Q: When did you start your private school search?
A: First-stage research began in Grade 7. Over the summer, we spoke to a lot of other parents who had gone through the process. These conversations were helpful: we asked parents whether they went to all open houses, did private tours, and what else they did in their search. We also definitely used Our Kids resources, online and print.
Q: What were some of the main factors guiding your school search?
A: We considered coed, but felt really strongly that an all-boys environment would be the right way to go. It just fit James’ personality and learning style. That kind of environment would enable him to move around a little bit more and have strong male influences in his life. We also considered cost, whether we wanted a big or small school, and school programs, such as IB.
Q: How many schools were on your shortlist that you visited?
A: We initially considered about six or seven schools, but narrowed it down to a shortlist of two. We visited both those schools.
Q: What did you do during the visits?
A: We went to open houses, information days, and one-on-one tours, during the school year. We spoke with the admissions team to get a sense of what the school day is like. The whole family also went to homecoming, sports events, and other events, to get a sense of the school community.
Q: How did you make your final decision?
A: When it came down to our final choice, we made a list of pros and cons. But the biggest thing is that we cancelled all our plans on the Sunday before we had to make the final decision and walked around the two campuses.
At one school, the doors were locked, so we walked around outside, and we sat on benches and talked about what we liked and what we didn’t, and whether we could see ourselves there.
We then did the same thing for the other school. We walked around the giant football field and track, and the big hockey arena. I think James saw himself more in the second school. He liked the bigger space. The space represented the opportunity to meet new people and try new things, to explore and dream. We let James make the final decision to pick that school, though we gave him our input.
Q: What challenges did you experience?
A: Finding the right school, applying, jumping through all the hoops: it’s a huge investment in time. It was also a long process for us, because it started in Grade 7 and continued through most of the next year. It takes up much of your time and energy, and it distracted James from his school work at times.
Q: What advice do you have for other parents?
A: I think the importance of different resources changes along the way. Peer-to-peer was most important at the beginning: talking to other parents who have been through the process. But open houses and tours became more important later on. So, go to all those things. Understand what each school values and if it’s the right fit.
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 get school-choice advice customized to your child's unique traits, create a child profile through your user account and read our seven ways to choose a school based on your child's needs (i.e., overall fit, more academic challenge, social struggles, academic struggles, intensive learning interests, university preparation, and special needs.).
Read the rest of our parent interviews on choosing a school: Catherine Maule, Lisa McCabe, Felix Wong, Caitlin O’Leary, Karim and Shafreen, Catherine Wang, Holly Wykes, Nicole Morell, Shanti, Zoe Mitchell, Kim Bridgeman, Sabine Kussman, Shemin Jaffer