By Dr. Paul Lowe Admissions Expert
Not all private schools are created equally! Dozens of schools provide exciting environments in which your child can grow. The choice and option can be confusing. And, like most important decisions, the choice of a school should be the result of careful and thoughtful planning. Here is a list of recommendations for parents to use in determining whether their child should become a member in a private school community and if the school will contribute to their parental goals and child’s educational growth.
1. Educational Philosophy: How are classes taught? Is the school progressive or traditional? How are students assessed? How are expectations conveyed? How are the classrooms organized?
2. School Visit: Look beyond the brochures and websites. A school visit is imperative! Talk with faculty, students, parents, and yes, even the maintenance crew. What a school promises and what it delivers may be different.
3. Safety: What is the school’s safety record? Is safety a part of the school culture? What is the school’s safety policy on bullying and harassment? What has been the school’s reaction or action to safety violations? Does the school have ample security? What are the school’s security policies? Does the school have an emergency management policy in place? Is there a medical facility on campus? Is a medical doctor or a nurse practitioner available on campus? How many faculty members are trained in child’s safety!
4. Happy Factor: Are the students (and faculty) happy? What is the happy vibe or rhythm on the school campus? Does student happiness really matter when it comes to learning? Studies demonstrate that the culture of the school and the relationships that students form with their teachers and their peers play an influential role in their happiness. Neuroscientists have found that feelings and thinking patterns affect the brain’s development and, therefore, emotional and cognitive developments are not independent of one another. Emotions and cognitive ability in children both influence the child’s decisions, memory, attention span and ability to learn. Therefore, happy students are better learners!
5. Location: Proximity to your home is important if your child is to readily participate in after school activities such as sports or theatre. If boarding, how far would you like your child to be away from home? Is the boarding school located in a rural or close to a metropolitan area?
6. Curriculum: Compare the scope and sequence of the curriculum with all the schools you visit. What is the intention behind the curricular choices and offering of the school? Are the modeling of trust, decency, fairness and generosity a part of the curriculum? Are different cultural, ethnic, racial and global perspectives a part of the curriculum?
7. Faculty: Examine the faculty list, educational backgrounds, and professional development. Is the faculty diverse in race, ethnicity and culture? Are the faculty members excited and enthusiastic teachers?
8. Leadership/Administration: Examine the leadership/administration list, educational backgrounds, and professional development. Is the leadership/administration diverse in race, ethnicity and culture?
Are they interested in the social and educational well being of your children or just the operation and business management of the school? What is the strategic vision and mission of the school? Are they willing to talk with you?
9. Size: Note the size of the school as a whole, and class size. Evaluate the opportunities for enrichment and for leadership that the school promotes.
10. Diversity: Is the student body and faculty diverse in terms of culture, ethnicity and race. We now live in a global society not in small, homogenous and insular communities. Learning in a truly culturally, ethnically, racially, socio-economically and visibly diverse school community is a valuable asset in a global society where communication is essential. Does diversity really matter? Does it really matter if your child interacts with another student or a faculty member who is socio-economically, ethnically, culturally and racially different? Perhaps it doesn’t matter to you. However, studies show that interacting with others who are different can bring new ideas. Diversity improves the way children think. It inspires independent thinking and intellectual risk-taking. By disrupting conformity and insularity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts and enhances students’ analytical and creative thinking, problem-solving, cultural and communicative intelligences and cognitive development and performance.
A diverse school environment, not one of homogeneity and sameness, is a better learning environment for your child. Diversity contributes ingenuity, creativity, cognitive friction and intellectual vibrancy to a school community. A private school should be dedicated to preparing students for tomorrow’s world.
Being exposed to many cultures, ethnicities and races and learning to respect them is a formative experience for children in a world where cultures are more than ever in contact.
11. Facilities: How well is the school maintained? Are the facilities outdated? Are the facilities student-friendly? Do the school’s facilities accommodate your child’s interests? For example, does the school have up-to-date computers, playing fields, musical practice rooms, and a theater? How about equestrian sports or cricket?
12. College Matriculation & College Counseling: In selecting private high schools, examine the schools college matriculation list. What is the college matriculation for the last year? What is the number of qualified applicants who apply and are accepted to Ivy League and highly competitive colleges for each of the past 3 years? Schools generally publish a list of where their graduates attend college. If they don’t have a specific list, their college counseling department should be able to provide you with specific application, acceptance (and rejection) and matriculation numbers. You are paying for your child’s high school experience as well as adequate college preparation. After all of your child’s hard work and your monetary investment, you don’t want your child to just get into safety schools!
13. Consider hiring an admissions advisor: If it’s difficult and overwhelming to navigate the private school admissions process, you may consider hiring a private school admissions expert. A reputable admissions advisor has the knowledge, expertise and experience and understands the variables and nuances of the private school admissions process. An experienced admissions advisor also visits schools, knows schools and knows admissions personnel. My team and I spend 25% of our time on the road visiting schools and talking with heads of schools, directors of admissions, admissions officers, and school maintenance and cafeteria crews. We conduct detailed Private School Assessment and Reviews of schools, to provide parents with the knowledge they need to decide where their children should go to school. By placing current information and unbiased recommendations parents need right at their fingertips, parents can feel confident that they are making an informed decision and the best school choice for their child. We help our clients make the best decision on the type of school or specific school their children would like to attend.
Dr. Lowe specializes in providing exclusive admissions advisory services for families and students who are interested in applying to and experiencing the unique educational environment and communities of Ivy League and highly selective colleges and elite private day and boarding schools.
Dr. Lowe is an active member of several professional organizations including: the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling (NYSACAC), the New Jersey Association for College Admission Counseling (NJACAC), the International Association for College Admission Counseling (IACAC), and NAFSA: Association of International Educators, American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), and the Admissions Leadership Consortium (ALC).