Reader Question: How Long Is Too Long For Written Application?

Here’s a question from a blog reader:

I would love to know what we should be aiming for in essay length. What’s considered average? How long is too long? Etc. I would hate to ruin my child’s chances by overwriting, but I don’t want to short change him either. Any advice would be appreciated!


September 12, 2010 7:33 PM

Here is Kim Hamer’s response:

How long is too long for the written application is a good question!

Instead of focusing on the length, it’s really about focusing on the content of your private elementary school application. Specific, detailed applications are never too long. As a parent you really want the school to know who your family is and who your child is, right? The problem is talking about your child is usually a parents favorite subject which means, we can drone on and on about our kids, causing a too long application. You’ve met that same person at a party! This person continues to talk and talk and talk while not saying anything of interest and not providing details that you can relate to. Unfortunately, that is how many private school applications read. Here are two ways to help you avoid the droning and over long application.


1 .Make Sure You Are Answering The Question And Be Specific.

Many parents make the mistake of NOT answering the question! This usually happens because they’re so worried about not giving a good description of their child, they over describe him. They also use meaningless descriptions like happy, nice, funny. To avoid this mistake, while you re-read your answer keep the question in mind. Use words that really show who your child is.  The more specific you are about your child, the less you have to say!


2. Show The School Who Your Child Is, Don’t Tell Them

Another way that essays become too long is that parents often tell the school about their child, about their family or why they should be a part of the school. The most effective way to get this point across is to show the school your child, family etc. For instance in our essay about our youngest son, we wrote, “When Ezra’s in a group he tries to make sure that everyone else in the group gets to talk.” I could have written “Ezra is a leader.” While that sentence is shorter, the longer one speaks volumes! It demonstrates how my child behaves, it shows what we think an important leadership attribute is. It also speaks to our values, that being a leader is important. I just showed them in one sentence who my child is and what we value. I now no longer need to state, or tell the school. Show Your Family!


Remember, an admissions director in Los Angeles has to read over 100 applications. An essay that takes up a lot of their time, that uses none interesting or detailed words for them is like listening to the person at the party. You just want to get out of there. An essay that is pointed and clear, which means it will not be over-written or over long, will get you noticed and closer to getting you in to the school of your choice!


Kim Hamer is the founder of “Get Into Private School” an education consulting firm in Los Angeles. Kim is no longer working in consulting, but has moved on to a job fundraising for schools. 

Touring Brentwood School: There’s A Lot To Like

When I toured Brentwood School a few years ago in search of an elementary school for our daughter, it seemed like I had found the perfect school. Brentwood has it all: strong academics, a blend of traditional and developmental elements throughout its programs, sports programs, a stunning campus and impressive administrators, all in an upscale location.

My husband and I attended a prospective parents open house. I’ll be honest. It was intimidating. There were hundreds of parents in the big auditorium. The school administrators gave an overview of the school and its programs. There was nervous energy in the room. Lots of parents on Blackberrys. Tons of Prada and designer clothing. Talk of private jets and lavish lifestyles are common when Brentwood is mentioned. I didn’t care. The parents I know who have kids at Brentwood are successful professionals (oh, and I do know one heir to a legendary American fortune whose kids go there). But, one thing was obvious: we all loved what we were hearing and seeing at the open house.

The tour was lead by a very nice mom. It was short and to the point. We walked through the kindergarten classrooms with a small group of other prospective parents. The mom leading the tour answered a few questions about the school. Everything ran smoothly and on time.

Ultimately, we didn’t apply to Brentwood. It was too far from our house. The drive would have been debilitating.

I talked to a mom who told me she toured the school last year and the Prada wear I had seen was less evident. She saw lots of Tory Burch. Perhaps the recession had impacted Brentwood too, we speculated. Had the Fashionistas become Recessionistas?

We may have passed on the elementary school, but, for my kids, secondary school still lies ahead!

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Tours and More! The Private Elementary School Application Process Has Begun

It’s starting! The private elementary school application process, that is. Here are a few ideas to help you get started with the process and keep going with it when you think you can’t stand one more second of it.

If you think you’ll need more help than a book, a blog or advice from friends, get help early, rather than later. Check out our interviews with some of LA’s top educational consultants (see below).

Get organized, stay organized. This process is crazy-making! Try to find a notebook or folder to keep yourself organized, with notes, important dates, etc. If you’re the spreadsheet-type, all the better.

Develop a broad, rather than narrow, list of schools to tour. You can always eliminate schools, but once tours are over, you can’t add a school!

This is a competitive process in every way. Your ability to cross the finish line and not drop out before its over is key. Some parents give up before the admissions process is over. Schools want families who can go the distance both during the admissions process AND once they are at the school.

Just do it! Schedule your tours, request applications and jump start the process.

Here’s a roundup of some of our most popular posts as well as a few we think will be useful as you think about what’s ahead for your private elementary school application process. Just click on any of the links below: