In this imaginary conversation based on actual questions I have answered over the years, a parent who is thinking about sending her four-year-old to a private school asks me various questions.
Why would I want to send my child to a private school?
We had several requirements when looking at private schools for our daughters. Small class size was a major requirement. The other was academic content. Our eldest daughter was one of the first students in a newly-opened parochial school. Her class had 12 students, which afforded her plenty of individual attention. The entire school population was less than 100 students.
We also were concerned about what she would be taught. She read above her grade level, enjoyed reading, and drawing. There were no video games, tablets, or cellphones to distract her in those days. Her teachers never held her back academically or intellectually. On the contrary, they built a strong foundation that strengthened learning in the primary grades.
What grade? Primary? High school?
Our daughters went to PK private schools. It was a happy experience for them and us because the schools were small and well-run. Then both girls had a few years in public schools in rural Northwestern Connecticut. We quickly discovered that those schools had terrific, experienced teachers with limited academic curricula. Consequently, we decided to send both girls off to boarding school. Their age difference of five years afforded us some relief from paying two tuition bills. And we weren't constantly driving them to and from games or band practice. Their private schools had the academics, the sports, and the extra-curricular activities all neatly bundled into one on-site package.
This video offers a look at an Emilio-Reggio inspired classroom.
How can I afford it?
When you can afford to pay cash for private school tuition, ask for a discount. Can't afford to pay for a private school education? Check out these free schools. Explore high schools such as the Cristo Rey schools that offer work-study programs that offset most tuition costs. Find out if your state has a voucher program. Most private high schools have generous financial aid programs. Don't forget to see if your child qualifies for a scholarship. So, before you say that you can't afford to send your child to a private school, check out these options and always ask for financial aid.
How do I go about applying?
Most private schools have online application materials. If you don't see any online application available for a school you are interested in, call or email the school and ask. Admissions To Private School: A-Z offers an overview of the process. Remember that the application process will vary from school to school. This can be confusing if you are applying to several schools. Follow each school's application instructions carefully.
When do I apply?
You will find two answers to that question. First, many schools have a fixed admissions deadline in January. Other schools use rolling admissions. That means the school will offer places until they fill all their seats. Admissions 101 explains how the process works. Once again, because each private school is unique and operates independently from other private schools, please note deadlines and stick to them. Use our Admissions Checklist to stay organized.
When will I have an answer?
Schools with January deadlines usually send out acceptances or rejections in March. The school to which you are applying will explain those details to you. If the admissions staff don't mention anything, ask.
How do I find out what they teach?
You can ask the Admissions staff, or, if you prefer, you can look for information about what's taught on school websites. Besides finding out what a school teaches, ask to observe a class so that you learn how they teach. Private School Review also provides information about courses available under Academics and Faculty in school listings.
This video contrasts progressive with traditional schools
How can I find out whether the school is financially stable or not?
That's a valid question, especially when the school is relatively new, or you have heard something about the school that concerns you. If the school is a not-for-profit entity, its tax return or Form 990 will be publicly available.
How do I find out if the teachers are qualified?
Because academics and teaching are what most private schools are marketing, you can readily find information about faculty on school websites. For example, the Private School Review website on which you're reading this article has a tab near the top of the page entitled Find Schools. Our site produces a list of schools that match your search parameters when you search for a school. When you click on a school listing, scroll down until you see the heading Academics and Faculty.
This video looks at elementary teacher qualifications.
When can I visit the school?
Contact the admissions office and ask when you can visit. Depending on demand, you may become part of a group tour. These are a popular way of showing parents around the school and answering questions. I encourage you to visit schools because it is an important way of determining whether or not a school is a good fit for your child.
What if they don't accept my child?
It's not the end of the world. Our eldest daughter applied to three schools. Only one of the three accepted her. Be realistic about your chances when applying to competitive schools. The situation is similar to applying to Harvard or Princeton. Competitive schools have very low acceptance rates. The search engine on Private School Review will show you the average acceptance rate for schools in the city or zip code you have selected. Then, when you drill down and review a specific school, the acceptance rate will be one of the data fields we offer under the heading Tuition and Acceptance Rate, assuming that the school makes that information available.
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