Private School Open Houses
Much in the same way that you wouldn’t want to buy a car without taking it for a test drive or buy a house without doing a walk through and checking out the neighborhood, you won’t want to send your child off to school without doing a little investigating first. One very effective way to do that if you are considering a private school is to attend several open house events. If this is an option you are thinking about pursuing, it’s a good idea to put the wheels in motion approximately one year before your child is ready to attend a new school.
Private schools are an excellent way for your child or teen to get an accelerated education while also being exposed to numerous cultural and social endeavors, including sports, the arts and leadership training.
But before you even start searching for a school, it’s important to first sit down as a family to discuss exactly what you’re looking for from a private institution. Some examples to think about include:
- Large or small school? A small school may provide more one-on-one educational opportunities while a large school will likely have a wider variety of educational programs.
- Coeducational or single-sex? Does it make a difference?
- Day school or boarding school? If you are considering a boarding school, how far away from home are you willing to travel?
- What special programs/amenities do they offer and do those programs meet your child’s needs?
Once you have a broad idea of the kind of expectations the family is hoping to achieve, you can start doing some online searches to develop a preliminary list of spots you think will meet your goals and objectives.
After you’ve done your homework and have narrowed the choices down, attending open houses will provide you with an opportunity to get a “feel” for the school while you learn more about the school’s policies, teachers and administration.
It’s a good idea to keep a separate file folder for each school you visit so you can keep all of your research and information in one neatly organized place. It might also be helpful to keep a journal handy to record notes and observations so details won’t blur over time, especially if you are visiting several different campuses.
At the events you attend, it’s important to ask a lot of questions, but it’s also critical to observe how teachers and staff interact with the students while you are touring the campus:
- Talk with parents and students to see if their impression of the school is the same now as it was when they were attending open houses. Do students and teachers appear to be happy?
- Check out the classrooms and the equipment. Is the technology up to date?
- Observe how students act between classes. Is the environment chaotic or are student interactions peaceful and purposeful?
- Make sure to also keep notes on admission testing dates and application deadlines. This information will be very important once you do decide on which school(s) you would like to apply to.
Most importantly, have fun. If you or your student don’t feel comfortable in one environment or another, that could be a potential red flag that a particular school may not be well suited for either of you. Ask for your child’s honest opinion after each open house and keep a note of that, too. After all, your student’s education will be much more meaningful if you include him/her in the decision-making process and they are happy with their educational environment.