We recently highlighted how difficult it can be to get into a private middle or elementary school in the Garden State and offered parents 5 tips to improve their chances of getting accepted to a top NJ private school. Unfortunately for both parents and prospective students alike, it only becomes more competitive as children approach high school. For example, private elementary schools in New Jersey have an average acceptance rate of 81% where private high schools only accept an average of 69% — and those numbers are much smaller for highly accredited schools.
Cedar Hill Prep is one of the top 10 most selective schools in the state of New Jersey with 30% acceptance rate for our elementary and middle school programs. The best private high schools in New Jersey are even more competitive. For example, The Lawrenceville School has an acceptance rate of only 21%!
What many parents and students don’t know is that the foundations for a successful high school application are already set in or before seventh and eighth grade. Here are things you can do, together with your middle schooler, to gain a competitive advantage when it comes time to apply:
- Get Started Early In Your Preparation For The Application Process – Much Earlier Than You Might Think
The process of preparing your child for getting into high school is long — often much longer than parents realize. We strongly advise that all parents plan at a minimum of one year in advance. However, it ideally takes at least two years to research the top school choices, attend open houses, talk to other parents, and research the school online. This is important because your child will spend the majority of each day at the school, it is a large financial investment, and has long-term consequences for your child or the entire family as some families move closer to the school of their choice.
- SSAT & ISEE Are Much Harder Than You Think — Help To Prepare Your Child For The Admissions Tests
The two widely-used private/independent school entrance exams are the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) and the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam). Many private New Jersey high schools will require at a minimum the SSAT scores in addition to very high SAT levels (e.g., 2095 for The Lawrenceville School). . For the ISEE, the top schools will be looking for a Stanine of 8 or 9, or scores are between the 90th and 97th percentile.
Although most parents are aware that their children need to take the exam, many parents don’t realize just how challenging the material is. Often times, the material is beyond grade level and, because of this, it’s extremely rare that a child can complete the test and score at the top level with little or no preparation. Although a child may pass the exam, most elite private schools will be looking for children who score at the top level.
- Keep an Eye On Their Grades
Although final grades aren’t the only factor in a child’s acceptance into a top private school, they certainly matter a great deal, especially after the 7th grade. Most schools begin sharing transcripts for grades 7 and 8, so not only will this affect a child’s admission into private school but into college as well.
- Rigor of the Curriculum
Private high schools not only look at the results on a child’s transcript but also look at the rigor of the curriculum and the previous school’s reputation for being a challenging school. For this reason, it is imperative for parents to ensure their child is diligent about completing homework, projects and assignments, not only on time but to the best of his or her ability. Beyond performance, your child’s grades are a direct reflection of his/her ability to meet deadlines and show that he/she is enthusiastic about learning. Another way for children to demonstrate a desire to learn is through reading.
- Demonstrate That Your Child Will Be An Asset To The School (e.g., Leadership Skills) – Rewrite
Getting into a private school, particularly those at the top, is a highly competitive endeavor. Beyond your child’s transcript and test scores, Cedar Hill Prep is among those schools who look to see what kind of person he or she will grow up to become. During the application process, we look for students who are well rounded and involved in extracurricular activities. Good grades are certainly taken into consideration, but with so many applicants, children with strong leadership skills, personal drive, and even public speaking skills are the ones who truly stand out from the pack.
Although elementary and middle schools may not be looking for academic perfection, private high schools have extremely high standards for acceptance. We believe by improving their minds, confidence, and social skills, students are well prepared for the advanced academic environment of a top private high school. It’s never too soon to start preparing your child to get into the high school of your choice and begin building the foundation for lifelong success.