Parent Resource

How to Submit a Late Application to Private Schools

Written by Liz Yee, Director of Admissions at Lowell School

As the school year comes to a close, are you worried that your child’s school just isn’t the perfect fit? Not sure when your young child would be ready for school? Moving to a new school district, or to the United States from out of the country? Did you apply to a private school (or independent school) but your child did not get in? For many reasons, you might need to find a placement for the upcoming school year.

If you are you coming to the private school search late in the game, don’t despair! You are not alone and, in fact, there are many reasons to be encouraged about the late admissions process, as well as resources to help.

Why Some Private Schools Have Unexpected Openings This Time of Year

Contracts aren’t binding yet. A lot of private school parents have already enrolled their child and put down a deposit to secure their space. In most cases the deposit is non-refundable, but there is a “grace period,” after which, contracts become binding, and parents are required to pay full tuition for the school year. In that window of time, spaces sometimes become available—a child might be offered a space off a wait list at another school, a public or charter school option might have become available, and, of course, families do move out of the area.

Specific classes might not be full. In some cases, a particular grade level might not be full. Schools do not always post these openings publicly on their website. Typically, the openings are specific: if the school would like to add a girl to the 2nd grade class, and your daughter does not have a school yet, you just found an option!

Family finances change. Let’s face it, funding private school weighs heavily on many families. Parents are crunching numbers and weighing options all the way until the date that enrollment contracts are binding. Openings might pop up if parents make another choice for their child due to a change in their personal finances.

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Next Steps

The most important next step is to not give up! Do your research and start making inquiries. The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) allows you to search their list of schools geographically, and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) has a listing of schools in the DC area. Websites like Great Schools (national) and DC School Hub (local) are also great resources for learning more about a wide range of schools in your area.

If you are relocating, check out these resources for families looking for a new school in a new area.

Applying Late: Step by Step

Need some help getting started and following through? We have advice for you! Just click the link below.


The tip sheet will answer these frequently asked questions:

  • What do I need to know about waitlists/waitpools?
  • How do I get teacher recommendations over the summer?
  • What testing is required and where do we go to get it done?
  • What if we need financial assistance? 
  • How long will I have to make a decision if my child is accepted?
  • What do I need to know about putting my best foot forward with admissions directors?

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