Your child is the most important thing in the world to you, and that means that his or her education is the single most important investment that you’ll ever make. You’re willing to spend the money that it takes to send your child to the best school possible. But how can you tell which school is the best one possible?
Don’t worry – here are the tips you need to choose the perfect school.
Types of schools
The first step in narrowing your choices is to decide on a type of school. Parents who send their children to Deerfield have agreed with their kids that a boarding school is best. Torontonians whose children attend RHMS are drawn to the philosophy of Montessori schools. Are you looking for a Catholic school? A military school? As much as possible, try to make this decision with your child.
Unless you’re planning on moving sometime soon, you’re probably going to want your child to attend school near home. How near home, though, will depend on what type of school you’re looking for.
For a typical private school (not a boarding school), you’ll probably want to send your child no more than a half an hour or so away – perhaps as much as 45 minutes in extreme cases.
If you’re looking for a boarding school, you’ll have a pretty broad geographic range. Still, you’ll likely want to keep it in your major geographic region.
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This isn’t just because of the ways in which this affects you (though if you’re driving your child to school in the morning, this is a concern with some merit!) – it’s about how it affects your child, too! Long commutes to school are taxing for your child, too. Your child will make friends at school, and it will be tough on him or her if they’re not near enough for playdates (or visits during summer vacation, if we’re talking about a boarding school). Going to school nearby means your child will meet other children like him or her, with similar experiences, values, and even sports fandoms! Diversity is important, of course, but nobody wants to be the only Northeasterner at a California boarding school, or the only city kid at a rural private school.
This first factor should narrow your choices significantly – so let’s look at those choices now.
The numbers game
The single most important factor in a school is, of course, it’s academics. But how can you measure academics?
You can’t always put a number on good teaching, but you can get a good idea of how schools stack up by looking at their statistics. The private school you’re looking at will likely brag about some things on its website. Look for numbers: college acceptance rates, the number of students going to elite colleges, average test scores, and things like that. Write down the statistics you see.
Now look at another school, and another. Write down all of the statistics you find on a piece of paper, or type them into a spreadsheet. Finally, compare the schools. You may find that they didn’t all provide the same numbers (the schools know which ones make them look best)! So hunt down those numbers – you may have to call each school to get them. In the end, you should have a pretty great spread of numbers that you can compare at a glance. Do one or two schools stand out?
Visit the school
When you’ve narrowed your choice down to just a few schools, pay them a visit with your child. Your child should be able to sit in on classes. If you can, you should do the same. Look for things like class size and pay attention to how the teacher interacts with the students – as well as how the students interact with the teacher! Is this a school of engaged pupils? Will they help drive your child to succeed?
Look at the structure of the school itself. Is it new? Is it well laid-out? Do you see problems like flooding, mold, or exposed pipes and wires?
If all looks well on your visit, you’ve found the perfect school! Make sure your child agrees, and then speak to the administrators about securing admission. Rest easy – you’ve chosen the best school possible.