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.
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Many years ago I had no clue what a private school was, much less how to get into one. I can remember one of my public school classmates announcing that he was going to be attending a private school beginning the next academic year. Indeed about three of my classmates ended up going to what is still a prestigious old Montreal private school, Lower Canada College. I also had a few friends who had transferred in from a boarding school in the Eastern Townships. As I learned a little later, they had been asked to leave the school. In any case, I am trying to make the point that you are not the only person who isn't really sure how private schools work, how to get your child in and so on. So let's keep this really simple. You won't get too stressed. You might actually find it enjoyable finding the right private school for your child. 
 
Find!
 
The first step in the process is to find schools which you can explore and investigate as part of your personal due diligence. Sending your child to private school is a major commitment both financially and in terms of your investment of your personal time and energy as a parent. So it is important that we get it right.
 
Fortunately for us just about every private school has some kind of web site. You will find all levels of web sites ranging from embarrassingly amateurish to extremely professional. Don't let a school's web site...
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We busy parents use bucket lists to keep ourselves organized. Honestly, I sometimes wonder how we could keep going without bucket lists. If you are thinking about private school for your chil, some of these items might just be on your bucket list too.
 
Identify 8-10 schools we like.
 
This is one of the fun parts of choosing a private school. Why? Because most private schools offer video tours both on their web sites and on their YouTube channels. While both web sites and videos are obviously edited carefully to make the best possible impression on you, they are terrific for giving you an overview of programs and the school community. Watch as many videos as you can. Review the academic and sports programs in detail. By casting the net a bit widely in the early stages of choosing a school, you can easily eliminate schools from consideration because they lack something you feel is essential for your child's education.
 
 
Visit 3-5 schools this summer and early fall.
 
Summer and early fall are really the best times to visit schools. Summer has its advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage is that school is not in session. That means you can expect to spend some time with the admissions staff who will have more time to allocate to you than, say, in November or December. Application deadlines are the end of January for many private schools. You can imagine the pressure the admissions team will be under as they...
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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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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 help...

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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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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.