Choosing a Private School

This section will provide expert advice, valuable tools, and relevant resources to aid in the decision making process. Learn more about what factors to consider when choosing a private school, what to expect at an open house, and how an educational consultant can help.
View the most popular articles in Choosing a Private School:
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Choosing a School: 10 Things Which Matter To Parents
Never lose sight of why you are planning to send your child to private school. This list of ten considerations will help you focus on the things which matter.
I can remember those nagging thoughts we had as our children reached the toddler stage. What about pre-school? Where should we send her for kindergarten? What then? We were pretty ordinary middle class parents. We had good jobs. We would have to sacrifice to send our daughters to private school but we felt that the sacrifices would be worth it.
 
Fast forward from then to now or a span of approximately forty years. One daughter is an attorney with her own practice. The other is an academic head-hunter. Both did their undergraduate work in English language and literature. Both earned graduate degrees. I remain convinced that their private school educations gave both children the solid foundation which they needed to tackle progressively more difficult academic work.
 
The journey started with those nagging thoughts that our children deserved the very best possible educations we could give them. Both of us had superb educations at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Our children deserved nothing less. That was our thinking. That thinking drove our decisions about private school over the next fifteen years.
 
 
Here then are the ten things which mattered most to us as made out decisions about private schools. Everything below the first item seemed to move up or down depending on the needs and requirements we had. That first item stayed fixed in number one position.
 
Their children's happiness
 
I will confess that we were probably the original helicopter parents when it came to our children's happiness at...
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Private Schools: 10 Challenges You Will Face
As you begin to think about sending your child to private school you will quickly become aware of at least ten challenges you will face.
As you begin to think about sending your child to private school you will quickly become aware of at least ten challenges you will face. If you are intrinsically well-organized and able to cope with a major project, tackling all that's involved with getting your child safely off to private school shouldn't be too difficult. There's just a lot to the project. If you find projects daunting, hopefully this short essay will help you focus on the main sections of the process. Let's get started.

1. Deciding whether to send your child for primary grades or high school

I am assuming that you have made the decision to send your child to private school. We have several articles on Private School Review which explain the differences between private and public education. If you still need help making that decision, then read those first. Then circle back and pick up with this first challenge.
 
There are two schools of thought on whether you should send your child to primary grades or high school. One line of thinking is that your child needs a solid foundation in core skills such as reading and math, for example. That's why proponents of that approach are so adamant that you should send your child in the early, formative years.  The other school of thought touts the idea that a solid college preparatory education in the high school years is important. The thinking is that an intensive preparation for college level studies will...read more
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From a Parent's Perspective: Is Accreditation Necessary?
Does accreditation matter? Is it necessary? Aren't there lots of fine private schools which are not accredited? Answers to these questions and more here.
Let's start our discussion with this question: what if a school you are looking at is not accredited? Does it matter?
 
Does Accreditation Matter?

There are plenty of fine private schools which are not accredited. But the fact that they are not accredited means that you and I have to do a lot more basic due diligence as we evaluate unaccredited schools. Many of the foundational issues which an accreditation process covers in great detail now become our responsibility to investigate. Think of this investigation just like the inspection which you commission when you put an offer on a house. The house looks perfect. But is its infrastructure perfect? Are there flaws which are not readily apparent? The inspector's report will reveal the good and the items which need fixing.  That's basically how accreditation works. The properly executed accreditation process celebrates the school's good points and offers suggestions for fixing what is deficient.

Does Accreditation Matter for College Admissions?

Some experts claim that it doesn't matter much whether or not a high school or school district is accredited. The issue surfaces any time a school or a school district loses its accreditation or is threatened with its loss. The truth of the matter is that accreditation is just one piece of the admissions profile for candidates. I was unable to find any examples of a college rejecting an otherwise well-qualified candidate simply because she had the misfortune to graduate from a school which had lost its accreditation. [Source: Maureen Downey...
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Are You Doing It All Wrong?
Choosing a school is a project. A major project. You need to execute this project to the very best of your ability.
Have you ever begun a project only to realize after a while that you really didn't know what you were doing? It's kind of like the guy who opens the box with 100 parts. Some assembly required. Does he read the directions? Probably only when he gets stuck.
When you set out to choose a private school for your child, you need a clear road-map for the process. You also need to understand that this is a major project which will consume a substantial amount of your valuable time.
 
How much time will it take?

* Researching schools online: 20-30 hours spread out over 4-6 weeks. This task can be done in the comfort of your own home on your own time.
* Visiting out of town schools: 36-60 hours spread out over 3 or 4 visits. The amount of time consumed by travel is the wild card here. The actual campus visit will usually include an interview with the admissions staff. Allow about an hour for testing. 
* Visiting local schools: 10-15 hours spread out over 2 or 3 visits. Interviews and any testing which the schools require will add an hour or two.

Signs that you may be doing it wrong

As you can see choosing a private school is a project. A major project. Get it wrong and you will have a very unhappy child who hates her school. It's also possible that your child won't even get into a school. So, before you get that sinking feeling that you...
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About Boys' Schools:  In Their Words
Here are a dozen or so boys' schools' public thoughts about themselves and their missions.
The pendulum has swung once more. This time in favor of the advantages of single sex education. New research quantifies what many of us have known anecdotally, namely that single sex education works. Here are a dozen or so boys' schools' public thoughts about themselves and their missions.

From Avon Old Farms, Avon, Connecticut
 
 
"As a boys' boarding school, our programs are designed specifically to help young men focus on their development at a time in life when distractions abound. Although numerous opportunities exist for our students to interact with girls from Miss Porter's, Ethel Walker's and other nearby schools, boys are free to live and learn in our structured, supportive environment. In an all-boys context, our students embrace scholastic challenges and compete in the athletic arena while feeling safe exploring the arts, experimenting with poetry, expressing school spirit, and just being themselves."

Avon Old Farms offers grades 9-12 as well as a Postgraduate year. The school serves approximately 500 young men.

 
From Marquette University High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
 
 
"MUHS has evolved with each passing decade to meet the changing needs of the young men in our community and like our 17th Century namesake, Father Jacques Marquette, students, faculty and staff members share a passion for exploring uncharted territory, whether it’s in a textbook or their own hearts."

Marquette University High Schools offers grades 9-12. The school serves approximately 1050 young men.
 
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Recent Articles
Choosing a School: 10 Things Which Matter To Parents
Choosing a School: 10 Things Which Matter To Parents
Never lose sight of why you are planning to send your child to private school. This list of ten considerations will help you focus on the things which matter.
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Use these tips to tweak your job search strategies as you seek employment in a private school.
5 Financial Aid DOs and DONTs
Part of the private school selection process is financial aid. We point out five issues about which you should be aware.
Choosing a Private School

Getting Started

In this section we offer a look into some of the most important factors of choosing a private school. Investigate single-sex education and read what students have to say, learn more about what is important when choosing a private school, and get valuable advice on transitioning to a new school.

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.

Evaluating Schools

Here you will find resources and tools to aid in your search and evaluation of private schools. Explore the ranking system and read what schools have to say about it. Learn more about the most important questions to ask and how an education consultant can get answers. Use our checklists to help compare school administration, curriculum and more.