1. Know your child.
Have an honest and realistic understanding of your child's strengths, weaknesses, personality, passions, phobias, and preferences. With that understanding fully developed, make sure those important aspects of your child come across in the application. For the "best-fit" school, your child's profile will be exciting and enticing!
2. Know the schools, their programs, their campus culture, and what makes them unique.
With the existence of hundreds of boarding schools in the United States (and even more abroad), each school will present your child with a unique experience. When you couple knowing your child with knowing the schools, you'll be in a powerful position to positively effect the course of his/her educational path. I honestly believe that there is a boarding school that fits every child--it is just a matter of making that connection.
3. Much like the college search process, it is best to limit the number of schools that your child applies to.
Use your search process to find the best-fit schools, and then limit your applications to the top 8 or so. It is a good idea to have some "reach schools," some "likely schools," and some "safety schools" in your application pile.
4. When you narrow your list down to the schools that will receive an application, it's a great idea for your child to arrange for a shadow day.
The best way to really "feel" a school's culture is to be a part of it-- even if it is only for a few hours.
5. Know the schools' application requirements and deadlines, and then meet them.
Plan ahead so that you are not trying to squeeze in last minute campus visits and SSAT test sessions into an already busy teenage schedule.
6. Financial aid is a limited resource.
If you're applying for financial aid, definitely meet the stated deadlines! It may require that you complete your taxes earlier than usual, but approach the process as if you're being "paid" in financial aid dollars for your hard work; it is much easier to fill out financial aid forms when you are getting "paid" to do so! Also, understand that financial aid is much different at boarding schools than for colleges, which can receive federal assistance. Financial aid at boarding schools is limited and is often the product of the generosity of alumni and current families to the school's endowment and/or annual fund. Finally, be prepared to sacrifice. You may need to hold off on upgrading your car, taking your usual family vacation, or putting on an addition to your house in order to afford boarding school for your child.