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Five steps to choosing the perfect school

The ultimate starter guide to finding your ideal private school

Find a list of schools

Searching for the right school is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, requiring committed preparation. Luckily, parents are not alone. Follow this guide, step by step. And if the road gets rocky, keep your eye on the finish line—your child’s future.


Video: How to Choose a Private School

 

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1. Carefully consider your needs

While finding the right house is all about location, location, location, when it comes to private schools, the motto is fit, fit, fit. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. What makes a school perfect for your neighbour’s child doesn’t necessarily make it the right choice for yours. Your family’s circumstances, the individual strengths and needs of your child, your education philosophy and vision will all contribute to your choice of schools.

Private and independent schools are numerous and diverse. There are schools with excellent academic and athletic programs. Some schools follow a distinct education philosophy, such as Montessori, or serve a particular religious community. There are arts-based schools, all-boys schools, boarding schools, special needspreschools, daycare …and the list goes on.

So before you start flipping through attractive brochures or browsing websites, take the time to consider, as a family, what it is you are looking for in a school and why.

Top considerations

Write down your basic must-haves in one column of a page. In a second column, add your wish list—the points that are not essential, but would be a bonus to find. Schools with an outstanding music program, a technological focus or strong outdoor education component are all out there. It’s up to you to determine and rank your priorities.

Keep your list and refer back to it throughout the search process. Remember, the bells and whistles may be nice to have, but don’t lose sight of your priorities. Keep these in mind and they will guide you to the right fit.

2. Do your initial homework

This can’t be said enough: Do your homework. Having a good base of information and knowledge about the private school landscape will help you make a choice that is right for you and your child. Remember to involve your child in the school search process as much as you can.

Quick tips

Now that you’ve gathered some information, it’s time to make good use of it to help you find the best fit for your child.

3. Visit a shortlist of schools

Most schools readily welcome visiting parents, so pick up the telephone and arrange a tour. A first-hand look is essential to get a personal sense of whether it’s a place you can see sending your child. But don’t rely on your first impression—plan more than one visit. Return with your child if you like what you see. Remember to ask a lot of questions; admissions officers anticipate and welcome them. And it’s a good idea to bring a written checklist along with you.

Ask schools about:

Download our printable version of this checklist.

Ask schools to provide you with:

4. Make a winning application to a few different schools

You now have your first-hand knowledge. Narrow down your choices, using your priority list as a guide. It’s time to apply to schools of your choice. It’s best not to limit yourself to submitting an application to just one “perfect” school. Chances are there are a number of schools that could be an appropriate fit for your child.

Points to remember

What schools are looking for

5. Stay grounded while awaiting results

The finish line is in sight. You’ve submitted your applications and are waiting to be notified about acceptance. Still, there are a few points that every parent should keep in mind:

Words of wisdom

Once you have accepted a school, have confidence in your choice. Make the most of the fact that your family is now part of a unique school environment. You have succeeded in making one of the most important decisions in your child’s life and an investment in his or her future. That alone is worth more than a gold medal victory!
 

Child-specific advice on school choice
For child-specific insights on choosing a school, read our guide. We explore how school choices crucially depend on kids' unique traits, such as their mental and academic focussocial tendenciesactivity level, academic interests (such as art and STEM), and other attributes (such as giftednessspecial needslearning disabilities, and social issues).

To get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traitscreate a child profile through your user account.


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