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:
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 . . .read more
The question and answer on the Bay Area Private Schools site says it all:

Q. Is there ranking on California private schools?

A. There is no ranking on private elementary schools. Since the key to a rewarding private school education is finding a good match for your child's specific needs, parents should not make their decision solely based on test scores and reputation.

So, the answer to every parent's question "Which is the best school for my child?" is a very ambiguous attorney's answer: "It depends!"  What does it depend on?

It depends on your requirements.
You and your child will have different requirements, of course. You will be looking at test scores of a school's graduates, the colleges to which they matriculate, the quality of the faculty, how competitive the admissions are, and so on. Typical adult benchmarks.

She's more concerned with what kind of kids go to the school, what her social life will be like, whether she can bring her horse to school, how much homework there is and how difficult the work is. Typical teenage concerns.

What you must do to determine the best school for your child is to examine and discuss all the things which matter to you both. This is not a discussion which can take place while stopped at a traffic light after field hockey . . .read more
What is technology like in private schools? In most private schools teachers and students have been using computers since the mid 1990's. Tablet PC's are the norm. Wireless networking and electronic presentation devices such whiteboards, LCD displays and projectors are all part of the private school teacher's bag of tricks. In the old days technology was a curious if fascinating add-on. You went to a computer lab and taught keyboarding or used programs such as MathBlaster. In the 21st century technology supports and enhances all aspects of the curriculum and teaching. Everybody has their own portable computer with the flexibility and efficiency such mobility encourages.

Most schools now subscribe to Internet 2 as well as the commercial internet. They also use email and VOIP phones internally for seamless integration of data and voice messaging.

While Macs are popular in many schools, most private schools use PCs in line with the common practice in the business world.

Technology staffs are now fulltime professionals. Their duties are divided between traditional line and support functions and academic technology responsibilities. Showing teachers how to use technology in the classroom is just as important as troubleshooting somebody's malfunctioning PC.

Web 2.0 tools can be found throughout private schools. Blogs, Skype, RSS feeds, social networking sites and wikis flourish. Many schools encourage parents to follow their . . .read more
Private schools learned a long time ago that small is good. Most prep schools have a student population of about 300-400 students. You will find larger and smaller schools, of course. Exeter is an example of a very large prep school. With a population of 1100 students and commensurate numbers of faculty and staff, Exeter is a large institution.

By contrast South Kent School is an example of a small school with 150 students. What do Exeter and South Kent have in common? A low student to faculty ratio. Typically private schools have student-faculty ratios in a range of 10:1. This is the genius of private schools. This is what you are really paying for when you send your child to private school: the personal attention to her learning needs.

Low student to faculty ratio is another way of saying that the class sizes are small. That is a good thing. You see, in a small school your daughter cannot escape and hide from view like she can in a large public school with large class sizes. When she sits around a Harkness table with fourteen other students and the teacher in the middle, there's no hiding anything.

As a result of small classes, teachers are able to dig deeply into the material. They are able to explore the sidebars and . . .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.