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:
What is Really Important in Choosing a School?
What is really important in choosing a private school? Ranks? Academics? Financial aid? Sports programs? Arts programs? One of these criteria doesn't matter. The others do.
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 and humanities? What about the enrichment...
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How Do They Teach?
Part of evaluating the schools on your short list is examining how the teaching is done.
Laying the Groundwork for an Education
"How do they teach?" is a  question which has to be in the back of your mind as you begin to consider sending your child to private school. It also is relevant at almost any stage of that process. 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 the curriculum, you need to familiarize yourself with how it is taught. Make sure that aspect matches your requirements.

Let's look at three areas of concern which we as parents have faced outside the classroom as we have raised our children. We had control of what we taught and how we shaped our child's thinking up to the point where she went off to school. That changes once she is being taught by somebody else and interacting with other children. The following three areas are interdependent, are complementary and overlap. They have to form the backdrop for effective classroom teaching.

1. Developing critical thinking.

Writing teaches a child to document events, feelings, ideas and facts. Organizing materials and marshalling facts help a child make sense of huge amounts of information. Since writing is such an important skill, closely examine how the school teaches writing.

Reading is the other skill which needs to be taught early and effectively. Having your child taught reading by a skilled reading teacher is something you want to make sure is part of the...
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Choosing Schools: Look Beyond the Competitive Schools
Competitive schools are wonderful. But they are not the only game in town. Here's why.
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, it is no substitute for...
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Is It Worth Using a Consultant?
Here are the reasons why using the services of a professional educational consultant is worth it.
Here are 5 reasons why you ought to consider using a consultant to help you find the right school.

1.  Consultants know their schools.
Why is this important? After all, the internet gives you everything you need to know about schools, right? Not exactly. Don't forget that a school's web site presents its story as the school wants it told. The videos are compelling. The photos are gorgeous. And the testimonials are glowing. As they should be. However, an educational consultant works for you. Not the school. She is paid by you. Not the school. She will point out features and aspects to a school's program which you perhaps have not thought of. Why is that? Because she is a professional. Just like an attorney will point out the pluses and minuses in a contract, an educational consultant can and will point out the advantages and disadvantages of a particular school as they relate to your child.

2.  Consultants have contacts at schools.
Educational consultants visit schools. They make a point of keeping their networks current. As a result they can get answers to questions which you may or may not think about asking. They will know that a certain school has just been made an IB school and what that means and says about the school's programs. They will know that the long time English department head has retired and that some exciting, new programs are in the works. That means that an educational consultant can get answers to your questions because...
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5 Factors for a Successful Private School Experience
As you consider sending your child to private school, think about these five factors which make for a successful private school experience.
As you consider sending your child to private school, think about these five factors which make for a successful private school experience.

The right school With dozens of private schools to choose from, choosing the right one is probably the most crucial item on this list. Which is the right school? You'll know it when you visit it and talk to the admissions staff. It's the school which best meets your requirements as a parent and the requirements of that precious cargo which you are about to entrust to the school.

You can review the statistics and data about the school. You can determine that its philosophy and educational mission align with your goals and objectives. But the real question is how will your child fit in. If you feel good about your answer to that question, you are all set.


The right sports
As you review private schools, you will begin to realize that each school is unique. The facilities and programs are different at each school. Yes, each school may have a hockey team, for example, but at what level is the hockey actually being played? What's the coaching staff like? Sports are an integral part of most private school programs. But, as with everything else in this process, assume nothing. Investigate the sports offered, the level of the programs offered and the facilities. Your child will spend from 6-12 hours a week playing sports. Make it the best experience possible so that you set healthy...
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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.