Get into the school of your dreams.

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A step-by-step guide for families applying to Independent Schools.

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Your bright future begins today.

Independent schools provide students with unique educational experiences, tailored to their interests and goals. How do you decide which schools are the right fit for your family? When do you begin the application process? What entrance exams are required?

We compiled resources below to make the process for your family simple and straightforward. 

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Assessment tools like The SSAT and The Character Skills Snapshot

allow your child to stand out and shine.

Get started: Learn about the enrollment process.

While each school has different timelines and requirements, we outlined the high-level steps your family will go through when applying.

Learn about independent schools.

It’s our mission to provide unparalleled leadership and service in meeting the admission assessment and enrollment needs of schools, students, and families.

Create a wishlist.

Determine what your must-haves are in your ideal school. Would you feel comfortable in a large or small school? Are you planning on staying at home or living on campus? What academic and extracurricular do you want from the school? How diverse would you like the community to be? Do you need a program that can accommodate learning differences?

View Checklist

Narrow down your list of schools to explore further.

Visit individual school websites to get a feel for the schools and their missions. You can also dive into our list of sites that help you explore further.

View School Search Tools

Learn about the enrollment process.

As you begin your school search, it’s important to make note of school-specific deadlines, application requirements, visits, interviews, and more. Check our calendar for suggestions on what to do during each season of the year before you apply. Also, it's important that you test early enough to ensure that your scores will be delivered in time to meet the application deadline, and give yourself some wiggle room in case you want to retake the test if needed. You may also access our recorded webinars to help you during admissions process.

[View Admission Calendar]

View Webinars

Find the best-fit schools.

It’s our mission to provide unparalleled leadership and service in meeting the admission assessment and enrollment needs of schools, students, and families.

Find a School.

Use our search tool to locate independent schools that meet your criteria. Filter by grade, academic programs, zip code, sports, gender, religious affiliations, clubs, and more. It also shows you schools that are still accepting applications after traditional deadlines have passed.

Find a School

Take your assessments.

It’s our mission to provide unparalleled leadership and service in meeting the admission assessment and enrollment needs of schools, students, and families.

Learn about your grade-specific test.

The SSAT is the admission exam required by many of the finest independent schools in the world. It’s segmented into three levels. Each is divided into quantitative (math), verbal, and reading comprehension sections, plus an unscored writing exercise. The SSATs also include a section of unscored experimental questions that is vital to the development of new tests.

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Determine if you need an SSAT fee waiver.

If you cannot pay the full amount of the test fee due to economic hardship, you may be eligible to receive a fee waiver. Simply request a fee waiver from the admission office at a school to which you are applying and follow the directions on ssat.org when you register for the test. A fee waiver applies to the test fee only—it does not cover late fees or service fees.

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Determine if your student needs Testing Accommodations.

A student with a disability or who is unable to test on Saturdays for religious reasons may apply for testing accommodations for the SSAT. A student must be approved for testing accommodations before s/he can register for a test.

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Register for a test.

To register for the SSAT, you must have an SSAT account. You'll use your account to print your admission ticket, manage your test date and contact information, set score recipients, submit your applications, order study guides, and more.

Create an AccountRegistration Guide

Prepare and Practice.

The best way to prepare to take the SSAT is to become familiar with its format and practice using questions and sample tests developed by The Enrollment Management Association, makers of The SSAT.

Learn About Test Prep

It's test day.

You're going to do great! We put together a checklist of what to bring, things to know about the test day itself, what to expect, and cancellations or closures.

Test Day ChecklistTBD

Retest if needed.

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Take The Character Skills Snapshot.

The Character Skills Snapshot is an innovative online tool that measures students preferences toward seven character skills. Taken at home in approximately 25 minutes, it provides a richer, holistic view of your student. The Snapshot measures a student's preferences, attitudes and beliefs about their character and is meant to complement more traditional cognitive assessments such as The SSAT.

The Character Skills Snapshot is included free of charge when you register for the SSAT.

