Your teen’s entry into a private high school cannot be taken for granted. With public schools beset by a variety of problems—discipline, poor test scores, and safety—private high schools provide your child with a quality education in a safe environment.
When you request an information packet from a private high school, you will discover that essays and short answer essays are required of you and your teen. Your teen, who should be comfortable answering essay style questions, will be asked about his academic strengths and weaknesses, his desire to attend private school and his hobbies and extracurricular activities. However, questions for parents often have a different focus and are designed with different purposes in mind.
Essay questions for parents are usually analytical in nature. Rather than asking for facts, these questions ask you to talk about your personality as a teen, discuss family dynamics and assess your role as a private school advocate. Admissions directors for private high schools recognize that teens who grew up in a stable, education-focused home are more likely to succeed than peers who have less support at home.
Similarly, private school administrators look at your essay answers to determine whether you can be counted on to support high school financially or through volunteer work. As you might imagine, administrators cannot legally or ethically ask some of these questions but they can draw conclusions based on your answers to application questions.
For example, a question on the application for admission might ask what you think your child can contribute to School XYZ. This type of question really asks you to speak to your child’s academic, social, athletic, and out of school interests. If you have visited the school, go back on your visit to show that you made the effort to learn more about the school. Your answer should address each of your child’s areas of interest and strength. Here is a sample answer to this question:
During our recent visit to XYZ School, Tommy pointed out to me the well-equipped science lab and asked a number of questions about the science curriculum available to students at the school. Tommy has a long-standing interest in studying science and did well in elementary school and we think he will bring this interest and preparation to his studies in high school. His current teachers have noted that Tommy regularly asks thoughtful and insightful questions in class. In addition to working hard to perform well academically, Tommy will be a willing participant on the school’s baseball team and/or marching band. Tommy keeps a busy schedule during the school year and, as an earnest and earnest young man, will represent the ideals and mission of XYZ School now and in the future.
Family stability and religious questions
Other questions will ask you more directly about your future involvement in school fundraising and other activities. These questions are designed to assess the stability of your home life and your potential for financial support in the future. For example, a religious school application might ask you about the role your religion plays in your life. A non-religious school may ask why would you consider an XYZ school. Here is a sample answer for this type of question:
Our family is an active member of the XYZ Church. We are active members of the Social Action Committee and every Thanksgiving our entire family, including Tommy and his two sisters, volunteer at the Kindly Used Clothing Center at XYZ Church where we help distribute gently used clothing to homeless people. Tommy and his sisters were greatly affected by this activity as well as other church-related jobs. With a hands-on opportunity to minister to the less fortunate, Tommy has a personal understanding of the message of the XYZ religion. We try to reinforce this message at home by attending services regularly and making daily prayer a part of our routine. At XYZ Elementary Private School, my husband and I serve on the board of directors and are active participants in the school’s annual Feed the Hungry campaign.
Answers such as those above are designed to send a message to school administrators that you and your teen are serious, loyal, and stable people who fit in well with the community that is developing within a particular private school. If you make the effort to study the type of community that exists within a particular school and make a sample essay for your entry survey to that community, you greatly enhance your child’s chances of gaining admission.