The quest for excellence

With so many choices of good schools in our area it seem like an impossible task to decide which one is best for your child. While public school is always an option, a parent might have their own reason to go the independent school route. Whether only exploring the idea or looking to enroll your child in one, it is important to understand the differences of each school and make the best educated decision about which one would fit you and your child best. Here are a few tips that we’ve compiled to help you while you try to narrow down your consideration set from the plethora of choices available around.

1. Start early
Finding the right school is likely to take time. Most independent schools require that the student applies for admission and the deadline can be months, even almost a year before the first day of school. Starting your research early, well more than a year before your child is due to go to the new school is a very good idea.

2. Evaluate your child’s needs and personality
Each independent school has its own philosophy, teaching methods, academic focus and student culture, among other differences, which is likely to directly impact how your child likes the new place. Is your child creative, a science buff or a naturally curious explorer? Does your child like larger groups or does he or she excel in a smaller class? Writing down the personal traits of your child will help you guide your search to a school with a more suitable environment that will give him or her the best chance to succeed.

3. Get to know your top picks better
After you’ve narrowed down your list of schools during your initial browsing, read as much as possible about the ones you chose. Research them as much as you can and write down any questions that pop up in your mind so that you can ask the school directly later.

4. Talk with the school
Calling the schools of your choice can sometimes be a little intimidating. After all, you are calling the “principal’s office”. What’s more, you can’t help but wanting to make a great first impression since if you pick them, you will get to know them pretty well. But treating the conversation as a business call, instead of a personal audition, could help you ease the jitters and evaluate the school with a clearer mind.

5. Schedule a tour or visit an open house
After you narrow down the list even further, you should now try to visit the schools of your choice so far personally. Scheduling a private tour is often an option but for some an ever better option might be visiting a school open house. Mingling with other prospective parents at an open house event might give you ideas for other questions to ask the administration that you haven’t thought about.

6. Ask questions
This is probably the most important step in your information gathering process. Write down questions that you’d like to ask in advance and don’t hesitate to ask additional or follow up questions at any time during your communication with the school(s) of your choice.

7. Talk with your child
While important, whether or not you do this step depends on many considerations including the age of the child and most significantly your own flexibility. If the child really wouldn’t be able to choose because you are set, for one reason or another, on a specific school, it is probably better not to ask. You surely know the parenting rule never to ask your child a question to which there is only one acceptable to you answer. But if you are torn between two or more schools and either one would be fine with you, asking your child for their preference involves them in the decision making process which teaches them responsibility and makes them take partial ownership in the decision.

A successful search for the right school, like many things in life, depends a lot on your attitude.
Believe in yourself, your knowledge and your instincts and chances are you will ace it. ■