​Applying to Private Schools After The Deadline

Past The Deadline? It May Not Be Too Late

When your school plan changes, you need to know what’s available. Consider that many boarding schools will still have room even past the posted application deadline.

As a family, choosing an independent school for the coming fall may not have been in your plans when the school year began, but circumstances change and needs change with them. This time of year, you may be thinking about a school change.


While it is true that the most selective schools are full and have only waiting lists by the spring time, many good schools will have openings.


Moving, family dynamics, a need for a more personal , challenging or structured academic environment can lead to considering a boarding or independent day school for the coming fall.

If you are considering a late spring-early summer school change, relax. The first thing to keep in mind is that you will have options. You are not alone, nor the first to work through this process. While it is true that the most selective schools are full and have only waiting lists by the spring time, many good schools have openings, and as a result, they offer rolling admission programs throughout the summer.

Schools with Available Spaces

If you’ve already checked our School Finder list and can’t find schools with openings beyond the typical deadlines, SSATB (Secondary School Admission Test Board) publishes a list of private schools that have post-deadline openings. Visit www.ssat.org/member-search and look for Schools Currently Considering Applicants (SCCA) to find links to schools with openings.

Financial Aid Realities for the Late Applicant
Before embarking on the late application process, families need to know a blunt fact. At almost every school, financial aid is not available to late applicants. Financial aid deadlines are firm and aid was awarded earlier in the school year. If you need aid, check with each school you are interested in prior to completing an admission application.

How to Begin the Search?
How does a family arriving late to the admission process approach a late spring or summer application?

Process is key.

As we explain, the usual and systematic approach for the late applicant-albeit with compressed and accelerated steps -works best. Before beginning the application process, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Can we, as a family, work through this process successfully and comfortably on our own?
  2. Can we reasonably complete each step and will we have enough information to make good decisions?
  3. Are we comfortable with the process from beginning to end?

Families familiar with independent schools may answer “yes” to all of these preliminary questions.

Short Notice Application Resources
However, even for a family familiar with private schools, a compressed admission time frame presents challenges.
Do we have time to learn about each school?
Can we build a complete picture of our child quickly?
How can we focus on schools that will be appropriate places for our child?
We don’t have time to waste.

Begin by reading Mastering the Private School Admissions Process, which provides a reference backbone for the application process.

Admission Testing
Admission tests will be a required part of any admission application. You will need to check with each admission office as to which test the school requires and when they want you to take the required exam(s).

The SSAT (Secondary Schools Admission Test) and the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam) are the two primary entrance exams. Each test’s respective web site provides the most up-to-date information regarding testing dates and fees. Access them here:

SSAT: https://ssat.org/
ISEE: https://www.erblearn.org/parents/admissions-testing-isee

Keep in mind that in a pinch, the testing companies may offer non-standard test administration – meaning that you can take the test privately, on short notice, to facilitate a compressed or fast moving admission timeline. Preparation for your test is key. Each test offers preparation materials for sale on their web sites. By all means, purchase a test prep guide to practice the exams.

Additionally, many reputable private testing and tutoring services offer classes and/or curricula designed to prepare students and improve their test scores. Time permitting, these services are worth exploring.

Schools for students with learning differences or special needs may require additional educational testing such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC) and or the Woodcock Johnson Test for Cognitive Abilities (WJIII). In these situations, the school’s Admission Office will make the requirement clear. However, as a family, you can be preemptive and ask about the testing requirements early in the process.

Consider an Educational Consultant
Families new to the independent school world, as well as those not completely comfortable with their ability to assess their child, should consider working with an educational consultant. A professional educational consultant can help a family with all phases of student assessment and school planning. Consultant services are not inexpensive, but they can prove crucial when time is of the essence.

We recommend starting your consultant search by visiting our Educational Consultant partners.

Working Through a Compressed Application Period
Whether working independently or with an educational consultant, using our admission process framework can help you systematically address each step in the application process.

The following is a compressed version of our Admission Timeline:

1. Know your child and your family. Schools may ask about your late arrival to the admission cycle. Be honest if asked.
2. Have student information such as grades, test scores and report cards ready for submission.
3. Build a profile of your child. In what type of school might your child have the greatest chance of success? What types of schools and activities interest your son or daughter?
4. Consider an academic summer program or another type of growth program to strengthen candidacy and to demonstrate seriousness. A summer boarding experience can introduce and prepare a student for school in the fall.
5. Contact schools that look like good fits. Ask the admission officers about “school fits” and their opinions in relation to your child’s academic and personal profile. If not their school, can the office make any suggestions?
6. Contact recommendation authors (teachers, school administrators, etc.) Ask each to thoughtfully complete a recommendation. Prepare transcript requests.
7. Schedule campus visits and interviews.
8. Complete applications and essays. Submit the applications. Follow submitted applications with telephone calls to confirm that each school has all required information.

Even though a compressed time frame accelerates events and decisions, do not shortchange your analysis and information. Examine each step carefully and move forward with deliberation.

Through all of the steps, use admission officers, teachers, administrators and if using one, your educational consultant as resources. These professionals can help you make good decisions you move through the process.

Pitfalls – Issues and Actions That Can Jeopardize Your Child’s Admission Process

Dismissal from the previous school – admission officers will want to know why. In this case, a parent should be ready to present a compelling, honest story and be prepared for the new school to call the previous school for their perspective on what occurred.

A student and family shopping for a better offer – admission officers and schools do not look kindly at a family currently enrolled in one school but shopping for another. If in this position, make sure that you can explain your situation and reasons for looking elsewhere.
Admissions directors and their schools make a commitment to each family and student accepted. They expect and deserve a similar commitment from each family and student.

Overreaching – insisting on applying to the most popular, most selective schools so late in the process is a fool’s game. Only the most supremely, multi-talented students should even endeavor into this area. And, even then, the probability of a best-fit, positive outcome is low.

Most importantly, slowing down your admission process with the folly of an unrealistic application could cause you to lose a great opportunity at another school.

Best School Fit
Keep in mind that, as a parent, you’re not looking for the ‘best’ school. You’re looking for the school that best fits your child – the school that can meet your son or daughter in terms of who he/she is and help him/her grow the furthest and fastest.

Success results from programs that truly fit a student’s individual interests and abilities and thereby encourage best effort to be put forward.