The Fayette Citizen-News Page

Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Private school application process underway

Ready or not, now is the time for families to be researching their children’s education options for next fall.

Private Christian schools in the area are already re-enrolling their current students and planning January and February open houses for prospective families. Most schools have a limited number of available spaces each year. Landmark Christian School Admission Director Kathy Taussig encourages families to start the application process as soon after the New Year as possible. Here’s how the process typically flows.

First, parents should contact the school that interests them and request an application information packet. They should also schedule a tour of the school or attend an open house. Most schools hold their tours and open houses in January or February for the following fall term.

At an open house, parents can expect one-on-one interaction with teachers, a chance to meet current students and parents and get their perspective. Often there are refreshments, multimedia presentations and even student speakers or performances. Parents will be able to tour the campus, and learn about the school’s academics, athletics, extracurricular activities, clubs and other special programs. Plan on it taking about two hours.

“Admissions is a big process,” said Kelly Peppers of Grace Christian Academy in Fayetteville. Fortunately, at an open house, “all that paperwork is all set out, and packages are ready to be handed out to answer many of your questions.”

She added it’s very helpful to look ahead at the school’s Web site. “At Grace’s Web site, parents can learn about the teachers, the curriculum we use, and the teachers’ backgrounds and certifications.”

The important thing at the open house is to ask lots of questions. Whatever the prospective parent puts into the open house experience, that’s what they get out of it.

“Class ratios is one of the big questions we get,” Peppers added.

Ask about class size and overall enrollment. What is a typical day in your child’s grade like? What foreign languages are taught? What does the school do to instill character and values in its students? Ask what percentage of the school’s graduates go on to college and what their college counseling process consists of. Are the teachers accredited? What agency accredited them?

It’s also good to ask the experience of the teachers in their school, suggests St. Paul Lutheran School Principal Dan Palisch. “Obviously, the higher level of experience, the better quality program,” he said.

“As a Christian school, too, I would want to know how that impacts my child’s education,” Palisch noted. “What difference does it make? What guarantees do they have? Can they give you examples of how that's impacted the lives of their students?”

Find out what they do in their curriculum to instill Christian values, he said, and ask how involved students are in that aspect of school. “Do they have a chapel service? Who leads it? Are the teachers Christian, and do they have a faith walk that is really obvious?”

Some families may not think that they can afford a private school. Admissions counselors, however, encourage families not to automatically disregard it as an option. Go ahead and tell the school your particular situation. Funds are often available from the school to help families in need of tuition assistance. Financial aid is need-based and may be applied for by completing a financial aid application, which may usually be obtained by contacting the school’s business office. The application for admissions and application for financial aid are separate processes.

Once a family has narrowed the field of potential schools, the next step is to complete the application.

There is typically a small registration fee, and several forms will likely be required (varies by school): a transcript from the current school, including test scores, report cards, and possibly discipline records; birth certificate and Georgia certificate of immunization; and written letters of recommendation from the pastor of the church the family attends, teachers and possibly guidance counselors at the current school.

Kathy Taussig, the admissions director at Landmark Christian School, indicated that the pastor recommendations and family participation in church life are especially important aspects of Landmark's admission’s process. Landmark is interested in knowing what the student and parents are looking for when they apply. Landmark Christian offers a generous liberal arts program to meet individual student needs. Taussig commented that Landmark is specifically interested in Christian families who want to partner with the school in preparing students to impact the world for Jesus Christ.

Once the school receives the completed application, some schools require students to take standardized entrance tests. Test dates are usually set in February, March and April. At some schools pre-kindergarten candidates are asked to visit the school and spend the day so the teacher can know more about the student’s pattern of emotional academic, and social development. Some schools determine proper grade placement through a checklist of entrance requirements that parents or guardians of pre-K candidates are asked to complete.

Interviews are granted to applicants whose qualifications meet the school’s admission standards.

After the interview is completed, the applicant’s file is reviewed. At Landmark Christian, the Admissions Committee meets every week during March, April, and May to consider those candidates who have completed the full admissions process.

The process itself, because of the paper flow, can take from four to six weeks. Each applicant is notified concerning status of acceptance, and some students may end up on a waiting list.

Once the application is approved and any financial aid paperwork is completed, an annual enrollment contract is signed by the financially responsible parties and by the school.

Then, depending on the school’s dress code, it may be off to the uniform store for back-to-school shopping. That may be tough to think about while shivering in January; but, if you hope to enroll a student in private school this fall, now is the time to make those initial calls and check out school Web sites.

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