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Sep 29

5 steps for a successful private school search – Part 2

It does not have to be dauting to find a private school for your child that fits your budget and your child’s needs. By following a 5 step selection process, the hassle and anxiousneess about the right choice are simply illiminated. We covered the first 2 steps in the previous post, now let’s see what are the last 3.

Step 3 – The Private School Expo

An effective preliminary search should leave families with a better idea of what they are looking for and what is offered in their area. A relatively new tool for a curious family researching private schools, expos bring together students and representatives from all types of schools across a city for parents to use as a one-stop source of information. School administrators are on-hand to answer any questions parents have, general or specific, and kids can talk to current students to see what life at that school is really like. Expos also usually feature helpful seminars on how to choose a school, what type of school is best for a child, and how to finance a private education. Expos are convenient places to get a deeper understanding of what a school values that goes beyond what the website can convey.
Here’s a list of questions to prepare for a visit to a private school expo:
  • What makes the school unique? What is the school’s philosophy?
  • How does the school encourage involvement amongst parents, teachers and students?
  • Ask for an outline of the school calendar. How long is the school day and the school year?
  • What curriculum guidelines does the school follow and how are students evaluated? How do they respond to students who fall behind?
  • What are the teachers’ qualifications?
  • What is the average class size?
  • What are the transportation options for my child?
  • What is the admission process for my child? Is there a waiting list?
  • How much is tuition and what other costs might I incur (e.g. uniform, books, equipment)?
  • What are my payment options? What student financial assistance is available?

Step 4 – The School Visit

As the search nears its end, it’s time to address what is thought to be the most distinctive aspect of a private school-its campus and community. The atmosphere of a school cannot be truly understood unless a parent and child physically experience it themselves. By now a parent’s list of potential schools should be small enough to manage a visit for each one. You can either contact the school to arrange a personal tour, or check school calendars for open house dates. The school visit is also a time to speak with principals, teachers, counsellors, and other students to get information from different perspectives. You can also ask for the names and numbers of current parents or alumni, whom you can contact as references.
  • While at the school, keep an eye out for these qualities:
  • The quality of the campus grounds, lunchroom, sports facilities, and classrooms: Are they clean, operational, and safe?
  • The diversity of the school: Is the student population multicultural enough for your child, or is that important to you?
  • The classroom dynamics: How do students and teachers interact? Is that relationship what you’re looking for?
  • The hallway scene: How do students interact with each other? And will your child fit in?
  • Student supervision: How do administrators maintain a safe environment? How do they approach discipline?
Step 5 – The Application
Compiling all the information gathered over the research process, parents should be able to come up with a final choice of two to three schools in which their child will flourish. Families are encouraged to apply to more than one school to keep their options open, because, although you may have preferences, chances are there are a number of schools that could be an appropriate fit.
Each school looks for different qualities in their students, but here’s what an application may require:
  • Completed application forms (many are now available online)
  • Interview and possible entrance exam
  • Non-refundable application fee
  • Confidential school report from child’s current school
  • Previous report cards (up to two or three years back)
  • Test scores (depending on your child’s age and the school, it may be necessary for your child to write the Secondary School Admissions Test (SSAT) or another entrance exam)
Upcoming Private School Expos:

TORONTO: Saturday October 15, 2011

HALTON-PEEL REGION: Sunday October 23, 2011

VANCOUVER: Sunday November 27, 2011

See Private School Expo for details.

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