Your teenager's entrance into private high school cannot be taken for granted. With public schools beset with a variety of problems – discipline, poor test results, safety – private high schools offer your child a quality education in a safe environment.
When you request an information package from a private high school, you will discover that essays and short answer essays are required from both you and your teenager. Your teen, who should be comfortable with answering essay style questions will be asked about his academic strengths and weaknesses, his desire to attend the private school and about his hobbies and extra-curricular activities. Questions directed to parents, however, often have a different focus and are designed with different purposes in mind.
Usually, the essay questions directed to parents are analytical in nature. Instead of asking for facts, these questions ask you to speak about your teens character, to discuss family dynamics and to gauge your role as a supporter of the private school. Private high school admittance directors recognize that teenagers who are brought up in a stable, education focused home, are much more likely to succeed than their peers who have less support at home.
Similarly, private school administrators look at your essay answers to determine whether you can be counted on to support the high school financially or through volunteer work. As you might imagine, administrators cannot legally or ethically ask some of these questions but they can draw inferences based on your answers to application questions.
For example, an entrance application question may ask what you believe your child can contribute to the XYZ school. This type of question is really asking you to speak to your child's academic, social, athletic and out-of-school interests. If you have visited the school, reference your visit to show that you have 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 the XYZ School, Tommy pointed out to me the well equipped science lab and asked a number of questions about the science curriculum available to students at the school. Tommy has a long standing interest in studying science and he has performed well in elementary school and we believe that he will bring that interest and aptitude to his high school 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 an willing participant in the school's baseball team and/or its marching band. Tommy keeps a busy schedule during the school year and as a well rounded and serious young man, he will represent the ideals and message of the XYZ School now and in the future.
Family Stability and Religious Questions
Other questions will more directly ask you about your future participation in school fund raising and other activities. These questions are designed to evaluate the stability of your home life and your future financial support potential. 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 the 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 entire family, including Tommy and his two sisters, volunteer at the XYZ Church gently used clothing center where we help distribute gently used clothes to homeless people. Tommy and his sisters have been greatly impacted by this activity as well as other church related functions. With a hands-on opportunity to minister to the less fortunate, Tommy has a personal understanding of the message of XYZ religion. We try to reinforce that message at home by attending services regularly and making daily prayer a part of our routine. At the XYZ Private Elementary School, both my husband and I have served on the Board of Directors and we are active participants in the school's Feed the Hungry annual campaign.
Answers like the ones set out 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 within a particular private school. If you make an effort to study the type of community that exists within a particular school and you model your entrance questionnaire essay to that community, you greatly enhance your child's chances at gaining admission.