You’ve made the decision that you want your child to go to a private school. Now, how do you select one?
Identify your Needs
There are many factors to consider when choosing the “right” school. At the start of your process, make sure you know what your needs are, and rank them in order of importance to your family. What are the “must haves”? “Nice to haves”? Things you don’t care about?
Search for Schools
You can start your research by consulting the Web or various published guides. Or, you can hire a consultant who is knowledgeable about the private schools in your area and can help you determine which schools match your requirements.
Coming up with the Finalists
Once you have a list of schools, begin your specific research on each one. Here is a summary of commonly asked questions to help guide you through this process:
- What kind of school do you want? Private? Independent? Religious? Day or boarding? Single sex or co-ed? Large or small?
- How far do you want it to be from your home?
- What school best matches you child’s academic, social and athletic needs? His or her talents?
- Are there any specialized programs? Extracurricular activities?
- How diverse is the school population?
- What kind of social life is there?
- What is the tuition? How and when is it paid? Is there financial aid?
- How safe is the school? How does it handle disciplinary issues?
- What is its academic philosophy?
- What degrees does the staff have?
- What is the ratio of staff to students?
- What is a typical daily school schedule like?
- How long has the school been in operation?
- Is the school accredited?
- What is the school’s financial status and endowment?
- How does the school rank among other private schools?
- Can parents get involved
- What are the entrance requirements?
- Do we know anyone who goes there?
The answers to many of these questions usually can be found by looking at a school’s Web site and by requesting literature from them.
Once you have your information, begin to make a list of the pros and cons of each school. This will yield a shorter list that you want to start looking at in more detail.
Visit the Targeted Schools
If possible, try to visit the schools you are interested in to look around and discuss its philosophy and standards in person. Check out its facilities and a classroom setting. Make sure you child talks to students to get the “lay of the land.” Ask school officials to provide you with contact information for a few parents of currently enrolled students.
If you already plan on applying to the school, you can combine this visit with a formal admission interview. If you are not sure, the visit can help you decide on whether to pursue it further.
Talk to Each Other
Parents and children should sit down and discuss all the information you have. You might like the school, but your child does not, or vice-versa.
Acting on Your Decision
Once you have your “short list” of desired schools, start the formal admission process. This will include your child taking required admission tests and both of you filling out the admission paperwork.