Second Season Private School Admissions

The second season — or late admissions — application period to private schools is very busy for admissions consultants.

At Manhattan Private School Advisors, we’ve already worked with and placed more than 160 families who had not been our clients during the main 2015 admissions cycle, which ended several weeks ago. What happened the first time around? These families were rejected — or endlessly waitlisted — with no admissions offer in sight.

Still, despite the late timing, these families will watch their children begin at excellent schools in the fall, relieved from the anxiety that many of them felt not knowing where their kids would be enrolled.

Second Season Openings

Preschools, K–12 independent schools, and boarding schools often have late, or second season, spots. Why? For two principal reasons: The first is that some of the waitlist notifications sent out to families in the first round in February and early March were little more than polite rejections; in such cases, the schools never intended to accept these students and were merely offering the waitlist as a courtesy. (In truth, it’s hardly courteous to keep a family hanging on with a hope that is not going to be realized.)

The second — and more important — reason is mobility: Families move and leave schools up to and beyond Labor Day. This fact creates opportunities for those who may not have been accepted at their preferred choices, or for families who recently learned that they too will be relocating. In fact, several of New York City’s most selective private schools and preschools had openings as late as the day before Labor Day last year!

Still waiting to hear back? Find tips and advice in this author's survival guide to private school waitlists.

Second Season Application Process

While late admissions for preschool and K–12 (including boarding school) have far fewer applicants than the first-round application cycle, there are also fewer spots available. As a result, late admissions to private schools can often feel both pressured and rushed. Each private school has its own requirements for second-season applicants. It is therefore impossible to follow a standard set of steps in applying. Moreover, it’s difficult for families to know where openings remain — information a qualified educational advisor will usually have — and applications must be submitted quickly. Remaining places fill very rapidly during the second round.

If they haven’t recently taken an entrance exam, second-season applicants will have to take the ERB for elementary grades or the ISEE or SSAT for sixth grade and above. Although there is little or no time for older students to prepare for these tests, this is fortunately often taken into consideration by admissions officers.

Late admissions can be especially difficult for older students, who are fully aware of the unsuccessful effort that has gone into applying to private school during the first round. For some of these kids, this is the first time they have been rejected from anything. It is helpful to make clear that the process is, to a large degree, one of supply and demand — and rarely “personal.” Understanding this fact can enable families, particularly students, to move past their initial disappointment and look at opportunities they hadn’t considered before.

Check out "Facing Rejection: Tips from a New York City Private School Advisor" for further reading.

A Final Thought

One word of caution is that some schools with late admissions openings offer them for one of two reasons: The academics are mediocre, and as a result, they were not able to fill their enrollment goals; or the social environment is problematic, and parents were reluctant to place their children in this setting. Careful research is critical — whether families do this independently or with an admissions counselor.

Late admissions is not only doable, but it is a thriving admissions cycle all its own. The key is to do your research before you commit — and to make sure your child feels confident about the school, its community, and herself during the very condensed second-season admissions process.