Applying for private schools
BY WENDY ALTSCHULER For Sun-Times Media
“I always tell prospective families to visit as many schools as they possibly can," said Alejandra Valera, director of advancement at Alcuin Montessori School. "Not only does this give you an opportunity to see the school in action, it also allows you to see what feels right for your family. Once you find your perfect school, you’ll know it.”
The application process for a private elementary school
Advice from Jeanine Rocchi, principal, St. Celestine School.
All schools will need to see an original birth certificate to verify age and health records including a physical and immunization records.
Before making a decision, tour the school. Meet the principal. The school should have a welcoming atmosphere and should be clean and free of any hazards. Ask questions about the curriculum, faculty and technology programs.Various specials and clubs enhance any school.
“Most schools do a great job for our children,” Rocchi said. “You and your child should feel welcomed and safe in any school environment.”
Applying to a private school doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Experts and education professionals have weighed in and offered up their tips and sage advice on a silver platter with the hopes of helping parents sail through the ins and outs of the application process.
Visit a bunch of schools
Alejandra Valera, director of advancement at Alcuin Montessori School in Oak Park, said that she always tells prospective families to see as many schools as they possibly can in order to have the opportunity to witness the school in action and gauge whether or not the school feels right for your family.
“Once you visit your perfect school, you’ll know it,” said Valera.
Nicole D’Alessandro, associate director of admissions at Guerin Prep High School in River Grove, seconds this advice.
“When looking for a Catholic High School, it is important for parents and students to seek out as much information as possible pertaining to prospective schools,” she said. “Parents who spend time visiting various campuses and learning about academic programs, will find a school that is the best fit for their child.”
Attend an open house
“At Guerin Prep, we hold two open houses during each school year and allow students to be Gator for a Day by shadowing a current student to get a glimpse into the life of a Guerin student,” D’Alessandro said. “We urge all students to attend an open house and a shadow day.”
In September and October, faculty from Guerin Prep visits surrounding schools for classroom visits and high school fairs.
“These are both great opportunities for both parents and students to learn more about Guerin Prep,” said D’Alessandro.
Learn about the credentials and space availability
Valera said: “With Montessori schools, you should be asking, ‘Are your teachers Montessori trained and certified? Is your school a member of either AMS or AMI?’”
Valera also advised that mentioning your child’s age might be appropriate when trying to find an opening at a school, especially mid-way through the year. In addition, she suggests that parents should ask if siblings of current students receive priority over new students-often space might be full before new applicants are considered.
“Another question parents should ask is whether or not applications are taken in the order that they are received,” said Valera.
Fill out all paperwork
Most prospective schools will have a parent perspective questionnaire that asks parents specific questions about their child. These should be filled out with detail in order for teachers to learn about your child.
“While many schools include questionnaires as an optional practice, it is always a good idea to complete all forms,” Valera said. “It gives us a nice glimpse into your child’s personality and what you are looking for in a school.”
Pay attention to dates
For Catholic private school admissions, it is critical to be mindful of the January entrance exam date.
“Students who take the entrance exam at Guerin Prep are given the first opportunities to receive financial aid and scholarships,” D’Alessandro said.