertaking. Here are some tips for successfully navigating the school search process with a reluctant student.
    Read More
  • Don’t Miss the Boat – Five Things to Know about Private School Admission Deadlines

    Jan 12, 2018
    Did you know that January is the most important month in the private school admission calendar? Though September feels far away, now’s the time to think about what school will be the best fit for your child, whether your child is starting school for the first time in kindergarten or considering a change of schools for the next grade. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
    Read More
  • Ten Questions to Ask an Elementary School

    Jan 4, 2018
    Choosing a school for your child can be an overwhelming process, especially at the elementary school level, where the pressure to give your child the best start possible is intense. The broad range of teaching styles, programs, and facilities offered by private schools can leave parents feeling bogged down in the details. However, asking the right questions during your visit can highlight important differences between schools. Here are ten questions that will help you identify whether a school is right for your child.
    Read More
  • Understanding Reclassing: The Benefits of Repeating 8th Grade in Private School

    Sep 3, 2017
    If your child wasn’t accepted to the secondary school he or she was hoping to attend, an extra year in a junior boarding school could be the ideal opportunity to improve academics, practice study skills, and mature emotionally and physically in a structured and supportive setting. Here are a few reasons why repeating 8th grade before attending high school - also known as reclassing - can be a great strategy to foster your child’s healthy development.
    Read More

About Fay School

Fay School was founded in 1866 and is the oldest junior boarding school in the United States. Our 66-acre campus is located in Southborough, MA, just 25 miles from Boston. Our community includes 475 students in kindergarten through grade nine and includes 150 boarders in grades 7-9  from across the United States and over 20 countries. Fay is recognized around the world for its superior educational program, and our graduates are accepted to top secondary schools. Fay's program empowers students to discover their talents, develop their intellectual abilities, establish essential academic skills and knowledge, and define their moral character - all essential to living a life of meaning and making a positive difference in the world.

Learn more about Fay School.

main number 508-490-8250
admission 508-490-8201