Choosing a school for your child can be stressful. Many people move to specific neighborhoods just to get their children into the best public schools they can. Sometimes the best education for your child may be in a private school, but where do you begin? We spoke to a few parents and school administrators about their experiences with the private school admissions process.
Know your child
The most important thing when checking out private schools is to know your child. Spend some time brainstorming about what strengths and weaknesses your child has, so you can find the private school with the best fit. Maybe your child is great at math and needs higher levels of trigonometry or calculus than the local high school offers. If your child learns best in small group situations, that's a critical piece of information. Make a list of things that will matter for your child, regardless of the other wow factors like the latest technology or state-of-the-art football facility.
Patricia Littrell is the director of admissions at Evangelical Christian School in Tennessee. "As a parent first and now director of admissions, I know that making a decision about which independent school to choose can be stressful! Do not be intimidated," she shares. "A parent knows what he/she is looking for in a school! Make that list starting with the most important feature," she adds. "Ask for proof that what you are looking for does exist at the school." One mother of a high school sophomore in a private school said, "When we found the perfect school for our son, everything seemed to fall into place."
Consider the costs
While most private schools offer scholarships, grants and other financial assistance based on need, you should consider what you can afford to pay for private school before you even begin tours. Private school tuition can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars per year for a partial-day kindergarten program to over $50,000 annually for a college-preparatory high school and boarding program.
One thing many parents don't realize is that there are often fees charged outside of the regular tuition that can bring the annual cost way up. "Be wary of hidden fees!" says Littrell. "Ask on the front end what fees are included and billed for the entire year. Many times tuition costs do not include technology fees, athletic fees, student activity fees, books, etc...," she adds. "Private schools are notorious for hiding them until a decision is made!"
Find a good fit
The best private school for your child is one that challenges him, supports his educational goals and provides him a place to learn and grow. Mary Helen Noland is director of admission for Trinity Christian Academy (TCA), a private, bible-based school in Dallas, Texas. "Families should look for a school that holds similar values common to those in your family," Noland advises. "Are you looking for a secular school? Parochial? Single-gender? Faith-based? The values that are shared and taught in the home also should be shared and reinforced in a school," she adds. A great resource in your search is the website GreatSchools.org.
Think private school is the best choice for your child? Do your homework and find the best fit for your family.