Parents are in a difficult position when it comes to finding out information about schools. Because they are private schools, they are not subject to the usual sunshine or freedom of information laws. They are under no legal obligation to tell you anything. You need to know exactly what is lurking behind those gorgeous web photos and enthusiastic classroom shots.
The following questions are ones you might want to ask but might feel uncomfortable asking. That's why it's a good thing to hire an educational consultant
. She can ask such questions with relative impunity. Plus she will think of dozens of other questions and raise many other issues about schools which will factor into your choice of schools
1. Why did those five seniors get expelled just before graduation?
Perhaps there was an article in the local press. It doesn't matter. The Internet makes unwelcome publicity widely available in minutes. Naturally you want to know what happened just in case the situation is symptomatic of something more serious. You will probably learn a lot about how the school enforces its code of conduct which you and your child could be signing if you decide to go there.
2. Is it true that the school is having financial difficulties?
There are plenty of signals that a school is in trouble. Declining enrolments and staff turnover are just two of the more obvious signs. No sense in sending your child to a school which is having problems. Your consultant will have made discreet inquiries and will have checked the school's Form 990 to learn more about the financial background. In these tough economic times with endowment funds decimated by financial turmoil, sound financial management is critical to the school's ability to survive and be sustainable.
3. How many places are still available?
A consultant can find out the answer to that question in a heartbeat. The admissions office relies on its network of consultants as one means of filling places. Last minute vacancies do occur. This is particularly important at moderately competitive schools. The very competitive schools will have long waiting lists. The moderately competitive schools will have shorter waiting lists. Your chances of getting in improve the less competitive the school is.
4. My child was expelled from Shady Grove Country Day School. Does she stand a chance of getting in?
Before you spend a lot of time, effort and money applying to the school, you need to know whether you are wasting your time or not. Since the consultant knows your child and has reviewed the circumstances of her unfortunate dismissal from SGCDS, he can make the discreet inquiries necessary and test the waters for you. It will not be easy to pull off, but it can be done.
5. One of your teachers was arrested in an FBI child pornography sting. How do I know that the other teachers are suitable?
One teacher's transgressions can certainly cloud a school's reputation. But the truth is that the school has probably bent over backwards to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. Your consultant can confirm that for you and reassure you that all is well in the faculty lounge.
Hiring an educational consultant is always a good move. These professionals know their schools and have excellent networks through which they can find out just about anything you need to know. After all you are investing significant sums of money in your child's high school education. Due diligence is a must. Leave it to the professional to ask the tough questions which you can't ask.