Jun 14, 2022 |

What Are the Components to a Successful Prep School Application?

By Gravitas

Student preparing for application process

The best college preparatory schools can provide you with an excellent education, lifetime friendships, and a solid foundation for college. But prep schools are highly selective in their admission process. If you want to increase the likelihood of being accepted to prep school, be sure that your application includes some core components:

Strong Academic Transcript and Test Scores

Your academic portfolio, including courses, grades, and test scores, are the foundation of your application. If you hope to attend prep school, you need to make academics a priority, studying hard and doing well in your classes. Exams like the SSAT (Secondary School Admission Test) or the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Examination), may also be required for admission. Even if test scores are optional, good scores may help your chances of admission. These tests look at your language, math, reading, vocabulary, and problem-solving abilities. Check the requirements for each school you apply to and consider test prep options, practice tests, and other ways to prepare. You can also take exams early and retake them to get a more favorable score.

Strong Essays

To evaluate your writing skills, ability to synthesize ideas, and your unique voice, most schools require writing samples via a prompt they provide. Download the questions early and spend time formulating a response that presents your best self. Once you have a draft, share it with teachers and your parents for feedback. Even as you allow them to offer guidance and suggestions, be sure that your own voice still shines through. Admission officers want to get to know you and your writing style and abilities, not someone else’s.

Successful Interview

The interview is your chance to show school officials who you are, what you care about, and why you want to attend their institution. Consider a practice session or two with a parent or adult friend. At the interview, greet the interviewer with direct eye contact, a smile, and a firm handshake if it’s in-person. For virtual interviews, sign on a couple of minutes early to make sure the video and sound work and that you’re well-lit and in the frame. Be sure you’ve done your homework before the interview so you only ask questions about the school that wouldn’t be easy to find online. Be ready to answer questions about why you want to attend the school and how you will contribute once there. Answer the questions honestly. Be concise. And be certain to ask a few questions of your own. What do you want to know about the school, its mission, and its students?

Teacher Recommendations

Most prep schools require teacher recommendations, often one from a math teacher and one
from an English teacher. Consider which teachers know you well and who might offer a glowing recommendation. Provide them with all the information they need to write the letter, including due dates, addresses, recipients, any necessary information to include, and even addressed and stamped envelopes. Alternatively, if the recommendation process is online, let them know how to access and complete the reference process digitally. If you have a particular academic interest, you may want to ask a teacher from that class who can speak to that strength. Waiving the right to see the letter will also maintain the integrity of the process and assure schools that the letters represent an honest and accurate assessment.


Prep schools look for well-rounded applicants with interests outside of class. From sports, art, and drama to public service and passion projects, the more you can show that you are passionate and dedicated to activities outside of school, the better you can show your multi-faceted personality.

Parent Statement

Many prep schools will interview parents and ask them for a written statement about you and your family. This allows schools to understand your family and the support system that you have in place. Schools want to be assured that your parents will be positive, supportive, and interested in partnering with the school and you throughout your education.

Character and Fit

As you evaluate schools and prepare your application, be sure that you understand the school’s mission and feel that you will be a good fit. Admissions officers want students of high moral character who will positively contribute to the community. That’s not to say that they want students from identical backgrounds. On the contrary, they want diverse applicants with a range of viewpoints who can speak with passion and respect.

Timely Application

It’s critical to gather all your materials and submit your application on time or early. A late application sends the wrong message and may not be reviewed at all.

Are you ready to choose a prep school? Gravitas is the online extension of The Stony Brook School, a renowned 100-year-old college preparatory school on Long Island, NY. Gravitas now brings SBS’s legacy of excellence to students across the globe. To learn more about applying to our school, visit our application page.

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