By Susan Hely,
, March 2010
It’s that time of year when kids are getting ready to sit demanding exams for scholarships to private schools, or for places in opportunity classes or selective high schools.
If you have a bright child with good marks or special talents, it is worth investigating all the possibilities. After all, private high school education costs up to $150,000 at the most expensive schools.
Most private schools offer academic, music and best all-rounder scholarships for entry into high school, plus specialist scholarships for the last two years of school. Some schools offer specialist scholarships such as sport, Aboriginal, science and boarding scholarships too.
There are full scholarships that cover additional costs such as school uniforms, but increasingly private schools offer a number of part scholarships, rebating either half or a quarter of annual fees.
Some schools apply a means test to support students who would not have the opportunity for a private school education, while others offer scholarships purely on merit, regardless of the family income.
Where to look? The best place to start the search is the school website. It will give you the deadlines for the application and the exam. It will also outline the sort of exam your child will be sitting and what attributes the school is looking for.
When to start? Many kids miss out on a chance to get a scholarship because parents don’t get their applications in on time or prepare their kids. You usually have to start a year before high school begins, though some schools hold their scholarship exams 16 months before their high school start dates to lock in top students.
While some very bright kids can sit the exams and win a scholarship without any preparation, there are plenty of talented kids who need help with time management preparing for arduous exams that cover maths, English, general knowledge and written responses.
There is a huge industry of private tutors that specialise in helping kids study for scholarship, selective high school and opportunity class exams. Some kids start tutorials to prepare for these time-pressured exams a long way in advance.
Look at the websites of companies running scholarship exams, such as the Australian Council of Educational Research website www.acer.edu.au, and Robert Allwell and Associates at www.allwell.com.au.
ACER runs the co-operative scholarship testing program CSTP, for over 150 independent schools, to select the best academic candidates for high school scholarships. The test is held on one day but you can register with more than one school, listing the schools in order of preference.
You can buy sample questions from ACER and a handy book called A Parent’s Guide to Scholarship Tests. It contains advice on preparing for the test, plus example questions and sample answers with detailed explanations, strategies and approaches. It has suggestions on helping your child develop the skills and abilities that the tests target.
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