If your child is applying to private schools — preschool, elementary, middle or high — one of the most important elements of the application will be the parent statement. This statement tells the school about your parenting philosophy, your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and how strong of a fit your child and family are for the given school. Chances are you have not written this type of a statement before. Here are some tips to help you write the strongest and most appropriate statement:
• This statement is not a decree about your success as a parent or as a human being. It is less about you and more about your child. There is no need to go into great detail about your professional success or the impressive degrees you have earned. There will be space for all of that information elsewhere, so don’t try to pack it in here.
• Don’t be afraid to show your child’s vulnerabilities. As amazing as your kiddo might be, every child has his weaknesses. Denying this simply means that you are not being honest about your child’s needs and perhaps why he might be a great fit for a particular school. So think deeply. Perhaps your child is on the shy side and less confident in big groups. Perhaps your child is incredibly curious, but impatient. Perhaps your child is academically sound, but is still grappling in social situations. Or perhaps math and science are your child’s fortes, but you want her to learn to express herself more effectively. Being honest about these facts do not read poorly. In fact, this type of authenticity means that you are introspective and forthcoming.
• Do not list your child’s accomplishments or resume. This certainly would not apply to preschool applications. If you have an older child, try to reign in the listing of accomplishments. Your child will be writing his own personal statement and also giving a list of activities and accomplishments. Reiterating those in the parent statement is simply a waste of space and a lost opportunity. You can use this space to talk about your child’s interests and strengths, especially those that may not get highlighted by your child. Creativity, problem-solving abilities, empathy and loyalty might be characteristics that your child exemplifies in spades. Maybe she connects easily with others or is able to deal with conflict easily. Perhaps she has a love of music and creates or composes her own tunes just for fun. These are all things that make her a whole person, and these schools want to admit real kids.
• Be thorough in your assessment of the school. It is very easy to say, “School X is the best school for my child.” But the admissions office would like more specifics about what you think the school can offer that match well with your child’s needs and aspirations. This is also not a time to reiterate the school’s website or to drop names. And mentioning rank of the school or college placement is just in bad taste. Rather, think deeply about why this school is a great fit. You might want your child to go a school that emphasizes your spiritual values, aligns with your child’s academic interests, or matches your educational philosophy. You might want a school that encourages parental involvement in the community or one where the teachers want to keep the parents out of the classroom. You might consider extracurricular opportunities. Hopefully, you have done your research rather than decided to apply to every school in your area.
While admissions to private schools can be competitive, the parent statement is your chance to make your child’s application stand out. The way to do so is to write a very honest statement about your child and what you are looking for from a given school.
Remember that the ultimate goal is finding the school that is going to best support and nurture your child so he can reach his potential.
Purvi S. Mody is co-owner of Insight Education, an educational consulting firm that helps students throughout the Bay Area to achieve their educational goals. Email her at email@example.com.
We have read thousands of private school application essays. We've laughed, we've cried, we've slept through many☺
A good application essay should be concise, personal and memorable. The following tips will ensure that you will compose a great essay.
I have so much to say. I could actually write a book.
Please, write a book...then give it to the grandparents or save it for your memoir! The essay about your child, however, should not be longer than one page. The admissions staff reads hundreds of essays during the season. Admissions officers are interested and do want to learn more about your child, however, they want to learn more about your child in one page, not five or ten!
Keep It Personal
The essays that will stand out have the most personal and interesting anecdotes about your child and your family. The essays provide a unique opportunity to reflect on your child's special personality and how it will add to the school's unique environment.
Choose four or five adjectives that describe your child. Then write your essay and support the top two or three with succinct personal anecdotes. The anecdotes should reflect your child and family in a positive light. You can be funny, silly, quirky and honest. Just keep it real and your child's personality will shine through.
The essays should be well written and grammatically correct. You don't need to be a professional writer to reveal your fabulous child. Computers offer spelling and grammar checks. Use them! You want the admissions professionals to be touched and gratified that you took your time to present a well-written and thoughtful essay.
Do Not Highlight Your Child's Weaknesses
Weaknesses? What weaknesses? Well, yes, every child has a few. But the application essay is not the place to highlight temper tantrums, or how he hits his sibling, or every time he has told you, "You are the worst mommy ever!"
Your goal is to portray a REALISTIC and loving view of your child's personality. Admissions staff will meet your child and be able to see his or her attributes for themselves, so it's important to be honest and believable.
However, it is just as important not to hide things that a school needs to know. Most schools will offer a parent interview or a space on the application for additional information. This is the place or time to offer a fuller explanation of any physical limitations, a trauma in the child's life with which he/she is coping, or allergies, etc. These are not weaknesses, but rather critical information that will assist the admissions office and you in finding the proper fit for your family
Clarify Your Affinity for The School
Think seriously about why you have chosen to apply to a particular school. The admissions office is seeking a great fit between the school and your family. Become familiar with each school's educational philosophy.
Is their philosophy a good fit for your family? Does the school's mission statement reflect your family's values? Do you seek a single sex school? Why? Are sports your main focus or does academics rule?
Be honest with yourself and the admissions staff!
After thinking about what is most important to you in relation to what the school offers, be sure to prominently mention that in your essay. Be specific and credible about how these values are already incorporated into your daily life.
Additional Information, Please
If a school's application offers the opportunity to provide additional information, do not reiterate what you've already written. There are no brownie points for filling up the entire essay portion. Only provide additional information that will help the school better understand your family and child.
This is not the space, however, to divulge your family's deep dark secrets like the long lost uncle who was arrested last year or the voices you hear at night!
An application essay should be a snapshot of:
Your child's personality
The compatibility of your values with the school's values
Double check if you mention the schools name in your essay and be sure it's in the correct envelope correlating to that school.
Lastly, picture an overwhelmed admissions officer reading hundreds and hundreds of essays. Yours should be that outstanding essay that remains with the reader for some time!
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