Breathe Easy

We talked to admissions counselors, teachers, and education consultants to get the inside track for a process that should begin about a year before your child starts school.

By Georgia Perry January 19, 2011 Published in the February 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

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COMPOSE a list of the features that are important to you and your child in a school: Language immersion? Religious affiliation? Cost?

BROWSE school websites and request information packets from the schools that seem like the best fits.

TALK to friends with children in private schools and ask what they like about their school.


To get an inside perspective, consider registering your child for a summer course, camp, or sports league at one of your chosen schools. Oregon Episcopal School, for example, offers half-day camps in everything from animated moviemaking to grammar to lacrosse.


APPLICATION materials become available. Most deadlines are in January, but applications can be submitted anytime after September.

PICK a test date for the Secondary School Admission Test. The SSAT is required for students applying to private school in grades 5–11 and includes verbal, math, reading comprehension, and a writing sample. (Note: students applying to Catholic high schools must take the High School Placement Test, offered in December.)


SCHOOLS typically host open houses on weekends in October and November. Attend as many as you can; there’s no substitute for seeing a school firsthand.

SCHEDULE private tours during the school day. Many middle and high schools will allow potential students to spend a day shadowing a current student.


CONTACT your child’s current teachers for recommendations. This gives them ample time to write the recommendations (due in February), and by now they’ve had a few months to get to know your child.

PRIVATE schools use independent organizations to assess families’ financial aid needs; find out which service your schools use. For Portland-area schools it’s usually either the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) or Private School Aid Service (PSAS). Visit their websites for application materials, which become available this month. Then check with the schools you’re interested in to determine financial aid application deadlines.

ATTEND a performance, lecture, or sporting event at the schools you are interested in to give you a sense of the culture and community.


APPLICATION time! Get ’em done this month.


MANY applications and application fees (typically between $50 and $75) are due this month.

SOME elementary schools will invite prospective students to an applicant-only school day to help give teachers a sense of the applicants and inform the school’s selection decisions.


TEACHER recommendations and transcripts are due.

MOST scholarship applications are due this month. Contact schools for specific information.

SCHOOLS that include an interview as part of their application process usually schedule them this month.


DECISION letters and financial award letters will be mailed out this month. Most schools require families to accept or decline by April 1.


If you’ve been accepted to more than one school, compare the schools one last time, take a deep breath and say yes—usually by sending in a deposit—by April 1.


KEEP an eye out for announcements about orientation events where you can meet other new students and current faculty members.

SCHOOLS typically contact wait-listed students this month.

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