There are a number of reasons to consider sending your child/children to a private school: small class sizes and highly qualified teachers provide a more one-on-one educational experience; they offer exciting and stimulating extracurricular activities not often found at public schools; and in some cases you can find dedicated religious affiliation and education. Whatever the reason or reasons, it’s important to pick a school that meets your criteria as a parent but also is a good fit for your student. It’s a smart idea to start your search about one year in advance so you can take your time and evaluate all the options.
However, before you even start searching for a school, sit down as a family to discuss exactly what you’re looking for from a private institution. Some examples to think about include:
- Large or small school? A small school may provide more one-on-one educational opportunities while a large school will likely have a wider variety of educational programs.
- Coeducational or single-sex? Does it make a difference?
- Day school or boarding school? If you are considering a boarding school, how far away from home are you willing to travel?
- What special programs/amenities do they offer, and do those programs meet your child’s needs?
Once you have a broad idea of the kind of expectations your family is hoping to achieve, you can start doing some online searches to develop a preliminary list of spots you think will meet your goals and objectives. Once you have that list narrowed to your top two to four options, contact each of the schools to set up a tour.
Many private schools hold open houses so the general public can come for a tour of the campus, meet some of the educators, see how the other students interact together, etc. This is one good way to get an overview of the school and campus, but also consider taking a more personal look by requesting a private tour.
While visiting schools, ask questions, take notes and have fun. If you or your student doesn’t feel comfortable in one environment or another, that could be a potential red flag that a particular school may not be well suited for either of you. Ask for your child’s honest opinion after each tour. After all, your student’s education will be much more meaningful if you include him/her in the decision-making process and they are happy with their educational environment.