Question: “What’s the best private school?”
Answer: “The school whose program connects/fits best with who your child is.”
The goal when researching and applying to schools is finding the best fit between student abilities and school strengths.
No Best School Exists
The notion of the ‘best school’ is much like the concept of ‘best kid’- prompting the follow-up questions: Best, how? Best at what? What exactly do you mean by best? Best athlete? Best Latin scholar? Best calculus student? Best behaved? Best debater?
Which school is best? It all depends.
Each school is unique in the kind of student who will do well in its environment. A good fit requires thorough understanding of both student and school.
Not every school fits every student and not every student fits every school.
The best school is the school whose program can nurture and take your student the furthest.
Match Student and School Strengths
Private schools come in all flavors, perspectives and sizes- just like families and kids. Each private school offers a particular perspective, or way of working, and this method works best for students who benefit from the approach.
Frame your thinking about the opportunities and programs that your student needs. Does this school have these programs and support what’s best for my student?
A School Search Born of Insight and Understanding
“Know yourself and your child.” Begin any private school consideration by building an understanding of your student using data from previous years, such as student achievement, grades, teacher comments, athletic aspirations, extracurricular interests, social strengths, likes-dislikes, and the kinds of settings in which your student has experienced success.
This data, and analysis, will give parents/guardians an understanding of your child’s learning, needs, and the kinds of environments in which your student best works.
Who is my student? How does he/she learn best?
What kinds of programs or activities does your student need? Formal and structured? Does he or she need a particular set of circumstances, or support, to thrive?
What kinds of programs or activities keeps him/her engaged and motivated?
What do we want our student to be/where does our student want to be by the conclusion of this step in the educational process?
Which One? Considering Schools
Read catalogs and materials closely; attend open houses; ask questions of the schools. Ask questions other families with students in private schools.
What kinds of students go to this school? Does a student like mine do well here?
What’s the end result for students at this school? Do our student’s plans and abilities fit?
Is the focus and perspective of the school the best for growing and supporting my student?
Be forthright. Ask questions of admission officers. No one knows better about the types of students who do well in the their school.
What’s the best school? The school that provides the most fertile environment for your student’s growth.
The most important thing is digging deeply to determine (as best you can) if a school fits where your student’s development stands and provides the setting and programs necessary for a successful school experience.
Have A Plan
The application process takes time. Traditional application and financial aid deadlines fall in January. Give yourself, and your student, time to consider schools, complete applications, ask teachers to write recommendations, gather and submit financial aid data.
You’re admission timeline may fall outside of the traditional admission calendar. The important thing to remember is plan and map the process
You must follow individual school deadlines in order to be considered for financial aid.
By Brian Fisher
Brian Fisher blogs about boarding schools for AdmissionsQuest, a community hub for families & students asking questions and researching prep schools.