What to Look for When You Look at Private Schools

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When you are thinking about what high schools are best for your child, there are a number of things you have to think about. The decision to send them to a private school is a personal and important one. Here are some things to look at when you are looking at private schools.

  1. The academics of the private school. This is one of the most important things to look at when you are looking at private schools of all levels. From private elementary schools to private middle schools and private high schools, this is an important metric that you will need to consider. When you are talking to private high schools, you need to ask about how they prepare students there for the standardized tests that all students need to take to get into college. You should also see how many of their seniors have National Merit recognition. You may have specific academic questions in terms of what your child needs.
  2. Look into the school’s culture. When you are talking to the private school’s leadership, ask them how they would describe the culture there. Are there things they would like to improve? What steps are they taking to achieve those improvements? It is not enough for a school to have a culture they are proud of but they need to constantly be working to improve it or it will become stale and outdated. You should take some time to talk to the other parents and to the students themselves. They know best how the culture of the school affects their lives. Taking some time to do this will make you feel much better about whatever decision you make.
  3. Ask what universities the students apply to the most and get in. Do a decent number of students from the private school get into well known, selective universities? Do not be impressed by the one student who was able to be accepted to Yale or Harvard. You need to see a trend. How many students applied to the well known and highly respected schools? Ask for data from a few years. Does your child have a school in mind? If they do, how many students from the private school get in there?
  4. Look at teacher engagement. One of the things that private schools have going for them is the level of teacher engagement. Teachers in private schools tend to be really passionate about teaching and about the subject they teach. Many, if not most, hold advanced degrees in their subject. As a consequence, they are really enthusiastic and are typically more likely to engage their students. Therefore, when you visit private high schools, you should look into this aspect and ask about it. Look at how the teachers connect with their students. This does not have to rise to the level of “The Dead Poets Society” or anything but there should a connection between the students and teachers that you can really see.
  5. What are the extracurricular activities like? Does the school have a strong arts department? What about music or sports? Do they have a wide ranging number of clubs and other activities? These are important, both for the students’ college applications but also their happiness. Getting involved in activities outside of the classroom helps them form bonds with their classmates, it contributes to their personal development and leads them to be more well rounded and happy adults. Good private schools have a holistic approach to teaching. They want to see their students flourish and not just get into college but thrive once they get there. Getting involved in the arts, sports or in clubs can be a big part of that.
  6. Look at the schools philosophy on innovation. It is important to have a strong tradition but thoughts on how to best educate kids advance all of the time. You should look for a school that both has a healthy respect for a solid tradition while being able to embrace change as that is helpful for the advancement of their students. This way you get the best of both world in a lot of ways. Schools should be proud of their commitment to innovation.

Take your time, you will find the right school.