General Academic interviewed the parents of both private and public school students to more completely understand the applications gauntlet from those who had already been through the process.

These parents were our clients at the time and represent a broad range of backgrounds. For example, we talked to a mother who was born and raised in Houston and another who had only recently been transferred to the US by her international company.

We talked to the parents of children who are in the top 1% by test scores and others whose children were in special needs schools. Some parents described themselves as extremely religious while others said they preferred to have no religious affiliation at all.

Despite these perceived differences and outlooks on life, they still managed to agree on many of the same things.

Here are the top five nuggets of wisdom that these parents provided us:

1. Be objective about your child’s talents and aspirations.

Almost all parents agreed that the “right school” was more about individual fit and environment versus perceived name recognition and curriculum.

The word used most often was, “objective.” Talking about not pushing parents’ dreams on kids, one St. John’s parent even went so far as to say, “Don’t be so invested…don’t let them know how much you want them to get in.”

A School of the Woods mother says, “It’s only middle and high school, don’t worry so much…if they love learning, they will carry that with them no matter the school.”

2. Consider, visit, and apply to many schools.

Most parents advised first-timers to visit many schools, not just a handful of the “big names” and to “ignore the noise.” Make sure to give yourself options by applying to multiple schools including a “stretch” and a “safety.”

3. Talk not only with current parents but also the students.

Most parents are good about talking to other parents and asking admissions directors copious amounts of questions, but they often forget to talk to the students!

The students are the ones who are experiencing these schools first hand, every day, for 8 hours a day. An Emery-Weiner parent says, “Ask the kids what they think about the schools…most parents are followers. They don’t know what goes on behind the doors but the kids are living it every day.”

4. Rest easy knowing the application process is not actually that difficult.

Parents seemed to agree that the actual application process, once underway, was relatively easy. They stated that the forms and deadlines were clear and that admissions officers were easy to talk to. When asked what obstacles parents faced when applying, the word that was used most often was, “none.”

5. Start preparing early and submit your applications on time.

The simple advice here is not to procrastinate. This wisdom is especially sage when applying to schools with rolling admissions where increasingly few spots will be available as the new school year approaches.

For schools with hard deadlines, being ahead of the deadline means that parents will have peace of mind earlier and time to complete anything in case the school says it was incomplete. Most parents stated that they started the applications process 3-5 months before January of the matriculation year.

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