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You’ve decided to send your child to a private school (often called an independent school), but where do you start? How can you find the right match? Here is a quick guide to finding a private school that’s the best fit for you.
First, think about your priorities. The following questions can help you get started:
Once you’ve talked with your child about the answers to these questions, make sure to write down which qualities are most important in a private school.
Second, visit a site like Niche, which ranks schools based on a variety of factors. Start a search by entering your location, then filter the results by grade level, religious affiliation, and tuition. Make sure to read the Niche profile for each school and pay special attention to the reviews. Take notes on each school, with a focus on how well they align with the priorities you have already determined.
Next, visit the school’s website to look at their curriculum, resources, and self-description. In order to get even more information, check other sources, such as your local paper or a neighborhood social media site, to find stories or other reviews of the school. When you’re doing this, pay special attention to the school’s schedule, academic and extracurricular resources, other services (like having an on-site nurse or full-time librarian, for example), and disciplinary policy. If the school has won awards or has special relationships with local businesses, make a note of them. Once you’ve gotten a good sense of all the schools you’re interested in, make a short list of schools that are the best match for your child.
Third, begin planning visits with your child to each of the schools on your short list. As you’re planning, keep track of the admissions requirements and process for each school. Most private schools make admissions decisions for the following school year in January of the current year, so start your search early. If you need financial aid, mention it to the admissions office early in the process. Find out when prospective students can visit, and whether they can do so during a regular school day. Keep in mind that, at some schools, a visit is actually part of the admissions/interview process. This means that you and your child should be prepared to do any interviews or assessment tests while you’re on campus. While you’re there, speak with current students, teachers, administrators, and parents of current students. This can help give you a more well-rounded impression of the school. You should also keep your eyes and ears open for other, more subtle indicators of the school’s quality. For example:
And, of course, ask lots of questions while you’re touring campus and talking to people. If anything seems confusing or unclear, don’t hesitate to follow up until you’re satisfied with the information you’ve gotten.
With these steps, the process of finding the best private school for your child should be much less daunting.
Spark provides customized guidance to help you get into your top-choice schools.