The Rundown on Elite Private High Schools

Koai Solano Ortiz
Published on
September 22, 2022

**We understand private schools are not accessible to every student-- time, location, cost, transportation, and many other factors contribute to the accessibility of this kind of education. For those where it is feasible, here are some tips and steps.**

If you’ve watched Gossip Girl you know the type of schools that the characters attend. For several students, the idea of going to a private school is a distant and chimerical dream that evaporates the second you’re reminded of your financial situation. However, you can still receive high level education (and impress colleges with your academic history) without paying a cent! Here’s a beginner’s guide to getting into them if you live in the U.S.!

A Boarding School vs A Day School; What Does A Day Look Like at Each Type Of School?

A day school happens during the daytime, so like your typical school day. On the other hand, a boarding school takes place on a campus, similar to a college. While many people think boarding schools are for kids that are sent to for behavioral correction, many of them exist for the purpose of students’ enrichment in a nonconventional way.

Day schools run by the schedule you’re normally used to. Many students commute to their schools and end up staying a bit later for sports such as track or participate in alliance or club activities/meetings. For context, an alliance is usually a support group that focuses on a certain group of people such as a Latin American Student Alliance, the Jewish student alliance, etc. The option of a day school is more comfortable for those who want to stay with family.

At a boarding school once you’re done with the school day and are perhaps a little tired of the constant walking between buildings for classes but excited of what's to come, co curriculars occur. Co curriculars typically consist of community service, sports, theater, etc. This may last 1-2 hours depending on the activity. Straight after, you might head to dinner and then, study hall. Study hall may happen in your room or somewhere else on campus but it varies. Finally, the day ends and you may have to do dorm chores such as taking out trash/cleaning depending on the day of the week. 

On weekends, some boarding schools have shuttles or buses that take students off campus to travel towns nearby (if desired) and may set up optional activities for students. Not everyone that attends a boarding school is an extrovert but many people do have huge social lives! For some people, too much interaction and moving around can be tiresome, so be careful when selecting which schools to apply to. 

Find A Program

Believe it or not there are a plethora of programs who help non-wealthy kids get into private day schools and boarding schools! They pay for the applications you turn in, give you test prep, and usually give you a wide array of support. A good place to start finding these programs in your area is by looking at this website, which lists many of them: Tuition Assistance - Low Income Scholarships

Once you get into the program, you’ll most likely be put into classes similar (or harder) to the ones taken at these institutions through an intense test run over the course of several weeks or days in the summer or school year; it is a high level commitment. Some programs may model a day school for a few weeks/months and then model the routine of a boarding school, at an actual boarding school. Although these classes may end right before entering high school, many programs continue to offer students guidance until they enter college and onwards. 

What Does the Sign Up Process Look Like For These Institutions?

  1. Start preparing for private school applications
  2. Most private school applications ask for essays on different topics to assess your writing or character. Around this time, you should focus on maintaining a good relationship with your teachers in order to receive good recommendations and transcripts later. You may also want to start building a portfolio of your best works/performances if interested in the arts. Most programs send you waivers to pay for the application or test fees
  3. Taking the S.A.T
  4. While not mandatory, a myriad of programs decide that their students should take this standardized test which is accepted by most elite private schools.
  5. Submit applications 
  6. Make sure you polish your application and add the best parts of you. It’s good to talk about how you would contribute to the community whether it be for your talent of art or a knack for public speaking. 
  7. Take the interview
  8. Part of applying to private schools means being interviewed by a school faculty member at an interview location, the school being applied to, or over a video call. Before entering the interview, I recommend searching up common interview questions and working on forming confident answers that best represent you in a quick fashion with friends or family. Practice your handshake, eye contact, posture (sit up straight), and make sure you’re enthusiastic for your interview. 
  9. Wait for results This is the nerve-wracking part. You can’t do much except wait until the day comes around for elite schools to come out with rejection, acceptance, or waitlist letters. The best outcome is getting accepted of course, but if this doesn’t happen you can try applying again the following year with the same program or a different one (this depends on the program however **). 

What Disadvantages Should I Consider Before Applying to Elite Private High Schools?

While getting into an elite private high school is definitely a dream come true, it can also be very tough on people. Aside from normal high school drama and conflict, many students have reported attacks of racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, classism and so forth which is more common at elite private schools which are usually predominantly white institutions. It’s important to remind yourself you got into these schools for your intellect and character and to surround yourself with people who you are able to and want to grow with. Be honest to yourself before and after you start, because you don’t want to end up somewhere you hate. That said, there are a good amount of people who are willing to actively unlearn their toxic behaviors or proclivities. These are the people I recommend you stick by once you find them.

And of course, these schools tend to be very rigorous. I recommend these schools to people who stay on top of their work or know they can form good work ethics. I survived two years so far without a good work ethic so if you still want to go for it, you should too (I ended up developing a better work ethic this year)! Furthermore, I recommend not expecting to take every AP class as these schools go much faster than most schools and take a diver deep into their content. Remember, everyone is different so do what you feel will benefit you the most!

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