Families often make a decision about a private or independent school based on two things: intuition and logic (the heart and the head). As with most important decisions in life, we rely on reason and emotion to guide us. Your perception of school “fit” likely is affected by both of these elements, so it’s important to know how to help yourself evaluate it.
1. Know yourself; know your child.
“Fit” is subjective and can’t be determined from a list of school facts. But it can be helpful for families to be honest with themselves about what they want from a school–and the outcomes they want for their son. Some schools focus on developing the whole child. At these schools, academics are typically strong, but faculty and staff also devote great time and energy to encouraging boys to try different things, step out of their comfort zones, and expand their social and physical abilities. Other schools focus almost exclusively on academic achievement with much less time spent on developing the whole child. Be sure you know whether the school you select can meets your needs and aligns philosophically with them.
Be sure to know your child, as well. Some families make the mistake of thinking a private school will always be the best choice for a boy who has special learning concerns. In many instances, however, public schools may be better suited to adapt to and serve these needs. Public schools are required to hold certifications for serving students with unique developmental needs, whereas independent schools are not. This doesn’t mean a private or independent school can’t serve this type of learner well–but it does mean it’s not always the best choice by default.
At any school, the campus visit is an enlightening experience. It brings the images, videos, and stories you’ve seen in the viewbook or on the website to life, and tests a school’s claims of campus feel, community, and character. Parents get to experience what life would be like for their son in the classroom, during recess, and at lunch. They get a true sense of the culture and energy of the school community.
Families tell us over and over the campus visit was one of the most helpful parts of the admissions process. It gave them the “Yes, this is the one,” or, “No, not right for us,” feeling they were looking for. Make the time to visit as many schools as you can.