The A to Z of Private Schools

Updated  November 28, 2017 |
The A to Z of Private Schools
This A-Z list will help make you aware of the many things involved in choosing the right school for your child.

A - Applying to private school

Applying to most private schools has become infinitely easier in the last 10-15 years. That's because you can apply online at most schools. When school's don't have online applications, they usually have all the application forms you need online so you can download them easily.

B - Be aware that diversity is an important part of private schools in the 21st century.

Yes, back in the 1950's and 1960's you might have been able to say that private schools were elitist. At least that was the perception which the general public had of private schools. This perception, of course, was reinforced by the media. In the 21st-century, private schools have made diversity and tolerance the center of their mission and philosophy as most schools seek to prepare their students for life and work in a global community.

C - Competitive schools

Many parents have grand ideas about which private schools they want their children to attend. As a result, they focus on the top 10 schools which receive 10 times as many applicants as they have places for. Having one very competitive school on your short list is a smart move when you also have two relatively safe schools on that list as well. Just as with investing, t makes no sense to put all your eggs in one basket. This brief video showcases Phillips Andover Academy.

D - Discipline is part of the deal.

Most private schools have discipline codes or codes of conduct. These are carefully explained to every student at the beginning of the school year. Each school has its own distinctive way of administering its discipline code. These discipline codes do share a common idea, namely, that there are consequences for breaking the rules.

E - Extracurricular activities

Academics, athletics and extracurricular activities form the core of most private schools' programs. Essentially private schools believe that you cannot have one without the other two. It is the balance of academics, athletics and extracurricular activities which make for a rich experience in private school. Your child will learn how to get along with others and to contribute her best to the team effort. You won't often hear of private schools cutting back on their extracurricular activity offerings. This brief video illustrates an activity at St. Andrew's School, Boca Raton, Florida.

F - Finding the right school

Finding the right school for your child is always going to be a challenge for most of us parents. That's because there are so many choices. Look at as many schools online as you want to. Cast your net as wide as you want to. Then begin to reduce your list to 3-5 schools which have most of the items on your list of 'must haves'.

G - Graduate degrees

Most private school teachers have bachelor's degrees or the equivalent in their subject specialties. For example, the Latin teacher will have a degree in Classics. The next step is a master's degree and possibly even a doctorate.

H - Horses

Approximately 62 boarding schools offer equestrian programs. So if your child is a serious rider, be sure to explore the possibilities

I - International Baccalaureate

The International Baccalaureate Program is offered in several private schools. The IB diploma is recognized worldwide by colleges and universities.

J - Jewish schools come in several forms.

Jewish schools offer a fine grounding in both the Hebrew language and the Torah among many other things. Whether you choose reform or orthodox Judaism, you are bound to find a school which is right for you.

K - Knowing the right people

When it comes to most private school admissions, it is not who you know that matters. It is a matter of your child offering what the school is looking. Now, on the other hand, if you have a child or a relative attending the school, that will be another box checked in your child's file. Qualifications do matter.

L - Legal rights are governed by contract law.

Private schools differ from public schools in this respect.  Public school students have constitutional rights. Private school students rights are determined by the contract you and the school signed. Read the fine print carefully.

M - Mens sana in corpore

This line from the 1st-century Roman poet Juvenal roughly translates as "a healthy mind in a healthy body". This explains why most private schools have compulsory athletic programs. The idea is simple: you cannot have a healthy mind without physical exercise. This video from Culver Academies illustrates how and why athletics programs are an integral part of the school's curriculum.

N - Not every private school is a not for profit organization.

Most private schools are not for profit organizations. Most are also 501 (c) (3) entities, i.e., they are tax-exempt. I estimate that there are about 100 private high schools which are for-profit corporations. Whether a school is for profit or not for profit makes no difference. What matters is whether it offers what you and your child are looking for.

O - Only qualified students are admitted to private schools.

Now specifically what qualifications a particular private school is looking for is something you need to discuss with your educational consultant. Each private school sets its own unique set of qualifications. If your child has what the school is looking for, she will go to the front of the line, all things being equal. Private schools have no obligation to admit any child who does not meet their requirements.

P - Parents Financial Statement

If you require financial aid in order to send your child to private school, you will probably have to complete The Parents’ Financial Statement or PFS for short. The PFS instructions and application can be found on the School and Student Services website. This confidential information is reviewed by a third party, not by the individual schools to which you are applying. The report to the schools indicates your financial capability of contributing towards tuition and fees.

Q - Quality of teaching

Quality of teaching is near the top of the list of reasons for sending your children to private school. We want our children actually taught and well-taught by experienced professional teachers who know their subjects inside and out. We want teachers who are passionate about their subject and know how to teach it to young people.

R - Religion

One of the reasons many of us parents decide to send our children to private school is because we want them to be in an educational environment which respects and enhances your particular religious beliefs. Almost every major denomination has private schools affiliated with it. The Roman Catholic Church has historically taken the lead in operating private schools. It has approximately 7,500 schools most of which are operated at the local level.

S - Special needs

You will find a private school for just about any special need diagnosis you can think of. As you review and visit schools, ask questions and confirm that the specific program which the school offers meets your child's requirements. Special needs education programs vary widely. Exceptional children also tend to do well in a private school setting. Just make sure that you choose the right school which offers the academic programs and activities which your child needs.

T - TOEFL

Students whose native language is not English will have to take TOEFL or the Test of English as a Foreign Language as part of their admissions testing. This is a standardized test created and administered by the ETS or Educational Testing Service.

U - Unless you are an expert on private schools hire a consultant.

Sending your child to private school is a major investment of both money and time. You need to get it right. Just like you wouldn't dream of buying a home without consulting your attorney or financial adviser, so it is with choosing a private school. Hire a professional educational consultant.

V - Visit schools on your short list.

There really is no more important advice that I can give than this: you must visit each school on your short list. Your child's happiness is at stake. While visiting schools takes time and effort, you will find the exercise worthwhile. In the process, you will uncover positive aspects of the schools as well as some unexpected negatives. Don't believe everything you see and read online. See for yourself.

W - Waiting until the last minute is not a good idea.

Plan your work and work your plan is good advice when it comes to getting your child into private school. Many schools have admissions deadlines. There are also testing deadlines and a host of other dates to keep your eye on. Don't wait until the last minute.

X - Extras

There are all sorts of hidden, unexpected costs to sending your child to private school. Uniforms, music lessons and much more become routine after a while. Be ready for those unexpected sundries.

Y - You know your child better than anybody.

Never forget that. The choices available to you and your family will at times be overwhelming. You will have many decisions to make. In the end, choosing the right school is all about finding the school which fits best with your child, her needs, and her personality. Nobody knows her better than you do. Let that drive your decisions.

Z - Are there Zambonis at private schools?

Yes, indeed. Most private schools with hockey programs will have a Zamboni or other ice resurfacer as part of their rink equipment.

Questions? Contact us on Twitter. @privateschoolreview


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