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Applying to Parochial Schools

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Applying to Parochial Schools



Applying to Catholic School - not a member of the parish

Jan 2009

I was hoping someone could enlighten me on this: How hard is it to get into Catholic primary schools if one is not a member of the school's parish? (The schools I'm thinking of specifically are School of the Madeleine and St. Jerome's.) I have looked on their websites and I know that 1st dibs on enrollment goes to parish members (understandable!). I was just wondering what this translates to in real life. Is it very difficult to matriculate if you are not a member of the parish? Or, are lots of non-parish kids accepted? FYI, my husband and I are 'culturally Catholic'... as in, our respective families (especially grandmothers!) are Catholic, to one degree or another. It's what we grew up with and 'what we know', so we do not have a problem with Catholic instruction. However, we've both moved away from the Church for various reasons, and are somewhat hesitant to return formally (as in, joining a parish). Thanks for any and all responses! ''Cafeteria Catholic''


From what I have heard,the two schools you mentioned have a large non-catholic student population. You should not have any problems getting in to them if you are not a parishioner. You might try other schools (like Corpus Christi and St. Theresa) too, the economy is having an impact on the number kindergarten applications for next fall. It's worth a try, right? -2 in Catholic School
At St. Jerome it won't make much difference, especially if you aren't applying for Kindergarten. There is not a lot of connection between the parish and school. Also, they don't have a tuition difference between the groups... everyone pays the same.

At the Madeleine being a parishioner can be more important depending on the applicant pool. There are families at the school that are non-Catholic and non-parish Catholics so you wouldn't be alone in that. had students at both


Our family attends St. Jerome. We are not catholic nor do we belong to the parish. I believe the Oakland Diaosies is very liberal when it comes to this requirement. St Jerome and the Madeline are in my opinion very open although I am sure they would love the parish membership. You should not have a problem with the enrollment, as long as the parish does not have families entering the grades you are looking at. And from what I know, you should not have an issue as enrollment is down in both schools from ''parish membership''. Good Luck they are both good choices. Kish

Non-Catholics and Admissions preferences?

Nov 2006

Our daughter is applying to several high schools in the area, all of which require an interview with the student. We are curious as to how the interviews are structured, what kinds of questions get asked, how many people are present.... Any thoughts on this part of the process would be welcome. We're curious as to what the schools hope to discover in the process. We are also applying to the two Catholic high schools. I was raised Catholic but am no longer practicing and my husband has no religious background. I know both schools need non-Catholic students (about 50%) to fill their schools and say they welcome people of all faiths. Does anyone have a sense as to whether applicants are prioritized according to religious influence (i.e., are those applicants who belong to a church or temple regarded more highly than those who do not; are lapsed Catholics at the bottom of the list)? Our family likes what we've seen and heard at the Catholic schools and feel it would be a good fit but are worried that our lack of religious affiliation will be a liability. Anecdotal experiences welcome. Thanks anonymous


My two daughters are the ultimate lapsed somethings (father lapsed Catholic, mother lapsed Protestant) and are finishing up at St. Mary's High School. I don't know if it affects admissions or not--I would hope that practicing Catholics would get some preference after all-- but it definitely does not influence the school experience. The students are diverse, from all kinds of backgrounds and religions, and are generally nice kids. My daughters have had a wonderful experience. My oldest loves her religion classes, because they discuss all kinds of contemporary issues, and there is no attempt to force any Catholic interpretation or decision--just lively discussions of right and wrong, something I think is missing in many educational experiences. They also study many different religions. She has developed a strong interest in philosophy as a result. My daughters are very different girls, but neither has had any bad experiences. Some teachers are fantastic, others less so. The school is small and friendly, and places emphasis on character as much as academics, though there are some very challenging courses. In the interview, just tell your daughter to be straightforward and friendly. very lapsed

Conflicting admission test days for parochial schools

Nov 2001

My 8th grader is applying for private high school this year, and I was wondering if anybody out there had experience with the application process for parochial schools. It appears that the admissions test for Bishop O'Dowd high school is held on the same day as several other parochial high schools, but I am told that O'Dowd does not allow makeups and does not mail the scores, although they require that O'Dowd applicants take the test AT O'Dowd. Does anybody have any experience with this? Thanks, Nancy


I researched this thoroughly just last Fall. My daughter took the main (Saturday) testing date at O'Dowd, because your information is correct. (I think they will forward their scores to other schools AFTER they have made their admission decision, but that means your child would only be able to get into other schools if slots were available.) However, Saint Mary's gives the test on a second date (a Monday I think). They give priority to students who take the test at St. Mary's on Sat, but plenty of kids who take it on Monday get in--I know several. I know St. Mary's and Holy Names are good about sharing scores with each other. Perhaps they will also share with other schools. This approach worked fine for us; our child got into all 3 schools. Feel free to contact me directly if you would like further thoughts. Barbara
My son applied to both Bishop O'Dowd and St. Mary's College High School last year. Bishop O'Dowd and St. Mary's both give their admission tests on the same day. You must take O'Dowd's test on the day it is given, there are no make-ups, and it is true that even though the tests administered at each school are exactly the same (so I am told), O'Dowd will not share their scores with other parochial schools. This is all very frustrating. Your only option is to take St. Mary's test on the Monday after the weekend the admission test is given at O'Dowd. There are only a limited number of "slots" available for the Monday make-up test, so you have to apply early for this. But here's the catch. If you choose to take the St. Mary's test on the Monday make-up day, your child's application to St. Mary's will automatically be given a lower priority than those of kids who took the test on the primary test day the prior weekend. There's no way around this. Even if your child gets a very high score in the St. Mary's test, there is a very low possibility that St. Mary's will accept your child. So you can take both tests, but in my experience it's almost not worth it to jump through these hurdles. My son scored scored very well on the parochial admission test (both times that he took it) and his middle school tests and grades from a local private school were excellent as were his teacher recommendations. Despite all of this, he was not accepted at St. Mary's. He did, however, get accepted to O'Dowd which was his first choice. The whole parochial testing procedure is quite frustrating. Your chances of getting into two competitive parochial high schools, I think, are very slim. S.B.
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