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:
In the early stages of identifying private high schools for your child, reading the catalogs and scanning school web sites will give you a lot of information. Just be aware that this is the information which the schools want to present. Marketing if you will. While there is certainly nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward, the reality is that you need to lift the hood and see what's inside. These five basic questions should be part of your due diligence as you sort through schools and begin to determine which one is the best fit for your child.

Get the answers to your questions two ways: by reading the materials offered and by asking in person. Incidentally, if you have decided to use the services of an educational consultant, these are questions which she can answer for you. Then all you have to do is follow up when you visit the schools and affirm what you already know.

1. What are they teaching?
For most parents this is the first question on the list. Priority #1. It plays to our concern about what kind of college or university our child will ultimately attend. Preparing for that next step is a huge undertaking and we know that we have to get it right. College preparation is a 3-4 year project.

So do your research carefully. This is where you need to get granular and actually review the various components of the school's curriculum and determine . . .read more
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 . . .read more
It's rather bewildering perusing dozens and dozens of beguiling private school web sites. Especially if you have never visited a private school before. They are all so different. How can you ever decide which one is best for your daughter? Start with a very basic strategy, a game plan if you will. Here's what's really important in choosing a private school.

Your requirements
Your requirements trump everything. So have a family discussion. Be relaxed and open-minded because your requirements as a parent are going to be different from your daughter's. You are thinking the best educational experience. She's thinking about her life and her friends and the reality that she will have a whole new situation to deal with. That's scary for a young person. But you can make it an adventure and get her to buy into going to private school if you are patient, informative and, above all, a listener. Dictating will get you nowhere in a hurry.

So, what's really important? Ponder these questions and then develop some answers after having that family discussion.

 

  • Are you looking for a traditional college prep school experience or something else?
  • Is your religion a major determining factor?
  • What about sports? Arts programs?

 


If college preparation is your goal, then focus on the quality of the academic curriculum. Look at the faculty. Do they have degrees in their subjects? Masters or doctorates? Is there breadth and depth in the course offerings? Do you require strong sciences? A rich array of languages . . .read more
"How do they teach?" is a question which you need to ask as you evaluate schools on your short list. This question has been on your mind ever since you began considering sending your child to private school. While it certainly is relevant at almost any stage of the school selection process, it becomes critically important now that you are circling around those final few schools on your list. Be sure to have the question answered. You can do this by asking the admissions staff how the teaching is done at their school. They are accustomed to answering the question and will provide a detailed explanation for you. Furthermore I do recommend that you ask the identical question at each school you visit. Then you will be able to compare apples to apples, having asked the same question at each school.
 
Whether you are looking at your options for preschool, primary school, middle school or high school, how the teachers teach is just as important as what they teach. As you review each school's curriculum, familiarize yourself with how that curriculum is taught. Make sure that everything matches your requirements and expectations.
 
Laying the Groundwork for an Education
 
Let's look at three areas of concern which we as parents have faced outside the classroom as we raised our children. From infancy we have had control of what we taught. We have shaped our child's thinking up to the point where she went off to preschool and kindergarten. In school everything changes once . . .read more
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, . . .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.