Interview on choosing the right school: Jane Kristoffy

Education expert Jane Kristoffy shares insights about choosing a private school for your child

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Jane Kristoffy is an education consultant at Right Track Educational Services, an education consulting firm in Etobicoke, Ontario.

We asked her several questions related to the issue of choosing a school. We covered topics such as learning about schools, mistakes parents make, school culture, and extracurriculars. Here’s what she had to say.

For more expert advice on a wide range of questions related to school choice, read our comprehensive guide. You can also read our parent interviews on choosing a school, as well as  our in-depth advice guide on getting into a private school.

Q: To what extent is making a good school choice an art versus a science?
A: I think it's both. You need to have the facts, but at the end of the day, a kid needs to feel a sense of belonging. They need to fit into the community in order to thrive, so the most important things that I'll say to families, you have to go on a tour of every school of your choice A, B, C, and D. I say four. That's my minimum, and I'll even include the school down the street—your local public school. That's definitely a consideration.

Q: What’s the best way to find out about schools?
A: I like the families to go to the open houses, and the schools like the families to go to the open houses, because it's kind of like big bang for their buck. But I want kids in the schools doing the hustle and bustle when the classes are changing, when the announcements are on, when kids are walking to the washroom or to the office with the attendants. That's what I want families to be present for, so I always encourage people to go on tours in April and May and early October because I want the kids to have that visceral reaction to the school when they walk in the front door.

Does this feel like home to me? Can I imagine myself here? Is this too uptight or is it too stressful? Is there an anxiety in the air, or does it feel like I could really belong here? I think that the sense of belonging, the climate of the school, or the culture, is a crucial factor, and that's going to be different for everybody.

Q: What are some of the best ways to find out about the culture or community of a school?
A: You have to do a tour, and perhaps go on a second tour. Logistically if you're not going to the school down the street, it's a hassle. And so you have to do the research. I would say go online. Do a tour. Go to the open house. For your first-choice school, do the SSAT there. Talk to people. But when you're talking to people you have to remember that they're coming from their own story, so you've got to be very careful with what you take from that, but I think every single little bit of information is important.

Q: How important are extracurriculars in a child’s education?
A: I think that extracurriculars in a child's story is paramount. If you are really active in something outside of class. It enables children to pursue interests and passions they might not otherwise have the opportunity to.

Q: What are some common mistakes parents make in the decision-making process?
A: If parents aren't upfront about everything that that kid needs, they're not serving their child's interests. You've got to be honest with the school about exactly what it is your child needs because if that school doesn't have the resources to serve those needs, it's a waste of time and energy and money, and also the kid isn't going to fulfill their own potential because they won't thrive there.

Also, not going on a private tour. Not having a plan a, b, and c. Relying too much on reputations. Relying on outdated stories of a school.

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