Finding the Right Private School for Your Child (page 2)
Choosing a school for your child is one of the most important decisions you can make. The process can be challenging, but with a little research and initiative, you’ll find a school that’s a great match for your child.
“Private school” is a term used to describe all non-public schools. “Independent schools” are one type of private school. Independent schools have unique missions. They are call “independent” because they have independent boards of trustees who govern the school, and they are independently financed, primarily through tuition, charitable contribution, and endowment income.
There are independent schools in almost every part of the country. Independent schools can be day schools or boarding schools. They can be coed, all girls, or all boys. Some independent schools are small, with only a few dozen students, while others are large, with several thousand students
The first step in choosing an independent school is to think about the ideal school for your child.
- Is the school large or small?
- Does it offer specific classes or extracurricular programs?
- Is it traditional or progressive?
- Coeducational or single-sex?
- A day school or a boarding school?
- Is it competitive or more nurturing?
The next step is to find out about the different schools available to you. Start looking at schools in the early autumn of the year before you want your child to attend an independent school. Look at different schools’ websites, and request admission materials from the schools you think might work for you.
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?
- How large is the school and its student body?
- Where is the school located and what are your transportation options?
- Does the school meet your child's needs? *
Visit a number of schools so you can get a better sense of the ethos of each school. Can you picture your child growing and learning in the different schools? Visiting schools will also help you narrow down the number of schools you want to apply to.
Applications are usually due in the winter. Most schools will ask you to submit a completed application form, the most recent academic transcript with grades, standardized testing results, and teacher recommendations, but requirements and deadlines vary from school to school.
It’s also important to consider different financing options as you’re learning about different schools. Many schools have financial aid programs, and often the application deadline for aid is before the standard application.
Affording a quality education does take some planning, and most families employ several strategies to keep the costs within reach, including financial aid, payment plans, grants, and loans. Perhaps the best source of information lies with the financial aid officers at the individual schools you're considering. They can explain the full range of options that they offer.
For tips about admission and financial aid and to search for a list of independent schools, please visit www.nais.org/admission. Also, for ideas on how to choose the right independent school, take a look at our Parent's Guide.
Source: The National Association of Independent Schools
Reprinted with the permission of the National Association of Independent Schools. © 1997-2008. All rights reserved.
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