Parent Essays for Private School
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
Independent schools generally require essays for the application. For K-8 programs, the parents must write essays, typically asking to describe their child and why they are interested in the school.
A Process for Mutual Selection
The parent essays are one of several aspects the schools gather for admissions: parent essays, school recommendations, parent interview, kid assessment and group activity, and sometimes financial aid need. Remember that the schools accept siblings first and then need to create a balanced class based on gender, birthdays (ie ages spread out), and diversity. Some of this you can control, but others you cannot. If they have a lot of siblings the same age and gender of your child, your child is unlikely to be admitted. Therefore, I urge parents to apply to several schools.
Truthful and Complete Picture. When writing your essays, consider painting an accurate picture of your child. First, some of your child’s temperament will be clear anyways, between the child’s onsite assessment and the school’s recommendation. For instance, a shy child typically will not speak much during the assessment, or an active child might move around a lot. Showing that you as a parent are realistic about your child also shows that your style will work for the school. Second, even more importantly, your child will be most successful at schools that like them for who they are. To that end, my own child wrote for his middle school applications that his favorite subject is art, not math, which he excels at. I let it stand because I wanted him to be happy at his future school. In short, I tell my clients, the worst case is not a rejection in March, but an acceptance, followed by counseling out a year or two later.
Include Anecdotes. Admissions reads piles of essays, often ten or more for each available spot. Your child will best stand out if you use real life examples. For instance, instead of saying that your child is curious, describe a time when they showed curiosity.
Keep to Word Limit. While admissions will not count your words, they will notice if it is a lot longer than requested. Make their job easier but keeping to the limit, +/- a handful of words.
Tailor to Each School. It’s tempting to use the same essay for each school, as writing is time consuming; however, schools use these essays to determine that you understand their philosophy. During the tour and open house, most admissions officers will repeat certain aspects of the school about which they are proud. For instance, if they don’t have letter grades, if they focus on social emotional skills, if they are a religious school, if they have a subject focus. Use an anecdote that shows how that aspect of the school feels to you as a parent.
First Choice Unnecessary. It is not generally required that you state the school is your first choice. That said, if you do so, only tell one school. The admissions teams *do* speak with each other, and they frequently find out when a family sends two schools first choice letters.
Need more help?
Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco. Email to learn more about her services.