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Parents Guide to Writing Private High School Application Essays
Your teen’s admission to private high school cannot be taken for granted. With public schools beset by a variety of problems – discipline, poor test scores, safety – private high schools offer your child a quality education in a safe environment.
When you request an information package from a private institute, you will find that they require essays and short answer essays for both you and your teenager. 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 directed at parents often take a different approach and are designed for different purposes.
Typically, essay questions for parents are analytical in nature. Rather than asking for facts, these questions ask you to talk about your teenage character, discuss family dynamics, and vouch for your role as a private school advocate. Private high school admissions directors recognize that teens who are raised in a stable, educationally focused home are far more likely to succeed than their peers who have less support at home.
Likewise, private school administrators look at your essay responses to determine whether you can be counted on to support the institute financially or through volunteer work. As you can imagine, administrators cannot legally or ethically ask any of these questions, but they can draw inferences based on your answers to the application questions.
For example, an entrance application question might ask what you think your child can bring to XYZ school. These types of questions really ask that you speak to your child’s academic, social, athletic, and extracurricular interests. If you visited the school, reference your visit to show that you made an 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 the well-equipped science lab and asked a series of questions about the science curriculum available to students at the school. Tommy has a long-standing interest in studying science and has performed well in primary school and we believe he will bring that interest and aptitude to his secondary studies. His current teachers note 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 maintains a busy schedule during the school year and, as a serious and well-rounded young man, he will represent the ideals and message of XYZ School now and into the future.
Family stability and religious issues
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 family life and your potential for future financial support. For example, a religious school application might ask about the role your religion plays in your life. A non-religious school might ask why you are considering XYZ school. Here is a sample answer to this type of question:
Our family is an active member of XYZ church. We are active members of the social action committee and every Thanksgiving our whole family, including Tommy and his two sisters, volunteer at the XYZ Church gently used clothing center where we help distribute gently used clothing to homeless people Tommy and his sisters were greatly affected by this activity, as well as by other functions related to the church. 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 that message at home by attending services regularly and making daily prayer part of our routine. At XYZ Private Elementary School, both my husband and I serve on the Board of Trustees and actively participate in the school’s annual Feed the Hungry campaign.
Answers like the ones above are designed to send a message to school administrators that both you and your teen are serious, dedicated, and stable people who will fit in well with the community that develops at a particular private school. If you make an effort to study the type of community that exists at a particular school and model your admissions questionnaire after that community, you will greatly improve your child’s chances of gaining admission.
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