Visiting your top schools
Most private and independent schools welcome the opportunity to provide you with a tour of their school. This step is one of the most important ones in choosing a school, and should be conducted after you have visited private school expos, researched all possible schools, and gone to open houses.
When arranging a school visit, it is best to ask for an individual tour on a typical school day. Group tours may keep you getting all your questions answered and may not allow you the time to experience the school's atmosphere. You need to be able to envision your child at that school, interacting with those teachers and socializing with the other students.
It will be very helpful if you bring a list of questions to ask on your tour. We have included suggested questions on this page to help you get started. Along with getting the facts, like school amenities or a breakdown of what exactly tuition covers, it's important to observe the school in action. You will want to observe whether the school is diverse enough for you and your child.
You'll also want to see children engrossed in their school work or play, and see how they respond to their teachers.
While the opportunity exists you may want to request the following on your tour:
- An outline of the school's curriculum. You may also want to see the textbooks and teaching materials they use.
- A chance to speak with teachers or the principal.
- An opportunity to observe a class or other school activities.
- Detailed information about available financial aid, including bursaries or scholarships.
Involve your child:
The process of visiting schools should be shared with your child. It's important to see how your child fits with a prospective school and feels about going there. If there are future interviews or tests that your child will have to conduct to be accepted, the school visits allows prospective students to feel more comfortable by having already met teachers, administrators, and other students.
After you have visited your shortlisted schools, narrow the list down to two or three, to go back and visit with your child. Also, arrange ahead of time a chance for your child to interact with students at the schools. After the tours, you and your child should record any impressions or thoughts you have of each school to review later when making a decision.
Questions to ask
Below, we outline a list of questions to ask at school visits or open houses. You can print this list of questions and bring it with you, so you don’t forget what’s important to ask. You can also download our e-books on questions to ask private schools and choosing the best private school.
1. School philosophy: What are the key elements of your school philosophy and vision?
2. Types of students: What does your model student look like?
3. Curriculum: What curriculum do you use?
4. Class size: What is the class size and student-to-teacher ratio for my child’s class and for classes he or she may move on to?
5. Tuition: How much is annual tuition? What exactly does tuition include and not include?
6. Extracurricular activities: What kinds of extracurricular activities do you offer?
7. Teacher qualifications: What educational qualifications and training do your teachers have?
8. Use of technology: What kinds of technological resources do you have and in what, if any, ways do students have access to these? How is technology integrated in the classroom at each level of education?
9. Measurement of progress: How do you measure individual achievement and progress?
10. Student life: What strategies do you use to promote a vibrant and cohesive community at your school?
11. Parent involvement: What opportunities are there for parents to get involved in school?
12. School governance: How is your school operated and governed?
On your visit, also be sure to:
- Ask for an outline of the school's curriculum, and to look at textbooks and other teaching materials.
- Ask for the names and numbers of current parents or alumni, whom you can contact as references.
- Try to speak with the principal or head of school and teachers. Don't limit yourself to just meeting the admissions officer.
- Ask if your child can meet other students. Ask for a student to take your child on a tour of the school.
- Ask to observe a class or other activities.
- Ask what bursaries or other financial support may be available
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 focus, social tendencies, activity level, academic interests (such as art and STEM), and other attributes (such as giftedness, special needs, learning disabilities, and social issues).
To customize over 350 school profiles with insights unique to your child's traits, create a child profile through your user account.
Private school expos
School expos provide a wonderful opportunity to meet with a number of private schools in a relaxed environment. Attend the annual Our Kids private school expos, and meet with more than 70 of Canada’s leading private and independent schools at these one-day events. Register today for free admission.