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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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 . . .read more

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 . . .read more
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 . . .read more
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.
 
From Bellarmine College Preparatory, San Jose, California
 

 I thought it might be instructive to gather a dozen or so girls' schools' public thoughts about themselves and their missions. The words which I have quoted can be found on each school's web site. Hopefully if you are thinking about sending your daughter to an all girls' school, you will be inspired to explore the opportunities available to you in these fine educational environments committed to educating your daughters to be all they can be.

 

From Nightingale-Bamford School, New York, New York

 

 

 
"Founded by two bold, visionary entrepreneurs in the same year that women won the right to vote, the Nightingale-Bamford School has helped generations of girls to become strong, independent, confident women. We offer a rigorous, college-preparatory education from Kindergarten through grade 12 in a caring and attentive school community."

"Over the 90 years since our school was founded, we have graduated almost 3,000 alumnae, expanded our building four times, and adopted new disciplines and means of teaching. But throughout it all, we've retained the same guiding principles that Miss Nightingale and Miss Bamford instilled in those first students: truth, friendship, and loyalty."

The Nightingale-Bamford School offers grades K-12. The school serves approximately 570 young ladies.
 
From Saint Mary's School, Raleigh, North Carolina
 

 
"Saint Mary’s School has developed curriculum and employed strategies that capitalize on the strengths of girls on their journey to college and life. Girls’ schools support a culture, climate and community that . . .read more
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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.