For over 31 years, our 8th graders get the top test scores and best admissions results

Program Schedule 2023

Fall Program: September 9 - January 14

Saturday OR Sunday 3:00 - 5:30

How Our Program Generates Thousands of Acceptances

Our program addresses all the criteria admissions directors review for acceptance. By comprehensively improving each area, we get much better results than programs just focusing on test prep.

Test preparation

Essay writing

Extracurricular activities

Letters of recommendation


  • 37 Hours of Live Class Instruction — More Than Any Other Course

  • 3 Full Length Practice Tests

  • Essay Instruction — We Teach How to Approach The Essays, Then Essays Are Reveiwed for Content and Grammatical Correctness

  • Proprietary Curriculum Developed From Over 30 years of Learnings

  • Interview Guidance and Practice so Students will Present Their Best Selves and Avoid Pitfalls

  • Extracurricular Consultation — Choose ECs for 8th Grade & Which Ones to Exclude

  • Students Grouped by Ability Level So They Are Learning at a Pace That Encourages Motivation & Confidence

  • In-Class Time to Complete Homework With Teacher So Kids Aren’t Burdened Homework

  • Waitlist Plan of Attack

  • Make-Ups Are Easy — Classes Are Recorded for Make-Ups & to Review Key Concepts From Class

Gallagher Prep Program Advantage

30+ Years of Experience in High School Admissions & Test Prep

Thousands of Students Accepted to Private High Schools

Largest High School Admissions Program — Not Just Test Prep

Lowest Average Class Size for Lots of Individual Attention

Individualized Feedback on Admissions Essays

Individualized Feedback on Practice Interview Responses

Highest Achievement on the HSPT / SSAT / ISEE / SHSAT with Many Students Scoring in the 99th Percentile Nationally

Easy Process:

STEP 1: Schedule

The cost is FREE and includes a Diagnostic Exam and a half-hour Admissions Consultation with our Program Director that will cover:

  • Review diagnostic exam results
  • Gather useful family and child admissions application profile
  • Review schools
  • Extracurriculars (ECs) Consultation
  • Letters of recommendation ideas

*Please be sure to pick a date that will give your son/daughter time to complete our practice test before your scheduled consultation*

Step 2: Diagnostic Exam

After you schedule a date for your consultation, you’ll receive an emailed link to the diagnostic exam for your son/daughter to take. It will take approximately 1 hour to complete.

Step 3: Admissions Consultation

During the Admissions Consultation, we will review all the above and determine if there are any deficiencies to shore up before taking the fall program. If we decide your child is a good fit for the Fall Program, we’ll review scheduling options with you (until classes are filled, we have schedules for every day of the week) and you’ll be invited to enroll.

What Parents Have To Say


Top 10 Admissions
Mistakes Parents Make

There is a lot of mystery around how high school admissions directors work. Misunderstandings lead to a lot of heartache when rejection letters go out and otherwise qualified students are dinged and rejected due to avoidable mistakes. Over the years, we’ve seen a clear pattern of fallacies that lead parents to these frustrating results:

“My daughter has good grades, so she just needs a good test score to get in.”

There are 6 areas in the admissions process and weighting of importance in getting accepted or rejected by admissions directors:

  • 25% HSPT / SSAT / ISEE / SHSAT Score
  • 20% Grades
  • 15% Extracurriculars
  • 20% Essays
  • 10% Letters of Recommendation
  • 10% Interviews

A great test score and good grades are not enough. We hear from parents every year who want help applying as sophomore transfers who were rejected because they failed to craft their application considering the importance of the other areas of impact in the admissions process.

“She’s a good test taker. So she just needs to brush up on a few concepts and take the exam.”

Most 8th graders are not in a regular practice of taking timed exams.  In fact, over the years, teacher performance is increasingly tied to testing outcomes. Teachers now give students ever more time to take tests, even using multiple days to complete them.  Students are often encouraged by teachers to reconsider their answers and take more time, “You know the answer to that.” 

Entrance exams are different. They are timed. Some test sections only allow 16 seconds per question while others require brisk reading. Our course is designed to equip students with the tips and tricks needed to be accurate and also efficient, leaving them with plenty of time to review answers.

“My son has average grades, so he’ll never get accepted.”

These are the 6 areas of the admissions process and the weighting of their importance in getting accepted or rejected. Grades are only part of the equation:

  • 25% HSPT / SSAT / ISEE Score
  • 20% Grades
  • 20% Essays
  • 15% Extracurriculars
  • 10% Letters of Recommendation
  • 10% Interviews

Every year we work with students who have challenging grades.  A solid test score, coupled with focus on the other areas of impact, have gotten the vast majority of our students acceptances into top high schools.

