By Larry Jensen, Director of Admissions
More and more families are considering non-public options for their children, primarily because of the smaller class sizes, the safe campuses, the excellent college preparation, and the access to extracurricular activities. The visit is often the first part of the process. These questions are among the most important to ask during that visit:
What will the first month/semester/year be like? You want to be able to anticipate any challenges so that you can plan for them. During your visit, try to schedule conversations with some of the people who will work directly with your child — teachers, coaches, administrators — so that you can gather the most accurate information possible.
How does the school communicate with parents? Will you hear from teachers only when something isn’t going well? Is the school reactive, or is it proactive? During the school year, your child spends more time with teachers than with any other adult, so it’s critical to have a good line of communication with professionals who know your child well.
What if my child has a hard time with the academics? How will the school help your child if he/she is struggling? What support mechanisms are in place? Are teachers accessible outside of regular class hours? Ask specific questions based on your child’s strengths and needs.
Is it easy to make friends in a school where the kids have been classmates for years? At a great school, faculty and staff focus on making sure that new students settle in well. Ask about how this happens. Will your child have an advisor? Are there clubs, sports and after-school activities that can help your child make friends?
What type of student excels in this school? Does the school value non-cognitive areas (kindness, curiosity, determination, etc.), or does the school seek to enroll only high academic achievers? The answer to this question will help you determine whether your child can thrive, rather than merely survive.
Asking lots of questions over several visits can inform parents and help them make the best educational choice for their children.