Since independent schools are designed to serve particular groups of students rather than the whole spectrum, they must choose from their applicants those they feel they can serve best. In the process of making those choices they rely on interviews, teacher's observations, testing, records of previous performances, and recommendations from the applicant's present school. They also take into consideration the composition of the class, its balance by personalities, by interests, by talents, and by needs.
Although every school strives for objectivity in making its choices, inevitably some subjective judgments must be made. No school pretends to infallibility, but all do their level best to be fair, both to the applicants and to the children presently enrolled.
In other instances when an applicant is young for the grade or perhaps inadequately prepared, admission may be offered at the present grade level. Rather than looking on this as being held back or repeating a grade, one should understand that the intent is to take the applicant at his present level of achievement and maturity and to proceed from there. More damage is done by ill-considered acceleration of children than by allowing them the time they need to grow and learn at their own pace.
Most schools give some preference to siblings of presently enrolled children and the children of alumni/ae.
If Your Child Is Not Admitted
In schools where there is intense competition for admission, it follows that numbers of qualified candidates must be turned down. If your child is one of those, there is no reason to assume that she is somehow inferior to those who were admitted. Choices may well have been made for reasons that had no relation to her merit as a student or a human being. In schools where competition is not a major factor, a child may be denied admission for reasons of balance or because the school in its best judgment concludes that it cannot offer an appropriate learning situation.
Whatever the reason, it is important for parents to maintain a positive attitude, principally to help their child feel good about himself. By all means discuss the school's findings with the head or the admissions officer, but let the discussion center on what the best course of action for the child is, not on the reasons for his being denied admission. Most schools want to assist in finding a reasonable alternative situation for the child. They do not want to talk about what is wrong with a child because that is not the way schools analyze their candidates. In the case of younger children in particular they also do not want to turn over test results because they can easily lead a lay person to an inaccurate and sometimes damaging perception of a child and to erroneous comparisons. If it turns out that the school can suggest no acceptable alternative, one would be wise to seek the advice of an independent educational counselor (see Additional Information)