Selecting the right private school is an important decision for families. Your decision to choose private education for your teen launched a challenging search. Now, you face the task of selecting from the many options for private schools in your neighborhood or surrounding cities.
Private schools vary in purpose, mission, and curriculum. To choose the best private school for your family, consider both your child’s needs and wants as well as the needs of the entire family. Here are ten factors to consider:
How important is the location? Do you want a school close to your neighborhood - convenient for public transit or car? Or are you willing to go farther for the right educational and cultural environment?
Many families are not sure how to afford private school. In addition to the tuition, find out about additional costs such as school supplies, special events, and laptop computers. Does the school offer scholarships or financial aid? What is affordable for your family?
3. Academic Program
What are your child’s interests? Do they like science? The arts? Do they want to sing? Do computer programming? If your child has specific educational interests, you may be able to find a private school that caters specifically to those interests.
4. Learning Environment
Beyond interests, consider what you know about the way your child learns. Do they prefer to move around the classroom? Do they enjoy active engagement? Do they work well with others? Or alone?
Many high-stakes private schools take the route of traditional lectures, testing, and intense learning environments. On the other hand, other private schools focus on developing unique learning experiences. Schools that utilize group learning strategies will have more open classroom settings and teachers who guide rather than lecture. Either style can give your child a valuable learning experience, so it is important to understand which environment gives your child the opportunity to thrive.
5. Class Size
What is the student-to-teacher ratio? What does each school advertise? Class size will affect the way teachers interact with students. If your child benefits from one-on-one time, it is important to consider how much of this personal attention they will receive. Micro-schools are known for small class sizes that facilitate more in-depth interactions among students and teachers.
6. Student-Teacher Relationships
In seeking a private school education, you want to find relationships between students and teachers that support meaningful learning. When students come from a place of trust, they are more likely to participate actively in the classroom and become responsible for their education.
Take a look at the school’s reported diversity statistics. Will your child be among a homogenous group of peers, or will they experience relationships with people from a variety of backgrounds? Are the teachers sensitive to cultural issues and do students become aware and respectful of different values?
8. Philosophy and Mission
Are the mission and philosophy a good match for your family? How do they approach education? How do they define rigor? Do they have many AP courses? Or none? Do they address social-emotional learning or are they focused solely on academics? Do they engage in project-based learning? Or experiential learning?
9. College Placement
Look at graduation and college attendance rates. Is there assistance with the college applications process? Will your teen get one-on-one help with college planning?
10. Parent Engagement
What are the opportunities for parents to be involved – parent organizations, community meetings, invitations to school events, access to staff and faculty?
The Private School Visit
After you have narrowed your search to real options, schedule a visit to the schools with your teen. See how comfortable they are in the campus environment. You can observe firsthand the class sizes, diversity of students and faculty and student-teacher interactions. Make sure to engage with both students and teachers and ask questions.
Even though choosing the right private school is a huge step, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Arming yourself with information and experiencing schools firsthand will help you to make an informed decision that both you and your child feel comfortable with.