2016 Hawai‘i Private School Guide
(page 8 of 18)
The Timeline: Applying to Private School
Thinking about private school for your child? Finding the right school for your child and getting her or him enrolled can take at least a year. Here is a 12-month timeline to make sure you don’t miss a crucial deadline along the way.
Start Your Search
Most schools advise parents to start at least a year in advance. By August, start a list of potential schools for the next school year. Off the top of your head, you might be able to come up with three or four schools. But there are 118 private schools in Hawai‘i. For a quick overview, see our comprehensive guide to Hawai‘i private schools.
If you’re really planning ahead, you should know there are certain windows of opportunity in the private-school application process of which you’ll want to take advantage. Kindergarten is obviously a time when schools take in a lot of new students. Sixth grade is a major entry point and, if you’re interested in high school, ninth grade is the easiest time to enter. However, many independent schools take students throughout the year, at any grade level, as long as the school’s classes are not full. This is known as rolling admission. Be sure to check with the schools in which you’re interested to find out their major entry points.
Make Some Serious Selections
By September, begin gathering material. Most schools are glad to mail you catalogs, applications and other materials. At this stage, there’s no such thing as doing too much research. Check the schools’ websites, and the site of the Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools (hais.org). To help focus your thinking, you can use our “14 Things to Look For in a Private School” guide.
One way to take a look at many private schools at the same time is to attend one of the three HAIS School Fairs. All three fairs are for prospective students from preschool through 12th grade. The first fair will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Japanese Cultural Center in Honolulu; the second will be on Tuesday, Sept. 29, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Pearl Country Club; the third will be held on Thursday, Oct. 1, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Ko‘olau Ballrooms in Kāne‘ohe. Each fair will include breakout sessions on applying to an independent school and financing their education. For more information, call 973-1540 or visit hais.org.
Take a School Tour
By October, you should have narrowed your list of prospective schools. To how many should you apply? The consensus of most admissions directors is five. That should leave you with plenty of choices when the acceptance letters come in.
With your short list, you can start looking into specific school-admissions and financial-aid requirements. Don’t wait too long, especially if you are interested in kindergarten. Some schools have early kindergarten application deadlines. For instance, Punahou’s is Oct. 15, ‘Iolani’s, Oct. 30. For kindergarten applications, most schools require: 1) teacher references, 2) testing, usually done by the school itself, and 3) an activity session and observation.
In general, fall is the season for schools’ open houses. Check with each school to find out specific dates and try to attend. 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 firsthand knowledge, so go, and take your child, if possible.
In addition to open houses, check whether the schools in which you’re interested 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.
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 ‘Iolani, Maryknoll, Punahou, Saint Louis, St. Andrew’s Priory, Island Pacific Academy, Le Jardin Academy, Hanalani and Trinity Lutheran of Wahiawā on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy on the Big Island, and Aka‘ula School on Moloka‘i.
You can get information at ssat.org or by calling (609) 683-4440 (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern time). Registration is done online, closes three weeks before each test date and costs $124. Late registration (available online only) is open for one week after regular registration closes, and costs $40 more; after that, rush registration is $80 more, and is available until three days before the test date. Walk-in and standby testing options are not offered.
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 the official study guide available at 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; check with specific schools about their requirements. Additionally, some schools accept more than one set of SSAT results; again, check with each school.
Mail Your Application
By the end of December or early January, you’ll have completed and mailed your applications. But, remember, 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.