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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Parents are in a difficult position when it comes to finding out information about schools. Because they are private schools, they are not subject to the usual sunshine or freedom of information laws. They are under no legal obligation to tell you anything. You need to know exactly what is lurking behind those gorgeous web photos and  enthusiastic classroom shots.
 
The following questions are ones you might want to ask but might feel uncomfortable asking. That's why it's a good thing to hire an educational consultant. She can ask such questions with relative impunity. Plus she will think of dozens of other questions and raise many other issues about schools which will factor into your choice of schools
 
1. Why did those five seniors get expelled just before graduation?
Perhaps there was an article in the local press. It doesn't matter. The Internet makes unwelcome publicity widely available in minutes. Naturally you want to know what happened just in case the situation is symptomatic of something more serious. You will probably learn a lot about how the school enforces its code of conduct which you and your child could be signing if you decide to go there.

2. Is it true that the school is having financial difficulties?
There are plenty of signals that a school is in trouble. Declining enrolments and staff turnover are just two of the more obvious signs. No sense in sending your child to a school which is having problems. Your consultant will have made . . .read more
If you are following our timeline for choosing a private school, you will notice that this process starts almost two years before the fall in which you want your child to start school. The process begins in a leisurely fashion as you gather your thoughts and think about schools. The intensity builds in the final six months before the January admissions deadline most schools seem to have.
 
Here's a recap of the steps you need to follow to find the right school for your child. Work through the process in sequence from beginning to end.
 
Why Private School?
Is private school right for your child? Learn about the things you should consider and the unique benefits of a private school education. Once you are convinced of  the value of a private school education, then you must determine which private school is going to be best for your requirements.

 

Which School is the Best for Your Child?
It depends on your requirements. But in the end only one thing matters most anyway: the fit. When you get the fit right, you will have a happy child.

 

 

Boarding or Day School?
Many parents agonize over sending their child to boarding school or keeping them at home and sending them to day school. There are benefits to both kinds of schools. This is an important choice to make.

Single Sex or Coeducation?
You ought to consider a single sex school as opposed to . . .read more
One of the components of a quality private school education is sports. A great many private schools offer athletic programs which rival many colleges and universities. Lest you get the wrong idea, academics are paramount in a private school experience. But private schools truly do adhere to the ancient motto mens sana in corpore sano - a healthy mind in a healthy body. Consequently even the most unathletic students in any private school community are required to do some kind of sports on a regular basis. Many boarding schools have a half day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The afternoons are given over to athletics.
 
The intramural and varsity sports attract enthusiastic squads and are very competitive. They practice and compete in fine facilities. Check out the athletic programs at Hotchkiss, Kent, Miss Porter's and Lawrenceville to name but a few examples. Several schools such as Woodberry Forest and Northfield Mount Hermon have their own golf courses. Equestrian facilities are a feature of a dozen or so schools. Crew or shell rowing is also popular in many private schools. Northern schools such as Shattuck-St. Mary's and Avon Old Farms also offer solid hockey programs.

If you have questions about a school's athletic program, be sure to contact the athletic director. The blend of academic and athletic excellence possible in a private school setting will please you. Your son or daughter will be able to . . .read more
Use this checklist to keep track of your questions and answers to those questions as you visit each school on your short list. There is a lot of information to assimilate as you make those important visits. It will be easy to forget details unless you note them promptly.
 
School Demographics School #1 School #2 School #3
Day or boarding      
Coed or single sex      
Number of students      
Number of boarders      
Number of day students      
How diverse is the student body?      
Number of faculty      
Student to faculty ratio      
       
Administration and Faculty      
How long has the headmaster/principal been in office?      
How large is the endowment?      
Financial condition of school (Excellent to marginal)      
Number of faculty with advanced degrees      
Staff turnover (If turnover, why?)      
       
Curriculum and Instruction      
IB offered?      
Number of AP courses      
Teaching methods (Harkness, classical, etc.)      
Is technology integrated into teaching?      
       
Religious Emphasis      
Which denomination or faith?      
Intensity of observances (relaxed to mandatory)      
       
Campus and Facilities      
General appearance      
Athletics facilities      
Sports programs      
Arts facilities      
Arts programs      
Security and safety      
       
Location      
Urban? Rural?      
Convenient? Isolated?      
       
Admissions      
Deadline      
Is staff helpful?      
Policies and procedures      
Shadowing permitted?      
Overnights?      
Quality of visit and tour      
       
Financial      
Tuition Fees      
Sundries      
Financial aid offered      
       
Notes
 

 

Many parents agonize over sending their teenager to boarding school or keeping them at home and sending them to day school. The issue you really need to address is the quality of supervision you are able to give your children after school and on weekends. Let's face it, modern parents lead very busy professional and social lives. If you aren't around to see what's going on, do you know what your teen is up to?
 
The Advantage of Going to Boarding School
 
When you send your child to boarding school, you are buying the whole package: academics, athletics, social life, extracurricular activities and 24/7 supervision all rolled into one. That's just part of the boarding school DNA. It is an incredibly good deal for many thoughtful parents. Of course she will miss her mother and father, her siblings, her own room and all those other special things she knows and loves. But, the truth is that she will be off to college anyway in a few years. Getting a head start on leaving home is not a bad thing. It will pay huge dividends in later years as she has had to learn to cope and adjust to new circumstances at an earlier stage in her life. Teaching her to be independent is a good thing.

Living in a boarding school essentially prevents your child from being anonymous. She will be part of the school community. She will be engaged in its activities, academics and athletics. She will be . . .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.