Questions to Ask When Considering Private School
If you haven’t done so already, contact each school that you are considering for your child for materials dealing with philosophy, curriculum, extracurricular offerings, admission process, and financing options. Compare each school’s literature; this should give you a preliminary sense of which schools are a good match. Take into account what type of environment would be best for your child and consider his or her individual strengths as you examine each school’s program. Eliminate any school that doesn’t meet a fundamental requirement — for instance, if your child wishes to study Japanese, but the school doesn’t offer this course, you may need to look further.
Here are some questions to start with as you look through each school’s materials:
- Is the school accredited and by whom?
- What is the school’s mission and does its philosophy appeal to you?
- Does the school have a special or particular educational focus?
- Are academics rigorous?
- Is the environment competitive? Nurturing? Are there high expectations?
- Does the school meet your child’s needs?
- How large is the school and its student body?
- Where is the school located and what are your transportation options?
- What variety of learning experiences are available at the school — in class, on the playing field, in extracurricular activities, and in community service? Are extracurricular activities obligatory?
- Does the school seem to have a diverse student body and faculty?
- Do the school materials discuss parental involvement?
- For high schools, what are the graduation requirements? What percentage of students enter colleges — and what kind of colleges do they attend?
- Is college counseling effective? (Look at rates at which school grads achieve their first and second college choices.)
- What is the tuition and how flexible are the school’s financing options?
- What is the school’s application process? Are deadlines drawing near?
On your own, write down additional questions and notes. Consider starting one sheet of paper per school. That way, you will be able to easily look up questions that are pertinent to the school you are visiting.
When looking at a school’s accountability, look at where its graduates go to college and what their graduation rates are at those colleges.
In short, choosing the right school for your child is likely the most important single decision you might make in terms of setting the proper path and direction for life: A little preparation and research on the part of parents at the access point will go miles toward making the ultimate destination clear at the exit ramp.
Reprinted with permission of the National Association of Independent Schools — www.nais.org/go/parents