Source: Indys Child Parenting Magazine

The Right Private School Fit
What factors play into this important decision?

by Sarah McCosham

September 01, 2013

You’ve taken campus tours, met with admissions officers, inquired about financial aid and completed several applications -- and your son or daughter has been admitted to their top school choice!

No – we’re not talking about college – the above applies to the process of selecting a private school for your child. Finding the right private school is a decision that will affect the entire family -- but don’t be intimidated by the process! Here we provide a primer for parents on where to start, the right questions to ask and tips for selecting the private school that will provide the best fit for your family.

Where to start

Choosing a private school is a lot like choosing a college: it’s an important decision that requires extensive research, visits and consideration. When checking out a school, it’s useful to first look at its mission statement, advises Shants Hart, Director of Indianapolis’s Park Tudor Middle School.

"Consider the school’s mission statement, and how it aligns with your child's personality and family's values,” she says. "Some private schools are more structured, others more progressive; certain schools emphasize language arts while others are focused on the sciences – it’s important to look at the school's core values, and how they align with your child and family.”

Once you’ve made a list of schools that match your child’s needs on paper, it’s time to pay some visits. Most private schools have entire days set aside for prospective students to tour, go to classes, talk to other students and ask questions. Kate Lock, Director of Admissions at the International School of Indiana, says there are several things families can do to get a “feel” for the school: take a tour; attend an open house; observe classes; speak with teachers, students, and parents; and even look at where alumni were accepted. It’s important to be proactive and ask questions during the process, says Lock.

Questions to ask

Speaking of questions, there are several you should ask (of the school and of your child) when considering a private school:

  1. What are the school’s student-to-teacher ratios? Most private schools boast low student-to-teacher ratios, which translates into more personalized attention for your child. “Individualized attention is perhaps the biggest attribute of private schools,” says Hart. “Knowing your student will be nurtured and given the tools they need to succeed in life, is priceless.”

  2. What is the expectation of parental involvement? “Different schools have different expectations for parental involvement,” says Lock. “Get an understanding on how involved parents can be.”

  3. What are your child’s goals? This is an important question, says Brebeuf Jesuit’s Director of Communications and Marketing Mike Higginbotham. “If your child has a dream of getting into a particular college, ask about students from the school who have attended that college and how the school helped them get there. Additionally, for your child’s particular areas of interest and strengths, talk to the people involved and ask how the program is set up.”

  4. What about financial aid?

Financial aid is perhaps the most intimidating aspect of private school – and it really shouldn’t be, says Hart. In reality, almost every private school offers some sort of financial aid/scholarship package – and state and national scholarships may be available as well. "There are lots of opportunities for financial aid," says Hart, citing Park Tudor's annual 3 million dollar scholarship fund. "View private school as an investment toward your child's future -- you can't put a price tag on that."

Making an educated decision

One you’ve determined what you are looking for, toured schools and talked to other families, it’s time to make a decision. Here’s where your child’s input is crucial, as only he or she knows what feels right. "This is a decision that affects the entire family – but at the end of the day, it’s really about getting the best education for your child,” says Hart. “Give them the right tools, and they will grow into confident, well-rounded people.”