Doing Your Due Diligence

Doing Your Due Diligence
As you narrow the field in your private school search process, you will develop a short list of three to five schools which you will evaluate in detail. Visiting each school is an essential part of your due diligence.

Before you spend $5,000, $15,000, $25,000 or more annually for your child's education in a private school, do your own due diligence. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines due diligence as "research and analysis of a company or organization done in preparation for a business transaction." In a normal business transaction such as buying a house, you would probably concern yourself with the title search and a house inspection in the first instance. When evaluating private schools for your child, your due diligence will focus on the fit. You want to find the private school which offers the best fit for your needs and requirements. You want to identify a school at which your child will be happy. The due diligence steps which you take in a business transaction inspect and review tangibles. Due diligence for parents evaluating private schools includes tangibles such as the academics, sports, and extracurriculars as well as that all-important intangible which is how the school fits in with your requirements.

Avoid common mistakes.

When you visit schools, please don't make the following common mistakes:

  • Being late
  • Being dressed inappropriately
  • Being unprepared
  • Being over-prepared
  • Being rude and disinterested

A little thought and preparation will help you make the best impression possible.

Visit schools.

Visiting schools is an essential part of evaluating the schools on your short list. There are several ways schools will arrange those visits.
This part of your due diligence can be great fun. You will set foot on the campus and explore the facilities of a school which you have only seen in videos. While videos are very useful for developing a short list of schools, actually setting foot on each campus will reveal what the schools are really like. You must experience each school on your short list to determine how it fits your needs and requirements. You can only make that decision after visiting schools.

This brief video shows you how to handle visits to residential schools.

What if you cannot visit schools? Obviously, if you live overseas and cannot visit schools here in the United States, you will have to use other means of deciding whether the school is the right one for your child or not. Make a list of questions to ask the admissions staff. If you have friends or family who attended the school, seek their advice and opinions.

The admissions interview

One of the several reasons why schools want you to visit is so that they can meet you and your child. The picture which the admissions staff has of you and your child has been drawn by facts such as test scores, transcripts, and teacher recommendations. While those components in your portfolio are important, actually interacting with you and your child will in many cases make or break the deal. Precisely what do schools look for during the interview? There are no hard and fast rules in private school admissions. Each school is unique. Each school has its own set of admission protocols. However, each school is looking for the answer to the same question you have in the back of your mind. "Is this school a good fit for my child? Could it be the best fit?"

Peter Baron of AdmissionsQuest offers advice on preparing for your admissions interview.

Against that backdrop go back and re-read 5 Private School Visit Mistakes which I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Make the best impression you can by following my common-sense suggestions. The admissions interview is a two-way street. So, come prepared to ask questions about the school and its programs.

Testing during the interview

As mentioned previously, each school has its own admission protocols. That is important to understand because what you experience during your admissions interview at one school will be different at other schools. Depending on the grade for which you are applying, the admissions staff will arrange for testing while your child is at the school. Some schools will ask your child to write answers to some questions or write a short essay while you are being interviewed. Younger children will be given age-appropriate tasks to do. What is the school looking for on these in-house admissions tests? It wants to reassure itself that your child can handle the work its academic curriculum entails. It also wants to see how your child presents herself in an unfamiliar setting. And just as important, the school wants to confirm your willingness to be a partner with the school in your child's education. A private school education is a partnership of three: the school, the parent and the student. All three members of this partnership must be willing to do their part consistently and effectively.

5 Things Every Private School Applicant Should Do details five things parents should do to position their child's application in the best possible manner. Visiting schools and being interviewed are givens. However, you want your child's admissions profile to stand out from the hundreds of other admissions profiles which the schools have received.

With that in mind, make sure that your child writes a good essay. It has to be her own work. You may not help her, apart from providing a quiet space where she can write the essay. Make sure you take the time to visit all the schools on your short list. You must experience each school in order to make a sound decision. I know that you will end up favoring one or two schools over the others. But, if your child doesn't get into those schools, you must have a Plan B. The other schools on your short list will quickly become a Plan B which is acceptable to you. Arrange some interview practice for your child. This is particularly important for shy children. A mock interview will build confidence.

As you now realize, finding the right school for your child takes time. It is a lengthy process, but frankly, it is not very difficult. You just need to stay organized. I can assure you that the end result will be worth it.

Questions? Contact us on Twitter. @privateschoolreview

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