Congratulations – you’ve decided you’d like to send your child to an independent school in Toronto. Maybe you’ve applied to several schools, or perhaps you’ve narrowed it down to a handful. No matter how many schools you are choosing from, navigating the private school admission process and then making an admission decision can be confusing and stressful. Here are some helpful tips to help you throughout the school admission process:
Generally, schools will accept applications at any time – especially schools with rolling admission (more on that below). That said, most schools will only accept applications for the current application cycle (i.e. you aren’t able to apply for September 2018 until fall of 2017). Some schools incentivize families to get their application in early (e.g. by reducing the application fee). However, the general rule of thumb for a September start is that you should have your application in by December of the previous year. Independent schools should clearly state on their website when their application deadline is.
Understanding Rolling Admission Versus a Common Offer Date
Schools adhering to a “rolling admission” process (e.g. The York School’s Junior School: JK – Grade 5) will typically accept an application at any time during the admission cycle and will fill spaces as they are available. If you are applying to a school with rolling admission (they should specify this on their website or in prospectus materials), expect an admission decision shortly after completing the process and be prepared to accept or decline an offer of place in a timely manner or the offer will expire.
There is a consortium of top independent schools in Toronto that adhere to a “Common Offer Date” (e.g. The York School: Grade 6 – 12, UCC, Branksome, Havergal, Greenwood etc.) These school all wait for the same agreed-upon date to let applicants know if they have received an offer of place. For the 2017 Admission Cycle, the Common Offer Date is February 24, 2017. What’s great about this arrangement among these competitive schools is applicants can consider all of their options at the same time. For many students and parents, “Decision Week” can be a stressful time – especially if an applicant doesn’t get an offer to his or her top choice school.
After the Common Offer Date has passed, most schools will revert to rolling admission.
There are three general admission decision outcomes: Offer, Waitpool, or Reject.
Dealing with Rejection
If after reviewing an applicant’s complete file (including assessment and admission interview results), the Admission Committee at a school concludes that the applicant is not mission appropriate (most often due to academic, language proficiency, behavioural, or philosophical mismatch), the family will be notified that the school will not be offering the applicant a place. While this is not an outcome anyone wants, the best way to avoid a rejection is to do your research on the front end. For example, if your child is consistently getting Cs, you may want to avoid applying to an academically rigorous school that requires an average of at least a B.
Stickhandling a Waitpool Decision
It’s vitally important for families to understand that being given a waitpool decision does not mean that the applicant is not qualified or mission appropriate for the school. Independent schools receive many more applications than there are spaces available, and Admission Committees are tasked with the difficult job of determining who to offer a place to and who to place in the waitpool. Some of the things considered when making these decisions include:
- How likely is it that the applicant would accept an offer? If the Admission Committee isn’t certain the applicant would accept an offer because another school is his or her top choice, they might be more likely to give a waitpool decision. So, make sure you have sincerely communicated with your top choice school.
- Does the applicant already have a sibling at the school or is the applicant’s sibling also applying to the school? Most Admission Committees give preference to sibling and legacy applications as they want to keep siblings together in the same school whenever possible.
- What is the gender balance of the class being built? This is a focus in co-ed schools and most have policies related to gender balance. The York School, for example, will not go past a 60:40 ratio in either direction even if it means a smaller class in the end or having to waitpool exceptional applicants.
- What is the applicant’s learning style and personality? The Admission Committee is trying to create as diverse a class as possible – this means a blend of introverts and extroverts, academic superstars and students needing learning support.
A waitpool is not a “top-of-the-list, first in list”. Waitpools are made up of unranked, mission appropriate applicants and Admission Committees will revisit their waitpool and select the most desirable applicant based on all the considerations outlined above. Make sure to let a school know if you want to stay or be removed from their waitpool.
Students applying to more than one school may find themselves in the position of being offered places at two or more of them. If the student has a clear top choice school, the decision is easy. However, in many cases, applicants like different schools equally for different reasons and really struggle to decide between them when given multiple offers. Figure out what you need to know to help make the decision. Ask if you can connect with a particular teacher, coach, current student, or current family. Find out if you can come back for another look at the school during “Decision Week”. Schools should be willing to help you access the information or people you need to help make the right decision.
-Natasha Estey, Admission Officer, The York School Middle & Senior School
For more information on The York School’s admission process from JK to Grade 12, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.