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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

How Many Private Schools Should We Apply To?

Many parents ask, how many schools should we apply to? Is there a best number to ensure acceptance, while balancing the work load for applying? Each school requires a tour, parental essays, a parental interview, and meeting the student. In addition, schools recommend attending the open house, and for older students, they require a shadow day and student essays, interviews, assessments, and work samples. For 5th and 8th graders, their participation in the work load is substantial. My kid, when applying to four high schools, completed 32 essays, one video, four interviews, and four shadow visits. Afterwards, he told me that he should have applied to more schools, despite his dislike of writing application essays!


Factors Affecting Probability of Admissions 

Academics. The older the student, the more likely that academics are considered. For instance, high schools consider grades in 7th grade and the first half of 8th grade in their admissions decisions. They prefer students who are curious and have good study skills.

Interpersonal Skills. All schools care about students working well with others. Many assignments are group projects, which require working collaboratively and responsibly with others. In addition, the social fabric of a school relies upon student behavior. It is a common mistake to think that academics alone will ensure admission.

Extracurriculars. Schools with robust extracurriculars will seek students who have a variety of interests so that the teams and clubs can fill up. For example, if a high school has a basketball team, they will need enough players for that team. Similarly, if the high school has a musical ensemble, they will need a variety of instrumental players. 

Student and Parent Fit. Schools seek happy parents and happy students. They do so by assessing whether the parents understand the school’s philosophy and agree with it, and whether the student has the characteristics to succeed at the school.

Popularity and Size of School. The simple math, the more students that apply or the fewer the spots, the more difficult it is to gain admission. 

Financial Aid. Most schools do not have sufficient budget to meet the financial need of all students that they’d like to accept. Some schools handle this by offering less aid to all admitted students, and some prioritize financial aid to those who meet specific needs of the school (for instance, diversity or first choice applicants). Some schools will accept student but waitlist for financial aid, and other schools will waitlist or decline the students who cannot afford the school and are not prioritized in the budget. Additionally, every school calculates financial need differently, so offers will vary dramatically from school to school.


Deciding on Number of Schools

My guiding philosophy, it’s better to have too many options than too few. In choosing your number, it’s important to consider the following factors.

Balanced List. Always include one or two schools that are less popular, less in vogue, and a good fit for your student. If your list contains popular, highly rejective schools, apply to at least six schools. If your list is all under the radar schools, you can apply to two or three schools. 

Financial Aid. If your student needs financial aid, prioritize schools with generous financial aid that prioritizes students like your child. Applying to at least six schools will increase your odds of an offer that you can afford.

Public Schools. If you are open to a public school, be sure to register with your local public school, as well as any magnets and charters in your district, as a backup to private school. If you like your local public school, you can apply to fewer private schools. As a guide, only apply to privates you prefer to your public option. 


Role of a K-12 Consultant 

A consultant can help you craft your school list to be sure of a balanced list with optimal acceptance rates. A consultant can also review all admissions materials, in particular student and parent essays, to help focus them to each school’s admissions goals. A consultant can directly work with your child to brainstorm, draft, and edit their own essays. The consultant can provide feedback on whether the essays read as genuine and how to shine during the application process. 


Want more input on K-12 schools?

Vicky consults with families to help select, apply to, and communicate with public and private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vicky maintains a principle of non-judgment. Hourly, VIP, and Season packages include a discussion to review school options, applications, essays, and key decisions. Vicky offers a limited number of packages each year to assure her availability. 

Vicky’s own children have attended both public and private schools, and have received both accommodations and curriculum changes; her elder is in high school, and her younger in middle school. New clients can email to learn more about her services, or see her website to learn about her packages.


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