Middle school is a critical period in your child's academic experience, so choosing the right middle school can feel overwhelming to say the least. Unlike public schools, where your district determines the school your child will attend, opting for a private school allows you to find the program that best fits your child's needs, abilities, and aspirations. The following to-do list can help guide you through the process so you feel confident you've made the right choice for your child.
1. Give Yourself Time to Do It Right
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to a middle school education. If your child is nearing middle school age or is considering switching middle schools, it's important to give yourself ample time before applications close to find the right school. "Enough time" can mean anything from a few months to a year.
2. Do a Personal Review
Before you can know what school is best for your child, you need to understand what your family needs, wants, and is able to do. Ask these questions to get started:
- What do you and your child hope to get out of their middle school education? Finding the right private middle school for your child may feel more difficult than choosing an elementary school. Children of middle school age are learning to make sense of the world and how they fit in it, so they often demand more from their educational experiences as they grow up. Private schools can provide unprecedented opportunities for young people to grow and value their education. While something as simple as "getting into a good college" is a good place to start, try to dive deeper into what other big-picture goals you and your child may have. Do you want them to be leaders in their community? Do you want your child's school to celebrate and support their unique talents? Is it important they experience other cultures, even going so far as to travel around the world? Clarifying your values and goals will help ensure you choose a school that will meet your needs.
- What is your budget? The less lofty side of choosing the right private school is the cost. Private school costs vary by region, institution, and grade level, so it's important that you understand the many options available to finance a private education. Read this article on navigating the cost of private school to get you started.
- How far are you willing to travel? Unless you are considering boarding school or a school that provides transportation, you will be commuting to and from school every day. Be sure the school you choose is convenient for your family's schedule.
3. Research Private Schools
Once you understand your needs, it's time to find a school that meets them. These days, there are many ways to research private schools in your area that allow you to narrow your list down before applying. Here are the 3 ways you can research private schools from the comfort of your own home:
- Check out their website: A school's website will typically describes their program, values, and why you should consider them as a viable private school option.
- Request more information: If you're intrigued by what you see on a school's website, contact them by phone or email to request additional information. Many private schools have viewbooks or brochures that can be sent to you.
- Look at reviews and testimonials: Gain some understanding of the school's reputation outside of what they say about themselves. Seeing others' reviews of a school is a good way to gauge if they are upholding the values they've discussed on their website or in their pamphlets.
In addition, look out for these red flags when researching schools:
- High staff turnover: Happy teachers that have long-term investments at their school are a good sign, while schools that can't retain teachers may have some underlying problems that could impact the quality of their program.
- Bad communication habits or a lack of transparency: Most private schools want students and parents who are curious, proactive, and willing to form a partnership with the school. Therefore, if a school ignores you or avoids answering tough questions, it's probably best to keep looking.
4. Visit Schools You're Considering
Once you've compiled a list of schools that look good on paper, it's essential that you see them in person. Some schools have open houses or group tours while others prefer that you schedule a private visit. While visiting, be sure to ask yourself the following the questions:
- Do students look happy?
- Are students engaged and actively participating in the classrooms?
- Is technology current and does it enhance learning?
- Are teachers able to provide individual attention to students?
- Are teachers excited to be teaching?
- Do faculty and staff interact with students outside the classroom?
- Is the school safe?
- Is there adequate space for recess and outdoor learning?
- Are the classrooms and other spaces inspiring?
- Would your child like coming here?
- Do you feel welcome?
- Is the community warm and authentic?
Once you've done the research and visited the campuses, you'll likely identify one or two top choices that will best challenge and support your child through the middle school years. Get started today!