Teen at a private schoolYou may have decided—for academic, social, or other reasons—to send your teen to private school. Now you have to choose the right one.

Selecting a private high school is a process that, ideally, should begin about 18 months prior to your child’s anticipated date of entry. Thus, you would begin your search in the spring of 2011 if your child plans to start school during the fall semester of 2012. That’s why this calendar begins in May: if you’re considering private school for your teen, it’s almost time to get the ball rolling.


  • Discuss the idea of going to private school with your teen.
  • Make a list of your own and your teen’s requirements and needs.
  • Explore a wide range of schools on the web.
  • If possible, hire an educational consultant.


  • Develop a list of 10 to 15 private schools from your initial search.
  • Refine this list with your consultant.
  • Request information from these schools.


  • Schedule visits for schools on your short list.
  • Buy SSAT/ISEE (Secondary School Admission Test/Independent School Entrance Exam) practice books, or have your teen enroll to take online practice tests.
  • Schedule tutoring, if necessary, to correct academic deficiencies or strengthen weak areas.


  • Continue with school visits.
  • Evaluate the schools as you visit them.
  • Encourage your teen to read.
  • Have your teen take a practice SSAT/ISEE.


  • Decide to which schools your child will apply.
  • Request admissions materials or create an account online where possible.
  • Review admissions materials with your consultant.
  • Have your child work a practice SSAT/ISEE under mock test conditions.


  • Register for the SSAT/ISEE test dates in late November/early December.
  • Have your child work another practice SSAT/ISEE under mock test conditions.


  • Gather documents for financial aid submission, if necessary.
  • Distribute teacher recommendations.
  • Begin working on applications.
  • Request academic transcripts.


  • Have your teen complete her section of the applications.
  • Complete your part of the applications.
  • Submit financial aid forms.
  • Review each school’s file for completeness.


  • Submit all applications at least one week before the deadlines.
  • If a school has rolling admissions, complete and submit your application as soon as you possibly can.


  • Wait for the decision letters, which are typically mailed out from the schools by March 10.
  • If you are wait-listed at one or two schools but accepted at others, decide which school to go with.
  • If accepted at several schools, finalize your school choice.


  • Notify schools of your decision before the deadline, if possible.
  • Send the deposit check.

Robert Knox Kennedy blogs about private K–12 at frcochm.wordpress.com. He also writes for Private School Review and Boarding School Review.