You've started the process of choosing a boarding school for your child. You've done a bit of reading about the reasons for sending your child to a private school. You've listened to the suggestions and recommendations of family and friends. You've explored dozens of school websites. None of this is challenging to do. However, the chances are that you will find the right school for your needs and requirements. Hopefully, you will. However, despite your reasonable efforts, here are five reasons you might be looking at the wrong schools.
1. They don't offer the kind of curriculum you require.
Think carefully about what the schools teach and how they teach it. Think about this well before creating the shortlist of schools you want to visit. The school's curriculum, how it's taught, and the quality of its faculty should be at the top of your checklist. That's how important an issue this is as you choose the right school for your child.
Listen to the Head of the Math Department at Nichols School in Buffalo, New York, explain the school's philosophy about teaching math specifically and teaching in general.
This part of the process is daunting because boarding schools are unique. They won't all offer the same courses, and they will certainly not approach teaching them the same way. By now, you have a pretty good idea of your educational goals. Are you looking for schools that offer a solid college preparation using the College Board's Advanced Placement courses or the International Baccalaureate's Diploma Program? You will have plenty of options for schools offering AP while fewer schools offer the IB programs. Is a progressive school better suited to your needs? Again, there are dozens of schools to consider.
What about religious affiliation and religious instruction? When you send your child to a Jesuit school, for example, he will have to attend mass and take religious instruction following the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The same applies if you send him to a Jewish school or a Christian school, and so on.
Filter schools carefully by examining the academic curriculum and the teaching methods. Then filter by the importance of religious teaching.
2. They don't offer the athletic programs you seek.
While this consideration may not appear critical to some parents, it can be a major consideration to others. Your child may be a gifted hockey player, for example. You would have an unhappy child on your hands if he ended up at a school with an ordinary program. Involve the experts if need be, but make sure that schools on your shortlist have the athletic programs you and your child feel are must-haves.
Some boarding schools, such as Kent School in Kent, Connecticut, have superb athletic facilities combined with professional coaching and team management. Chatham Hall in Chatham, Virginia, is highly-regarded for its equestrian program. As you explore boarding school websites, you will realize that many schools have athletic facilities that are more comprehensive than some colleges and universities.
When you visit schools on your shortlist, arrange to meet the coaching staff and see the athletic facilities first-hand. Photos will show you what the school wants you to see. Social media and emails will yield some more insight. First, however, there is no substitute for seeing for yourself.
3. They don't offer the kind of extracurricular activities you seek.
Many parents send their children to a boarding school because extracurricular activities have been reduced or eliminated from their local public schools for financial reasons. However, extracurriculars are an area in which most private schools excel. Review the range of extracurricular activities offered at each school on your shortlist. Do they mesh with your requirements? For example, how many musicals and plays does the school mount annually? Does it offer travel clubs? How about opportunities for public speaking and debating? Can you imagine your child having the experience of a lifetime visiting a foreign country and helping those in need like this student of Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. is having?
Boarding schools pride themselves on educating the whole child. Academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities all combine to develop young people's character, confidence, and maturity. Therefore, you have a considerable advantage when you decide to send your child to boarding school because you can calibrate the ratio of academics to athletics to extracurricular activities to produce the balance you and your child need.
4. The location is problematic.
I'm building this list of things that you may have overlooked as you choose a boarding school for your child in order of importance as I see it. The school's location deserves a place on this list, but it is not as important as the other considerations that have come before it. For example, you may prefer to send your child to a boarding school within a short, drivable distance from home. On the other hand, if you and your spouse have busy careers and put in long hours and travel a lot, a boarding school further afield might make sense.
5. You didn't hire an educational consultant.
I've saved this one for last. My argument is a practical one. To me, hiring an educational consultant makes good sense. You consult professionals when you are sick or have to buy a house. It's the same principle. Educational consultants know their schools. They're in touch with the admissions staff. They know what the current admission requirements are and can guide you accordingly. Parents' most common mistake is putting too many highly competitive schools on their shortlist. I remember doing this myself. We got lucky. One out of the three boarding schools we applied to accepted our daughter. Ideally, two out of three schools, possibly even three out of three schools, would have accepted her had we been smart enough to hire an educational consultant to help us. Incidentally, we did hire an educational consultant the next time we had to choose a boarding school. The results were much better, and the process was decidedly less nerve-wracking.
This video explains what an educational consultant does.
It all boils down to getting the right fit. Then, when you find the school which offers the best fit for your requirements, you will have a happy child. In the end, that is the point of the exercise.
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