College-preparatory schools offer students academically challenging and enriching environments. Additionally, some offer specialized resources for students who are artistically inclined that would not be found in public high schools. Applying to prep schools can be an intimidating process. Here are some things you might want to keep in mind:
Schedule testing well before the application deadline.
Tests needed to apply to prep schools generally include the Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) and Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE). Some schools will also have their own set of tests. Scheduling the test well before the deadline will give the student time to prepare for the test without the added pressure of time.
Ask for letters of recommendation early
Ask for recommendations at least a month before the application deadlines. This will give your recommenders ample time to write you a quality letter or rec and will also give you time to find a backup if one of your recommenders does not follow through. Make sure that your teacher, coach, or mentor has all the necessary forms and information to fill out your application. Don't forget to hand them a resume to remind them of your important achievements!
Have a Plan B
While you may have your sights set on one school in particular, make sure to apply to backup schools just in case your number one pick doesn't work out. Just as you would when applying to college, apply to a variety of schools within and out of your reach. Apply to schools that fall within these categories: highly selective "reach" schools you that may not accept you, schools which you are very likely but not guaranteed to gain acceptance, and "safe" schools where your scores and experience almost guarantee your acceptance.
If at first you fail, try try again
There is absolutely no shame in not getting accepted into prep school on your first try. Use your year in public school to improve your resume and grades. Remember that while test scores are important, success outside of the classroom speaks volumes to admission committees as well. Even if you are not the strongest student, the app you created, fundraiser you organized, or small business you started, shows schools that you have qualities that they are looking for in a candidate.
Have a resume and/or portfolio close by!
Whether it's during the application or interview process, having a list of all of your achievements, experiences, and what you learned from them is crucial to this process. A resume or portfolio will allow you to tell a story of a person beyond your test scores and grades.