START SURFING. “I would encourage parents to visit a variety of school websites to get a feel for the wide range of fabulous independent school options available. A comprehensive directory of schools with website information can be found at http://www.independenteducation.org/.” Mimi Mulligan, assistant head and director of admission and enrollment management, Norwood School, Bethesda, Md.
WATCH AND RUMINATE. “Observe your child and think about the learning style that’s best for him or her. What are the values of your family? What are your hopes for your child’s education?” Diane Dunning, director of admission and financial aid at St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School, Alexandria.
AVOID FOLLOWING THE PACK. “Don't be swayed by popular opinion or reputation. Instead, visit every school you're considering, talk to current or alumni parents and students, and then decide whether that school may fit your child's interests, personality and needs.” Tim Simpson, director of admission, Bullis School, Potomac, Md.
ESTABLISH PRIORITIES AND START SLEUTHING. “Create a list of five or 10 things that are important to you and your child. Check the athletic schedules and the theatrical and fine arts performance schedules, which are posted on the websites of [independent schools]. You should come to those events … because the more time you spend on a campus, particularly at an event that is not run by an admissions office, you’re going to get a much better sense of what that [school’s] community is like. For example, do you see students there who you could see yourself being friends with? Do you like the way that the adults are interacting with the students in the community?” asked Ann Miller, director of admission, Madeira School, McLean.
MAKE A LIST AND CHECK IT. “List out the schools you think you may want to apply to and check on their application processes and deadline dates. Many schools have parts of the application that are extremely time sensitive, such as signing up for admission testing as well as filing for financial assistance.” Pat Harden, director of admissions and financial aid, Connelly School of the Holy Child, Potomac, Md.
DEAL WITH STICKER SHOCK. “Don't eliminate a school from your search because of the cost of tuition without looking into financial aid [or] merit and scholarship awards that may help reduce the cost.” Scott Conklin, director of admissions, Episcopal High School of Virginia, Arlington.
FIND A CLEAR PICTURE. “When considering schools, take a moment to actually visit the campus and ask the tough questions. A school's website may or may not be the full picture. The question for the parent is, how real is the image they are seeing online? A few conversations with parents and teachers go a lot farther in this regard. Ask admissions officers what their schools' mission is, how it is different from that of other schools and how they implement the mission.” Rich Moss, director of admissions, The Heights School, Potomac.
GET ORGANIZED. “Finally, once you have decided that you will be applying to a school for your child, get out that calendar again and write down all deadline information – application deadline, financial aid deadlines, supporting documents and testing deadlines.” Mimi Mulligan, Norwood School, Bethesda, Md..