Applying to Independent School: Tips from a Recent Independent School Applicant

Applying to independent schools is an exciting journey. However, it can also be a difficult, time-consuming, and stressful prospect. I should know because I recently applied to two independent schools. I learned a lot from the experience, which I’m happy to share with you.
Applying to Independent Schools, Step 1: Brush Up On Your Skills
The first step may sound obvious, but it is truly worth mentioning: Know the things that you’re supposed to know. Don’t just know them, master them. For example, a school might be more likely to choose someone who can do complex math equations easily versus someone who struggles with them.
Applying to Independent Schools, Step 2: Make Yourself Stand Out
For a single independent school, there may be hundreds or thousands of students trying to get in every year. Do something that will catch the eye of someone sorting through applications. One of the best ways to do this is to enter contests for something that you’re good at. (I’m mostly familiar with art contests myself.) Just keep trying as much as you can; eventually, you’re bound to win at least one. The best part is that the school won’t see how many times you’ve tried, just how many times you’ve succeeded. Whatever you love or excel at, find a way to be noticed for it and get this included on your application.
Applying to Independent Schools, Step 3: Leave Time to Write Your Essay

Start working on the essays way before the application deadlines. They can be much more time consuming than one would expect. There are books full of good and bad sample essays to give you ideas for what makes a winning essay, but there is still no substitute for writing early and having time to think about and edit your essays.

Extra Step for Applying to Independent School and College: Establish Your “Theme”
The last tip has more to do with going to college, which many independent schools advertise. Part of the goal of attending an independent school is to help you get into a college of your choice. These days, colleges like to see applicants with a theme to their overall resume, rather than showing them that you have done a little bit of everything. It is best to establish a theme for yourself early on, such as an artistic theme, mathematical theme, or medical theme. Even though colleges only start monitoring the progress of applicants from 9th ninth grade onward, it can still be helpful to start earlier.
MORE RESOURCES
Considering applying to an independent school? Get additional help at SSAT.org:

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