K-12 Admissions: What Families Need to Know

Monday, March 15, 2021

Portrait Of Female University Student On CampusWhat to Expect When Applying to K-12 Schools

While many families are aware that the college application process is comprehensive and multi-faceted, far fewer anticipate a similar process for K-12 or primary and secondary school admissions. Although there are significant differences, many younger students will still need to complete testing, interview, and submit an application for middle and high school.

The requirements surrounding K-12 admissions vary extensively based on the age of your student and the schools on their best-fit list. Keep reading for an overview of what to expect during the K-12 admissions process as well as the next steps families should take to learn more. 

Getting Started

There are many factors to consider during your search for an independent school or boarding school. For many families, location may be a top consideration, in addition to academic offerings, extracurricular activities, faculty, and counseling resources. It’s important to do as much research as possible, including both reviewing websites and touring campuses when available. Take notes throughout your search process so that your family can come together and discuss the pros and cons associated with each option. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a school with any pressing questions, as it’s important to have all the information necessary to make the best decision for your student.

Standardized Testing 

Much like college admissions, standardized testing is often a component of the independent school application process. The Secondary School Admission Test (SSAT) is one of the most commonly accepted exams, with more than 80,000 test-takers completing the exam each year. The SSAT measures basic verbal, math, and reading skills and is available in three levels: Elementary Level (for students applying to 4th and 5th grade), Middle Level (for students applying to 6th-8th grade), and Upper Level (for students applying to high school). 

Students can also take the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE), another popular and widely accepted exam. This exam is broken down into four levels: Primary Level (for students applying to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade), Lower Level (for students applying to 5th and 6th grade), Middle Level (for students applying to 7th and 8th grade), and Upper Level (for students applying to 9th-12th grade).

Finding Your Best-Fit

As opposed to focusing on name recognition or prestige, it’s essential for every family to prioritize fit when searching for a K-12 school. After doing ample research on multiple different choices, use this information to pinpoint exactly which options align with your student’s needs. While academics are a top factor, don’t overlook the importance of finding a school that is a good financial fit as well. Many boarding schools and independent schools have their own financial aid application process that takes a family’s demonstrated need into consideration. Schools must also be a good fit for your student based on their temperament and social and environmental preferences. 

Meeting the Requirements

Once you’ve finalized your list of best-fit K-12 options, families need to stay on top of deadlines and ensure that they have completed every component of the application process. This can include submitting test scores, sending in transcripts, compiling letters of recommendation, interviewing, and/or writing a personal statement. The requirements and deadlines vary tremendously between different institutions, so parents need to stay on top of every important date to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Depending on the age of your applicant, encourage your student to guide this process as much as possible to build important habits that will prepare them for college applications in the years to come. 

The K-12 admissions process is an exciting opportunity to pinpoint a best-fit institution for your student and build a strong foundation for college applications. If you are interested in learning more about applying to boarding school or independent school, get in touch with our team of admissions counselors. 

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