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Families come to this process at different times of the year, so it is important that you are in communication with the individual schools to make sure you understand the process. Generally speaking, the typical admissions season occurs in the fall and winter.
Sept-Jan: Gathering of information
- Schools have Open Houses, Tours, and Information Sessions to promote their school and welcome families to explore their school. Before submitting applications, it is a good idea to visit 4 or 5 schools. From a school’s perspective, this is when they are being interviewed. The goal is to give families a snapshot of what it is like to be a family at their school. Some Open Houses are geared more for kids, some more for adults. Some schools only do tours; some have several events for prospective families.
- These events can be found in three main places:
Our Calendar – http://www.pugetsoundindependentschools.org/calendar/
The NWAIS website – NWAIS Open House Calendar
Each school’s website – http://www.pugetsoundindependentschools.org/schools/
- Take time after each event and reflect with your student: what was appealing, what didn’t you see and needs follow-up, and how did your experiences differ? Most families decide whether or not they are applying to a school shortly after their Open House experience.
Dec-Jan: Apply to Schools
- You have decided which schools you are going to apply to for your student. You will quickly notice that the schools share some deadlines and have some similar and differing deadlines (especially for financial aid). It can be helpful to put all of these deadlines on your home calendar or create a document with all of the pertinent deadlines.
- Do the applications in pieces. Using your deadline calendar, first complete the basic application for each school and submit the application fee. Sending in the basic application without the supporting materials gets the process started, and it also allows the schools to contact you to arrange student or parent interviews. If application fees are a challenge for your family, contact the Financial Aid officer at that school to request a fee waiver.
- Essays: Essays are usually required for Middle and High Schools. Schools compare these polished home essays (they should represent the student’s best schoolwork) to the essay prompt the students write in the ISEE or the SSAT. Home essays should be the student’s own work and should be edited and revised. Admissions offices can tell when a parent has helped too much. Ask your student questions about what they wrote so they can clarify their main points.
- Visits and Interviews: In many cases, there will be observation days required for your student to complete the application process. Once you submit the basic application, schools will contact you to schedule a date for an observation day or interview. Some schools observe or interview just the student; other schools also interview the parents/guardians. The true purpose of this is to get to know the child better and their readiness for the school community. The parent interview is also another way for the family to learn more about each school one-on-one.
Feb-March: Receive admissions decisions
- Most schools will send out admissions decisions in February and March. Some independent High Schools notify families of decisions in February. All Middle School decisions, and some High School decisions are communicated in March.
- After the main admissions season is over, schools may accept applications on a Rolling Admission basis. This typically occurs if they still have space to fill in a grade or if the family would like to be in the school’s wait pool. Rolling Admission means the school will make an admission decision as soon as they have a complete file.
End of March: Pick your school and get excited!
- With your acceptance letter, you will receive an enrollment contract. Schools require a signed enrollment contract and deposit check to secure your child’s space for the coming year.
Getting to Know Schools
The admissions timeline for schools is much earlier than the public schools registration process, and since each school is independent, they have slightly different paths to get to know them. When in doubt, call the admissions office to discover your options. Typical ways to get to know schools are:
Open Houses/Info Sessions
These events are designed to introduce you to each school’s program and philosophy. The structure of these will look and feel different at each school – some have a formal program, others are a self-guided exploration of campus, and others are a combination of both. Pre-registration is required for some schools, so make sure to check each school’s website for details.
Schools offer formal tours of their campuses. Usually these are group tours, though some schools also will arrange for an individual tour. The frequency and availability of tours will vary from school to school and will depend on the time of the year.
School fairs are a great way to gather a lot of information about different schools. Typically each school will have their own booth or table with someone to talk to, as well as brochures and other information about that school for you to take home. Puget Sound Independent Schools hosts three school fairs each year:
- Seattle Independent School Fair
Wednesday, October 19th, 6:00-8:00pm
Northgate Community Center in Seattle
- Independent School Fair for People of Color (ISF4POC):
Wednesday, October 26th, 6:00-8:00pm
Rainier Community Center in Seattle
- Eastside Independent School Fair
Tuesday, November 1st, 6:00-8:00pm
Chinook Middle School in Bellevue
- Seattle Independent School Fair
Schools have robust websites and will likely give you plenty of information to consider. To find key information about Puget Sound Independent School dates and events, you can follow one of these links:
Many schools require an entrance exam; most middle and high schools require the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) or the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test). Once you have decided which schools you are applying to, the next step is setting up the required testing. If you would like to request a testing fee waiver, you should contact one of your prospective schools directly.
- Registration needs to occur two-three weeks before the exam.
- You can register and pay for tests online:
Many people ask about preparing for the test. It is wise to give your student a chance to experience what kinds of questions they will encounter. The test itself measures skills in a much different manner than the WASL or other standardized tests. Getting a feel for the exam is very valuable. Both the ISEE and the SSAT have resources online for students to familiarize themselves with the test. This basic preparation is well worth your student’s time.
How To Start
More and more families every year are looking for diverse educational options. Small schools, single gender schools, parochial schools… All of these options come at a cost and all schools want to make this education affordable to qualified students. When making your initial inquiries regarding admissions, be sure to ask about financial aid if that is something you are curious about. Inquiring about financial aid early in the process will insure you are on a school’s mailing list and that you are aware of the different deadlines, materials, and events. It’s important to note that financial aid programs differ from school to school.
Questions To Ask
- Does your financial aid cover 100% of tuition?
- What costs beyond tuition can I expect? (Books, “school fees,” supplies, etc.)
- Does your school offer non-tuition aid? (Books, sports, field trips, transportation, etc.)
- Does the school offer free and reduced lunch?
- Do I have to pay tuition in one lump sum or can I make payments?
- Other than the Parent Financial Statement (PFS) what forms do I need to submit as part of my financial aid application?
- What are your deadlines? Are they the same as the admissions application deadlines?
- Will applying for financial aid affect my student’s admissions application?
- If admitted, how would my student’s grades affect his financial aid?
- Do you offer a sibling discount?
What To Do
You should check with each school to determine what their financial aid application process looks like. Most schools in the Seattle area will use a third party financial needs assessment system. The most commonly used assessment system is the School & Student Services (SSS).
Some things to know about SSS…
- The first form you will need to complete and submit is the Parent Financial Statement, commonly referred to as the PFS. Most independent schools use this as their financial aid “application.”
You can do this online at: http://sss.nais.org/Parents/Pages/default.aspx
Or you can request a paper application from the school.
- You only need to submit one PFS per family, no matter the total number of schools your children are applying to; you simply need to indicate on the form which schools should receive the information.
For example, if Jenny applies to The Meridian School and Seattle Country Day School, her family would only have to complete and submit one PFS. Also, if Jenny’s brother were applying to The Northwest School at the same time, the family would still only have to file one PFS.
- The PFS asks you to provide current year and next year’s income, assets and expenses. The parents (married, divorced, separated, never married and step parents) of a child are also required to submit copies of all W-2’s and tax forms for the calendar year.
For example, if you were applying for the 2010-2011 school year, you need to submit your W-2’s and 2009 tax returns. HEADS UP: You will need to complete your taxes earlier than normal to meet the prescribed deadlines. If you own a business or have a complicated tax situation that will require additional time, it is essential that you inform and stay in contact with the financial aid officer at the each of the school’s you’re applying.
You are encouraged to be as honest and forthcoming about your family’s financial circumstances as possible to ensure that the financial aid officer can make an accurate assessment of your need. Each school recognizes that all information you provide is of a sensitive and private nature. All correspondence is kept confidential and paperwork remains secure.