5 Private School Visit Mistakes

Updated January 03, 2017 |
5 Private School Visit Mistakes
When you visit schools, please don't make the following common mistakes. A little thought and preparation will help you make the best impression possible.

Visiting schools on your short list is one of the most important parts of finding the right private school for your child. You cannot and must not skip this part of the process. Why? Well, the videos on YouTube and the glossy catalogs are excellent introductions to the schools which you have identified as possible matches for your requirements. They give you an overview of the school and its programs. Unfortunately, the schools have positioned those videos and photos to show the best features of their schools. Think Architectural Digest. Have you ever seen any clutter in an AD photo shoot? Of course not. Everybody puts their best foot forward. Same thing with schools.

The school visit allows you to look at things which are not in the photos or mentioned in the catalog. The same rationale applies to you when you visit schools. Up to that point, you and your child are simply names on a list and a file folder. Your visiting gives the schools the opportunity to see who you are and to gauge your child's preparedness for the academic work ahead. So, when you visit schools, please don't make the following common mistakes. A little thought and preparation will help you make the best impression possible.

Being late

Being 10 minutes early for your appointment is sensible. That way you will have time to park and compose yourself and your child before entering the admissions office. Admissions staffers are busy professionals who keep a schedule of

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Updated June 02, 2016 |
The Velcro Parent
Velcro is a hook and loop fastener which sticks things together. It also has become a popular term for describing a certain kind of over-protective parent.

Velcro is a hook and loop fastener which sticks things together. It also has become a popular term for describing a certain kind of over-protective parent. The other term used to describe such parents is helicopter parent. The term drone is also used. I was curious about the phenomenon as I don't recall that Nancy or I were that over-protective with our children. My research indicates that hovering came into vogue with the advent of smartphones. Texting and apps make keeping in touch with your children very easy to do. Having said that, it is very easy to be too involved. That is not good for your child, and her school will not appreciate your velcro tendencies. There has to be a balance between hands-on involvement and a hands-off approach. So, let's approach the issue from that perspective. We will look at how this applies to each grade level as your children progress through their schools.

Pre-school

I was one of those lucky fathers who got to drive his daughters to their pre-schools. In those days back in the 70s, I was on the staff of a large Episcopal church on Long Island. Our house was about 2 miles from my eldest daughter's pre-school. The pre-school was located in the Sunday School classroom wing of the church. In fact, the school had just been established because there was such a strong demand for pre-schools in that south shore community.

Literally, the two of us would get out

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Updated June 02, 2016 |
The Search Process: A 5 Point Checklist
Use this five-point checklist to keep your search for private schools organized.

Use this five-point checklist to keep your search for private schools organized. If you ask your friends and family who have gone through the process of finding private schools for their children about their experiences, you will probably hear that the search is not difficult. On the other hand, it is time-consuming, has several deadlines, and can be demanding, particularly if you and your spouse have full-time careers. Before long somebody will create an app to help you keep your private school search in order. In the meantime use this simple checklist.

1. Look at schools.

"Cast your net as wide as you can." "Think outside the box." Sorry to bombard you with cliches, but they are the best suggestions which I can offer. Thinking outside the box is not always easy for us parents to do. We know our children so very well. That's a given. But some of us tend to be overly-protective, and we worry a lot. "She'll never do well in that school. Helen's son had a terrible time there." Force yourself to explore schools which you might not have put on your list, for one reason or another. As the following video illustrates, schools will put their best foot forward as they really want you to consider them, and, better yet, visit them.

This part of the school search process can be great fun. Why? Because most private schools have excellent websites. Private schools understand how important it is to

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Published April 21, 2016 |
Admissions 101
Here is an overview of the private school admissions process, as well as the steps needed to find the right private school for your child.

Here is an overview of the private school admissions process, as well as the steps needed to find the right private school for your child. Depending on where you live, you will have several options from which to choose. I recommend that you look at every school objectively because you may discover that a school which you thought was not suitable, in fact, is one which you should evaluate in more detail. While private schools have missions which are fairly static and unchanging, they are constantly adding new programs, courses and activities to their mix to remain competitive. The market drives how successful private schools are. Parents have options. Private schools know that and will always try to match their offerings with what they know parents want.

An overview of the process

The school selection process has six components to it: 

  • discussion of your needs and requirements
  • a quick review of available schools
  • evaluation of a short list of schools
  • visits and interviews
  • testing
  • the formal admissions application.

You will notice that a couple of the components on this list overlap. It is perfectly normal to be working on components in a different order from the one outlined above. This list is flexible and is merely a guide to help you work through what is a fairly lengthy eighteen month process. You will discover that some tasks take longer to complete than others. That is to be expected.

Discuss your requirements.

First things first. Figure out what your needs and requirements in a school are. Yes, it is all well

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Updated April 20, 2016 |
Let Me Ask You...
This fictional interview illustrates how one set of parents chose a private school for their daughter.

What follows is a fictional interview. I wrote it to illustrate why some parents chose a specific kind of high school education for their child. The account is fictional to the extent that the parents I am interviewing in this article do not exist per se. However, the scenarios, facts and questions about private schools are ones which I have dealt with countless times over the years. They are real. Hopefully, you will find the answers in this interview both helpful and useful. 

Helen, why did you consider sending your child to a boarding school?

My husband and I thought about sending our daughter to boarding school. Convincing her that boarding school would be the best option was a major challenge. However, with the help of our educational consultant and a couple of close friends whose children currently attend boarding school in Vermont, we were able to show her the incredible value a boarding school education offers. 

What clinched the deal was the vast array of extracurricular activities which the schools we visited offered. We live in a very affluent area of Connecticut. The public schools are highly rated. But honestly, they offered fewer extracurricular activities than most of the boarding schools we reviewed. Our daughter is an avid swimmer and field hockey enthusiast. The athletic facilities and grounds at most of the schools we visited were superb. They contained state of the art equipment with professional athletic staff supervising their programs. That was very reassuring to us.

. . .read more
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