Learn More

Apply to schools.

It’s our mission to provide unparalleled leadership and service in meeting the admission assessment and enrollment needs of schools, students, and families.

Apply Online.

Using our Standard Application Online (SAO) your student can apply for admission to hundreds of participating schools. Submit a single set of biographic information, essays, and online recommendation forms that can be used to apply to multiple private schools.

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Review and Send Out Scores.

Review your student’s score report and select the schools you want to receive his/her scores.

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Designate an Advisor.

Have your student give his/her placement counselor or educational consultant the ability to manage his/her score recipients and monitor his/her applications.

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Discover what financial aid options are available.

It’s our mission to provide unparalleled leadership and service in meeting the admission assessment and enrollment needs of schools, students, and families.

Explore your options.

Many independent schools are committed to helping families find ways to pay for their child’s education. Ask if your schools offer tuition payment plans, need-based financial aid, sibling discounts, scholarships or merit awards. Be sure to check requirements and due dates for individual schools’ so you can be given full consideration for financial aid. Financial aid decisions are typically made during or soon after the admissions acceptance period.

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Learn about the steps in the enrollment process.

Get Started:

Determine what your must-haves are in your ideal school. Would you feel comfortable in a large or small school? Are you planning on staying at home or living on campus? What academic and extracurricular do you want from the school? How diverse would you like the community to be? Do you need a program that can accommodate learning differences?
Review Step-by-Step Registration

1

Create a wishlist.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.
Each question on The Snapshot was written by assessment development specialists and subject matter experts in psychology and education, as well as members from the independent school community.
View Sample Questions

2

Students answer two types of questions.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.
The Snapshot measures a student’s preferences, attitudes, and beliefs about their character. It does not measure their behavior and is not an achievement test.

Member schools using The Character Skills Snapshot will receive reports from those parents/guardians who select them as report recipients approximately two weeks following Snapshot completion. Families have the opportunity to review their report before it appears on their selected schools’ Member Access Portal (MAP).
Access Snapshot Results

3

Snapshot Reports summarize results.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.
The Snapshot is meant to complement, not replace, a holistic admissions process that includes information from cognitive tests (such as the SSAT), recommendation letters, interviews, etc.

It is not intended to determine if a student should or should not be admitted. Instead, it offers context to help you better understand the whole student.
Learn How to Interpret Results

4

Schools use Snapshot insights to better understand applicants.

There are tons of multi-purpose options.

Without a reliable test of cognitive skills,

it is impossible to compare applicants from a variety of diverse backgrounds.

Why Join EMA?

Reach More Students.

Enhance your marketing efforts with powerful enrollment tools, such as targeted lists of thousands of prospective families already interested in independent schools.

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Make Confident Decisions.

Assessment tools like the SSAT and The Character Skills Snapshot, along with personal member support, help schools drive smart enrollment decisions.

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Apply Real-Time Data.

EMA’s industry-leading data dashboards, specialized research, and trend analyses help schools operationalize information and set smart enrollment strategies.

Learn More

Connect in Person.

Attend exclusive events and trainings, and receive discounts to the EMA Annual Conference, the largest independent school enrollment management conference in the world.

Learn More

Enhance Your Skillset.

EMA’s professional development programs not only help you discover new ways to solve the daily problems you face, but also ensure you’re constantly building your own portfolio of skills.

Learn More

Build Stronger Networks.

Connect with a community of peers, gain insights from others in your network, and access specialized thought-leader articles and resources.

Learn More
Still have questions?

The Character Skills Snapshot:
Impact in Action

“We feel we have a better idea of who our kids are. The content of our conversations evolved.” Lakeside School (WA) discusses how the Character Skills Snapshot ensures a more holistic admissions process.

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Jerrod Price
School Director of Admission and Financial Aid, Interlochen Center for the Arts (MI)

Whenever I am faced with tough scenarios, difficult decisions, or frankly, a lack of direction, it is helpful to know that the association is an available resource.

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