How to Choose a Private School

Story by Jessica Tomes

What if a public school doesn’t seem like the perfect fit for your student? Do you stick it out, or do you try something different? We’re choosy when purchasing a home or a new automobile. So why should we accept a one-size-fits-all approach to education? For some students, public education has become a pressure cooker situation. For these students, a private school can provide more independent education, with less emphasis on how your child is performing compared to other students and more focus on the student as an individual. It can be a fabulous option for some families — but first, you must ask yourself if private education is the right investment for your family. And if the answer is yes, how on earth are you supposed to decide which private school is right for your student?

Private schools are difficult to “rank.” Why? Because they are all so different.

You will have to do your own independent research to determine the best fit for your individual family and student. To start, make a list of your requirements. These requirements will include items like location (most private learning institutions do not provide transportation to and from school), desired academic and extracurricular programming, class size, and of course, cost. It is important to note that some, but not all, private schools provide some financial aid. As you begin your search, you will quickly realize that “ranking” in the traditional sense (think public schools and standardized testing) is less important than finding the right fit. You want to find the best fit for your child.

What courses are offered? How are they taught? What is the school’s educational philosophy? The courses may look the same, but each private school will have its unique way of doing things — that’s part of the beauty of a private school education. What do you want for your student? What are your student’s perceived needs and desires? Are you concerned about college preparedness?

Is your child interested in sports or the performing arts? Is a religious education (of a specific denomination) important to you as a family? There’s a private school for every family and every budget, you just have to be willing to do your homework. Don’t be afraid to dig deep. You’re potentially making some significant lifestyle changes. For most families, academic considerations will always come first on the list of priorities when trying to make a decision.

Visit the schools you are considering. Meet with the administration. Find out if you can observe a class. Have the financial aid discussion (assuming it’s important to you). You may want to hire a consultant. You will want to talk to family and friends who have sent their children to private school to get their opinions.

Getting into the right private school can be a competitive process. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.