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:
Choosing Schools: The Safe School
The idea behind a safe school is that you know your child will get into at least one of the schools on your short list. Let's start by reviewing the steps in the process.
The idea behind a safe school is that you know your child will get into at least one of the schools on your short list. Let's start by reviewing the steps in the process.

1. Cast your net as widely as you want.

This is the fun part of the process. Look at anything and everything. No holds barred. If a school in Dallas appeals to you, put it on the list. If one in Lakeville, Connecticut floats your boat, add it to your list. You should end up with 15-20 schools on your first list. Be sure to visit each one virtually. Most schools will have videos so that you can get an idea of what the schools are like by watching the videos. This is not a substitute for visiting a school. It's merely the first pass.

2. Create a short list of schools.

This is where you have to determine which school or schools will be your safe school. What exactly is a safe school? It's a school to which you have an excellent chance of being admitted. It's a school which perhaps is not as competitive as some of the others on your list.

That is the challenge of the second step in this process. You must determine as accurately as possible which schools are genuine reaches or schools which you have a very small chance of getting in. Yes, anything is possible. But you don't need to be relying on a miracle to get you accepted at a school.

How...
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Checklist for Comparing Schools - Curriculum and Instruction
What's being taught and how it is being taught are important parts of your checklist for comparing schools on your short list.
When you begin comparing schools on your short list, you need to review what is being taught and how it is being taught. Instruction goes to the heart of what private schools are really all about. That is the main reason private schools exist. Parents want certain things taught and they want them taught a certain way. The state education department will require every school under its jurisdiction to meet certain minimum requirements. For example, a high school student must receive a certain number of credits in English and mathematics in order to graduate. Private schools typically exceed any minimums specified by the state department of education.

With this as a backdrop you want to take time to review the courses offered in the schools on your short list. Do they match your objectives and requirements? Do they offer the depth and intensity which you want your child to have? For example, Shakespeare is taught in many public high school English courses. Typically one play will be covered. By contrast a private school English class will read two or three Shakespeare plays. Because private school classes are small and the students focused on their academic work, much more can be accomplished.

International Baccalaureate
About thirty private schools offer a curriculum known as the International Baccalaureate. It is a comprehensive program which covers kindergarten through 12th grade. The diploma program is offered in high school. Like any other international diploma the IB offers consistency and a high standard. As a result...
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Checklist for Comparing Schools: Administration and Faculty
Here are some of the questions to ask and things to look for when comparing schools' administration and faculty.
When you begin comparing schools on your short list, it is important to at least be aware of certain important aspects of the school and its operation. While you can certainly tell whether a school is well-run just by visiting it and observing the condition of the grounds and facilities, it is worth asking a few detailed questions. The answers to these questions can be found online as a rule, so explore the school's website thoroughly before asking the admissions staff.

How long has the headmaster/principal been in office?
This question speaks to the stability of the school. If the headmaster or headmistress (also called head and occasionally director) has been there for a couple of years, that's a good sign. Private school heads will stay forever if they are doing a good job and the trustees are satisfied with his job performance. Nowadays a private school head is the de facto CEO of the school. But his major responsibility is going to be in the area of fundraising. Public relations is another part of his brief.

If the door to the headmaster's office has become a revolving one with several heads coming and going over a period of a few years, you might want to find out why they didn't stay. Most private schools conduct national searches for a head of school and involve the school community in the process. So it would be unusual for a school to get the fit wrong.

How large is the endowment?            ...
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Considering a Jewish Education
Should you send your child to a Jewish school? We explore the issue and suggest some talking points.
If you are a Jewish parent thinking about private school for your son or daughter, you will probably want to consider sending your child to a Jewish school. Of course, much depends on how observant a Jew you are or consider yourself to be. That will influence your decision in many ways, some subtle, some more obvious.

Many questions will surface at this point. Here are some which you should answer before proceeding with a more detailed search for the right school. As you think of other questions which need answering, add them to the list.

  • Why should your child attend a Jewish school?
  • When should your child attend a Jewish school?
  • How should your child be taught?
  • What should your child be taught?
  • Where should your child go to school?
Why should your child attend a Jewish school?

This question addresses perhaps the most important aspect of this discussion. Why, indeed, do you want your child to have a Jewish education? This is something which only you as parents can decide. Is your family tradition driving this decision? Are your religious beliefs that important to you and your family that a Jewish education for your children is simply the only option? You need to understand that any parent who sends his child to a religious school is making a very strong statement about his faith and the importance it holds in his life. It will set your child from his peers in a very secular world where religious values and principles are routinely ignored. Giving your...
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If We Did Rank Schools...
Ranking private schools is almost impossible because it is so difficult to gather the data needed to compare statistics. If we did rank schools, this is how to do it.
As we have pointed out in Do Ranks Matter? it is extremely difficult and time-consuming for ordinary people to find the data and information we need to arrive at some sort of ranking system for private schools. But if we did rank private schools, here is how we would do it.

Visit the schools.

"Wait a minute!" you are thinking. What about important stuff like how selective the school is, where its graduates went to college, how many faculty have terminal degrees and so on? Put those considerations on hold. First things first. Visit the schools.

Would you buy a house based only on a few pictures and some publicly available information like taxes and comparables? No. You'd visit the house personally and look in every nook and cranny. You would visualize yourself living in the house with your things. You would make sure you liked the neighborhood. If being close to shops and other amenities is important  to you, you would review that aspect of the equation as well. How long a commute to work will you have? The list of questions which you will want answered is your own very personal list of questions.

See where we are going with this? How the schools you visit fit your needs best determines which school is best for you. Right now you are probably beginning to realize that this is a lot of work and will take a lot of time. Our Checklist For Comparing Schools will help you...
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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.