“My son has the perfect extracurricular profile for this school.”

Extracurriculars are misunderstood by nearly all parents.  They assume some extracurriculars are great when they aren’t and those smaller ones aren’t as important as they are.  Admissions counselors and committees are looking for a certain profile of student and it varies depending on school.  In our Admissions Consultation, we review with you all your student's extracurriculars that we will focus on and where there are opportunities, give you guidance on which ones to work on in the summer and during 8th grade.  Make no mistake, extracurriculars are a critical aspect to fitting the right profile of students that get admitted or rejected.

“We don’t have legacy at that school so we don’t have a chance.” OR “We have legacy at the school so my son is a shoe-in.”

Having legacy at a school is a definite advantage when it’s a parent or grandparent.  Aunts, uncles and cousins are less impactful.  We don’t include it in our areas of admissions because it’s not something that can be worked on.  You either have legacy or you don’t.  If you do, as long as you address the other areas of admissions (test score, essays, etc), you have increased odds of acceptance. 

However, about 80% of our students do not have legacy at the schools they are applying.  Meaning that the application they present is of more importance because they are competing with more students for fewer admissions spaces due to legacy admits.  We excel at getting the most competitive profile for each student by focusing on the whole student and comprehensive support of all areas of the admissions process.  That's how we get results.

“He’s a good writer so the essays should be no problem.”

There is perhaps no more underestimated part of the admissions process than the essays. Many mistakes in both grammar and content are made by parents and students alike. Great essays are a huge signal and weigh heavily in the admissions process. Average to poor essays often mean the difference between acceptance and rejection. We focus on strong essays and it’s one of the reasons why we get more acceptances than just taking a test prep class.

“Getting waitlisted is a waiting game.”

Most parents make the mistake of being passive while on the waitlist.  We have a very proactive approach that gets traction on the waitlist.  That said, much will depend on how competitive the year is for admissions.  Much like university admissions, the advent of online admissions applications has increased the applicant pool in most years which makes it more competitive.

“My daughter is only applying to one school.”

This time in life is about exploring opportunities.  We advocate for applying to a minimum of 3 schools even if your family is decided on 1 school already. The reason is that every year we see shifts in thinking by students and parents as they start to go to school open houses and complete their shadowing days.  Many times, we student and parent opinions can change after meeting students and faculty of schools.  Even if you find out that your top choice hasn’t changed, you feel more confident and assured that you’re making the right choice and that brings peace of mind to this large investment of money and 4 years time.

“Interviews are just a formality and we just need to attend.”

An interview will not put your application over the edge in most cases.  But it can add to the overall impact of an application and can be a difference-maker for a waitlisted student. We focus on giving explicit instruction and have dedicated time for students to practice and receive feedback on interview responses. This helps students feel confident for interviews and any interactions at high school visits/tours.

“My son/daughter was admitted last year so my 2nd child will get accepted easily.”

It can be the case that having a child already attending the school will give a family an advantage in admissions.  However, the first student needs to be in good standing and hopefully the relationship between the school and parents has been a good one.  If that is the case, then the sibling applying just needs to do well on their admissions file.  The reason we see the same families come back to Gallagher Prep for all their children is because our program works to ensure students get accepted.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Our history

Our founder, Deirdre Gallagher, grew up in Castleisland, Ireland, in a very Catholic household. After embarking on her university studies in Madrid, she was at the Irish embassy when, "By fate, I happened to be sitting right next to Bing Crosby." Bing's three children traveled with him for work and were in need of a teacher. She had all the qualifications he wanted, so he asked her if she wanted to come to America to teach his kids.

She taught the Crosby children in their Bay Area, California home until she met her future husband and fellow Irishman. They were married a year later and began a family in the Bay Area where she got all 5 of her children admitted to competitive private high schools.

She began teaching test prep to their friends and quickly earned a reputation for being very good at preparing 8th graders for high school entrance exams, helping them write their admissions essays, and for getting kids accepted into the best private high schools.

In 1990, she formally launched Gallagher Prep. Her business and comprehensive method quickly took off in the Bay Area.

Over the last 30 years, she honed her proprietary curriculum and comprehensive system which over three decades has helped thousands of students achieve top scores and get admitted into the most prestigious and competitive private schools. Today as President Emeritus, she continues to be the inspiration behind the vision, quality and success of the program which has continued to grow online throughout the United States.

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