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• For older students, October is the season for open houses. Try to attend them all. You’ll get lots of advice from other people, but, remember, you want to know whether a school fits your child, not someone else’s. There’s no substitute for first-hand knowledge, so go, and take your child if possible.
• In addition to open houses, check whether the schools you’re interested in allow prospective students to spend a day on campus. Some schools don’t give this option until a student is admitted, but it never hurts to ask.
Oct. 11, 2008
• If you are aiming for fifth grade or above, your child will probably need to take the Secondary School Admission Test, the SSAT. The test includes math and verbal skills, reading comprehension and a writing sample. Check with specific schools, but your child will likely be required to take the SSAT in the fall.
SSAT tests are administered at: Hawaii Baptist Academy, Hawaiian Mission Academy, Iolani, Maryknoll, Punahou, Saint Louis, St. Andrew’s Priory and Trinity Lutheran of Wahiawa on Oahu, Hawaii Preparatory Academy on the Big Island, Akaula School on Molokai and Wilcox Elementary on Kauai.
You can get information at www.ssat.org or by calling (609) 683-4440 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; remember, they are on Eastern Time). You cannot register by phone, only by mail, fax or online. Registration closes three weeks before each test date, and costs $100. Late registration is possible online only, and costs $25 more.
•If your child does not have much experience with tests such as the SSAT, you might want to provide some kind of practice beforehand. There are numerous preparation options, from a study guide available from www.ssat.org to formal tutoring with diagnostic testing. It’s also possible to take the test a year in advance, without sending the scores to a school. Some schools accept more than one set of SSAT results.
• By the end of December or early January, you’ll have completed and mailed your applications. But, beware, deadlines range from October (usually for kindergarten) to late February. You’ll want to create your own calendar to keep track of what’s due and when.
• During the application process is the right time to inquire about financial aid. More than 40 Hawaii private schools require you to complete what are called the SSS Financial Aid forms (the SSS stands for School and Student Service). While the form is the same, the schools establish their own due dates, which can range from December to April. Since most financial-aid forms are due before April 15, you’ll need to send a copy of your tax return, usually required, along later.
• For families applying to Catholic schools, another source of aid may be the Augustine Educational Foundation. For more on the group, see www.augustinefoundation.org. Aid applications are available online at the foundation’s Web site, and from all Hawaii Catholic School offices in mid-January. Applications must be returned by the middle of March. There are other aid sources for Catholic school students, as well.
• After you submit your application forms and perhaps your financial-aid packet, you’ll have a little time to collect supplemental materials, such as transcripts and teacher recommendations. In addition, if your child is an athlete, get a letter from his or her coach. A musician? Then the band leader or music teacher. Your child does volunteer work? Get a letter from the organization. Make it as easy as possible for these people to help you. Give them stamped, addressed envelopes. Check with the school to make sure the materials have arrived.
• Virtually all schools will then schedule an interview with your child. The best preparation is all the years you’ve spent talking with—and hopefully listening to—your child. Try to remind your child to take the interview seriously, without making him or her too nervous to talk. Often on the same day as the interview, the school will schedule a writing sample. Schools that require writing samples take them seriously.
• Many schools like to interview parents, as well. Here’s the catch: They won’t call it an interview. If you’re told, for instance, that you can schedule a meeting with the admissions director to discuss the admissions process, by all means do so. If the school says, “Why don’t we just sit down and talk while your child finishes up the interview or the writing sample?” make no mistake: that’s an interview. Your best strategy: Talk honestly about what you want for your child.