Congratulations! You have made the great decision to enroll your child in a private school. Now what? There are many options, especially on Long Island and the surrounding tri-state area, but how can you choose the right school for your child?
Below you will find seven straightforward tips to help you narrow down the list of options and possibilities when choosing the right school for your child. These tips are meant to help you focus your approach to finding the best possible fit for your child and your family.
- Decide between day school and boarding school options. These types of schools can be quite different from each other, and you are best served to immediately focus on one if you know the other is not an option. In addition, make sure you have a complete understanding of the logistics involved in sending your child to a day school or boarding school. For example, if you will need daily transportation to and from school, you must reside within a 15 mile radius of the school (on Long Island). If boarding school is the direction you are heading in, how easy or difficult will trips home be for your child? Or for that matter, how difficult will it be for you to head to school to watch a game or a student performance?
- Learn as much as you can about each school. This is a broad tip, but you want to make sure you understand and can repeat the philosophy of the school, the teaching style employed, the curriculum followed, the student-to-teacher ratio, the teacher qualifications, and where students matriculate to after they graduate. In addition, find out about the extra-curricular activities offered, and who is eligible to participate in them. If your child is passionate about the arts, does the school offer an expansive arts program? If your child is a budding scientist, does the school have a state-of-the-art science lab?
- Visit the school. Nothing provides a better indication than a visit to the school while school is in session. A great school will welcome you with open arms during the school day. You should expect to visit classrooms, see the teachers and students in action, speak to the teachers and students, and walk around the campus. Are the students engaged? Are the teachers using their classroom time creatively? Are the facilities and grounds well-maintained and updated?
- Talk to current parents. Speaking to the parents of children enrolled in the school you are considering is another helpful way to learn more about the school. This different - and important - perspective can be meaningful as you try to whittle down the list of prospective schools.
- Ask about tuition and, if needed, tuition assistance options. The annual tuition fees vary from school to school. For example, non-secular schools typically charge a higher tuition than secular schools. You should also make sure that you are comparing apples to apples. If lunch is served at school, is that included in the tuition or will you be charged separately? Are there any assessment fees?
- Have your child spend time at the school. Oftentimes, our children are our best guides. Ask the school if your child can spend a morning or a full day with his or her prospective classmates. This will provide your child with a true inside-look at the school. Ask your child if the other children were friendly and helpful, if the lessons were challenging but fun. A smile on your child's face at the end of a visit day may be worth a thousand words.
- Prioritize what is most important to you. Are you looking for a very regimented, strict program? Are challenging academics the most important aspect of the school? Are you looking for a well-rounded curriculum that will expose your child to many different subject areas? Many parents would like to see their own values reinforced during the school day. Make sure that your values are aligned with those of the school you are considering.
Selecting the right school for your child is an important decision, but it doesn't have to be challenging. If you follow these tips, figuring out how to choose the right school for your child will be much easier. Good luck!