Private School Admissions

The private school admissions process is an exciting journey for the whole family because it is not only the students who need to participate actively. Parents are invited to attend school events like campus visits, open houses, and parent interviews. They also need to compose parent statements where they will write about their child and how, as a family, they can contribute to the school’s mission and vision. This gives the admissions officers a chance to learn more about the applicant from the parent’s perspective.

Although most private schools have adopted the test-optional policy, test scores still remain to be a differentiating factor in the admissions process. If the school accepts test scores, we suggest that you still submit them. Taking practice tests for the standardized test accepted by the school you are considering whether it is the SSAT, ISEE, or HSPT, will be an advantage. To gain leverage in private school admissions and obtain relevant scores, students may opt to attend private test prep classes from reputable educational consultants. Practice tests not only provide mastery of the subjects, but more importantly, it develops the proper test-taking mindset and develops the confidence to undertake these standardized tests.

For the past year, some schools have chosen to require Proctored Writing Samples instead of test scores as part of the private school admissions requirements This is an online writing session, done through Zoom, where students write essays on a specific topic. The activity is proctored by one of the admissions officers. A student applying to any of the Peninsula Schools—Castilleja, Crystal Springs Uplands, The Harker School, Menlo School, The Nueva School, Sacred Heart, Woodside Priory, and The Girls’ Middle School— need to submit only one common Proctored Writing Sample to multiple schools in the group. 

You may sign up for a Proctored Writing Sample Practice Test to be familiar with the process and to learn how to write powerful and compelling statements that will make you stand out and differentiate yourself from the other applicants.



Before making the decision on which test to take, know which one is being required by the private school your child is applying to. If the school has no preference and accepts both tests, it is important to be informed about the differences between the tests and assess your child’s abilities. For any of these tests, we recommend taking the ISEE practice test, SSAT practice test, and HSPT practice test to prepare your child.

Both the ISEE and SSAT require students to write an essay, but it’s not graded. So why do you need to write it? A copy of the writing sample is sent to the admissions officers of the schools and will still be a differentiating factor in your application. It is a great way for schools to see how well you express yourself. and how you perform on a series of standard tasks. The essay is where you get to shine as an individual and strategically differentiate yourself from the other applicants. Schools look closely at your essay, so think of it as part of your application and take it seriously.

Test scores are a good way for students to differentiate themselves. Even if they are not required, if the scores are above the 90th percentile, it is still recommended that they be submitted. This allows admissions committees to have more information about your child that can help to make them stand out from the numerous other applicants. This holds true especially if your child does not have great grades or an impressive GPA.

Test preparation, or test prep as it is often called,  is very rigorous and a good way for students to enrich themselves. It focuses on confidence-building and laying the foundation for future success.  It is also a good way to make sure that they have covered all of the grade-level material during the school year to have better placement and better classes which would make a huge difference in their school performance. It allows them to learn valuable test-taking skills which could be very valuable throughout their academic career. 

So whether submitting test scores or not, taking practice tests will be beneficial for your child.