Finding Schools

Learn more about how to find and evaluate private schools. Find out why price should not be your only consideration. Get valuable advice on how to save time and money when choosing a school. Learn more about ranking schools and why it may not work.
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Ten years ago choosing a private school was at a crossroads. Back then you had the traditional ways of finding schools and finding out more about them. You asked around. You contacted schools you knew about. You bought a directory of private schools, if indeed one was available. (I still have a vintage copy of The New York Times Guide to New York City Schools written by Grace and Fred Hechinger published in 1968.) Or you hired an educational consultant.

So, let's take a look at how you can save time and money choosing a private school for your children in 2012.

 

  2000 2012
Finding schools Books
Word of mouth
Consultant
Internet searches
Directory listings
Association listings
Finding out more about schools Request catalogs
Call the schools
Consultant
Online tours
YouTube
Social media

 

In 2012 we literally have more information - and misinformation - than we can assimilate. Assuming that you are savvy enough to use reputable sources, you shouldn't have much difficulty finding schools. Here are some places to look.

Directories and Associations
Start with a listing of private school directories and associations like the one we have on this site. Then drill down to the state or regions in which you are interested. Most of these directories and associations have lists of member schools. Use filters to exclude schools not of interest.

The NCES site offers an exhaustive list of every private school in the nation. But it's interface is clunky.

Our
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It's certainly fun to navigate different private school sites and see what's out there.  And you must do that, not only on your own, but with your child. For all sorts of good reasons. Remember: your child needs to buy into this important decision. It mustn't be a unilateral decision unless the circumstances are exceptional such as your requiring a school for special needs or a therapeutic school. In those situations, obviously you know best and will make the appropriate decision for your child.

There's another consideration we parents need to review carefully as we decide which private school is the best one for our children. And that's the cost.

But don't just look at the price! Why? Because there are several factors in play when it comes to paying for a private school education.

1. Financial Aid
Depending on your financial situation the school may offer you a financial aid package. This could well have the effect of making that school which charges $25,000 a year as affordable, for example, as the school which charges $18,000 but offers no financial aid. So, ask questions and get the answers you need about financial aid. Financial aid programs vary from school to school. Assume nothing. Ask.

2. Tuition Free Education
The other factor to consider is that you may be able to get a tuition free education at several schools. Exeter and Andover, as well as several other top schools, offer free educations if family income
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There are about 20 private schools which are very competitive to get into. Think of them as the Ivies if you will. Everybody wants to go to them. Just like supposedly everybody wants to go to Harvard or Princeton. Let's be very clear about something: these are great schools. But the harsh reality is that they receive many more applications than they have places for. The young men and women who do get into these top private schools are talented, academically gifted, and so on. Should you feel bad if your son or daughter doesn't get into one of these schools? Not at all, and here's why.

Fit trumps selectiveness.
The right school for your child is the one which suits your needs and his needs best. How do you figure that out? By actually visiting the school. Try to do that while classes are in session. If at all possible, arrange an overnight if your child is considering a boarding school.

Now I can hear you thinking to yourself that the videos and the Skype chats were so wonderful that the school has to be perfect for your child. There's no need to visit. So expensive and so much trouble.  Perhaps. But, you know how videos are produced. No matter how relaxed and casual they may appear, they show you exactly what the school wants you to see. A Skype chat certainly is useful and can answer many questions. However, and I cannot stress this enough,
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The idea behind a safe school is that you know your child will get into at least one of the schools on your short list. Let's start by reviewing the steps in the process.

1. Cast your net as widely as you want.

This is the fun part of the process. Look at anything and everything. No holds barred. If a school in Dallas appeals to you, put it on the list. If one in Lakeville, Connecticut floats your boat, add it to your list. You should end up with 15-20 schools on your first list. Be sure to visit each one virtually. Most schools will have videos so that you can get an idea of what the schools are like by watching the videos. This is not a substitute for visiting a school. It's merely the first pass.

2. Create a short list of schools.

This is where you have to determine which school or schools will be your safe school. What exactly is a safe school? It's a school to which you have an excellent chance of being admitted. It's a school which perhaps is not as competitive as some of the others on your list.

That is the challenge of the second step in this process. You must determine as accurately as possible which schools are genuine reaches or schools which you have a very small chance of getting in. Yes, anything is possible. But you don't need to be relying
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If you are a Jewish parent thinking about private school for your son or daughter, you will probably want to consider sending your child to a Jewish school. Of course, much depends on how observant a Jew you are or consider yourself to be. That will influence your decision in many ways, some subtle, some more obvious.

Many questions will surface at this point. Here are some which you should answer before proceeding with a more detailed search for the right school. As you think of other questions which need answering, add them to the list.

 

  • Why should your child attend a Jewish school?
  • When should your child attend a Jewish school?
  • How should your child be taught?
  • What should your child be taught?
  • Where should your child go to school?

 

Why should your child attend a Jewish school?

This question addresses perhaps the most important aspect of this discussion. Why, indeed, do you want your child to have a Jewish education? This is something which only you as parents can decide. Is your family tradition driving this decision? Are your religious beliefs that important to you and your family that a Jewish education for your children is simply the only option? You need to understand that any parent who sends his child to a religious school is making a very strong statement about his faith and the importance it holds in his life. It will set your child from his peers in a very secular world where religious values and principles are
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