Private School Admission, Which Comes First: Apply or Visit?

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Amy M. Harriman, Director of Admission & Financial Aid

The process of enrolling at an independent school used to follow a different timeline. Families would request admission materials, follow up with some phone calls with the admission counselor, come to visit, and then end with the submission of the application. While this worked well in a world that information was not as accessible, more and more private schools are finding that sometimes an application is the first time that we hear from a family. While there is no right or wrong way to apply to a school, it is a question worth exploring. Is it better to apply and then visit, or visit then apply?

In the world of private school admission, should you complete an application before you visit, or visit and then apply for admission?

One of the first questions to think about are how many schools do you plan to apply to and are you in a crunch to meet the admission deadlines? After you get a sense of how much time you have and the distance from the campuses from where you live, it may help shed some light on what is going to be the best way to gather the information you need to make a decision about where you are going to apply.  

My advice would be in any scenario, do not depend solely on the website. Request a packet from the school first (either electronic or hard copy) to get your name into the system.  When an application comes into a school and there was no previous contact, it can sometimes raise a question to the admission office about the student/family’s seriousness. More than that, inquiring before applying is going to get you extra information about the school. You are going to be added to their mailing list and get special updates and, depending on how much information you provide, may be able to be connected to certain teachers/coaches that are of interest to your student. 

Now, back to the question of visiting before or after applying.  It may depend on the type of visit. If it is a large event, like an Open House, most times we do not expect that families have an application already into the school. However, if you want to come for an individual visit or a shadow day (where you spend time in classes and at school events), having the application ahead of time can be very helpful. In most cases, on an individual visit, the admission counselor would also like to take care of the admission interview. Having the opportunity to read the application prior to that interview can be very helpful to both the school and the family. That way, the school is able to help answer any questions or discuss areas of concern, and the family is getting a pretty true picture of how well their student will fit into the community of the school. 

In the end, there really is no right or wrong answer. You have to do what is right for your family and your time schedules. The Admission Office is there to help you on your journey of finding the right school for your child and will work to meet your needs in whatever way works best for you.