Narrowing down the best options for your child’s education can be stressful, and the answer is as individual as the child. If you’ve settled on private schooling, applying for admission doesn’t have to be an ordeal.

Metro Atlanta has an abundance of private schools, and 67 schools are members of the Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools. There’s a school perfect for your child. However, the process can involve a lot of paperwork, school tours and testing. Our tips will make the process not quite so daunting:

Start early

It may seem crazy to think so far ahead but starting a year in advance is not too soon. Once you’ve narrowed down to your favorite options, you’ll have more time to visit the campuses, get to know the staff and talk with parents of students already enrolled. Attend a football or basketball game to see if the environments and cultures at the schools on your list will fit your child’s comfort level.

Meet deadlines

Most schools detail admissions requirements and deadlines on their websites. If testing is required, make sure tests are done well in advance of enrollment deadlines. If financial aid is needed, apply early.

Many schools use Ravenna, a software hub managing applications for students applying to private and independent PS-12 schools. The hub allows you to create and manage multiple applications at a time.

Don’t pay for formal test prep

Schools in the AAIS use the Joint Admissions Testing Program for applicants in kindergarten through fifth grade. Since the JATP is a cognitive test, given on a one-on-one session with a licensed child psychologist, there is no way to prepare for it. Schedule a follow-up session with the psychologist to go over the results.

For grades 6-12, most schools require the standardized Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT). Instead of taking formal test prep, get your child familiar with the test, the format and the directions by looking at the practice tests on the SSAT website.

Some schools may also require the Independent School Entrance Exam for grades 2-12. This standard skill assessment ranks reasoning and achievement skills among students in the same grade. The Educational Records Bureau offers preparation books for each ISEE level free on their site.

Apply to more than one school

Go into the application process as if the application were for college – not everyone gets into their first-choice private school, just as not everyone gets into top-tier colleges. Apply to three or four schools that you would be happy for your child to attend.

Keep your own counsel

Talking to other parents applying to the same school will only convince you that you haven’t done enough to help your child through the application process. Remind yourself that you and your child have done all you can, and the decision is now out of your hands.

Trust the process

Admissions offices discuss applicant files and weigh many factors including test scores, teacher recommendations and observations. Admission officers are experienced in screening children and can be fairly certain whether a child will be successful at their school.

AAAIS members have a Common Notification Date. For the 2020-21 school year, mailed and electronic acceptances will be sent April 3-4. Other schools with rolling admissions may send their decision letters earlier or later.

A rejection usually happens because the applicant isn’t a good fit or isn’t ready for the rigorous academics of a school. After notification, AAAIS schools cannot contact parents, although parents can reach out. The Common Response Date to parents’ questions is roughly two weeks after decision letters are issued. AAAIS schools may wait until this date to respond to inquiries.

If you’re put on the waitlist, contact the admissions office to express your continued interest. The second round will occur approximately two weeks later when offers are accepted or declined. Even after the second round and throughout the summer, spots typically open as families change plans or move away.

– Rebecca Ruffin Leffler

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