Traits of the Best Schools

Updated June 08, 2016 |
Traits of the Best Schools
What makes some schools really better than others? What makes them the best schools?
As you begin to think about sending your child off to boarding school, you will find yourself asking precisely why you wish to do so. Invariably you will circle back to the main reason why you feel that your child deserves to go to private school. The main reason has everything to do with your wanting her to go to the best school she can get into. You feel that she deserves the best possible education which you can find for her.
 
What makes some schools really better than others? What makes them the best schools? Let's examine traits of the best schools.
 
Great teachers
 
This trait is at the top of my list. The best schools have amazing teachers. Their credentials are awesome. They are passionate about the subjects which they teach. They are highly qualified to teach their subjects. Explore the faculty lists on school websites. See for yourself where your child's future teachers went to college. Note how many of them have masters and doctoral degrees.

Todd Orminston, the Director of Admissions of Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine answers the question "Why should I go to boarding school?"
These great teachers know how to open new worlds for their students. Dialogue and positive reinforcement are givens with these teachers. They don't lecture and pour knowledge into your child's mind. They teach. And they teach brilliantly. Not only that but they don't just put in their hours and leave the premises. Boarding school teachers coach a sport or supervise an extracurricular. Your child will see her teachers both in the classroom as teachers and on the playing field or stage as a coach and mentor. That's just what teachers at the best schools do.
 
Extensive academics
 
It doesn't matter whether the school is a traditional college preparatory high school or a progressive school. The best schools implement their stated philosophy and approach to education flawlessly because they have had years and years of experience doing just that. Having the choice between various approaches to your child's education is a wonderful thing. That is not easy to accomplish in a public school. With boarding schools all you have to do is identify the kind of educational approach which suits your requirements. There will be lots of choices for you to explore after you have filtered schools by educational approach.
 
Traditional college prep schools offer extensive academic courses. The best schools not only offer extensive academic courses but also teach them at a very high level of competence and expertise. The best schools offer a comprehensive array of Advanced Placement courses. And not just the core or standard AP courses either. Check out the AP courses which the best schools offer. Chinese, Japanese, several physics courses and so on. The websites don't tell the whole story. When you meet with the admissions staff, ask detailed questions about the academics.
 
Solid finances
 
The best schools are in good financial condition. They employ highly-qualified, seasoned financial professionals to look after the day-to-day operations of the school. They employ highly-qualified development professionals to organize the fund-raising initiatives which the best schools always seem to have in place. As a result the best schools are able to offer generous financial aid which is a key component in attracting a diverse applicant pool.

This short video about Pomfret School's Strategic Plan shows you the importance of sound planning.
The best schools have actively involved boards of trustees overseeing the long term management of the school. They have their eyes on what the school will look like and where it will be head next year, three years from now, five years from now and in most case well into the future. The best schools have strategic plans in place and use them as road map to the future. The best schools are accredited by the regional accrediting associations. The best schools are members of national and regional private school associations.
 
Superb facilities
 
The best schools have superb facilities. In many cases they have had superb facilities for years. Well-stocked spacious libraries are often housed in award winning buildings. Special purpose rooms abound in the class room buildings. Chemistry labs, physics labs, biology labs, robotics labs - if there is a lab for it, chances are the best schools will have it.
 
The athletic facilities are also extensive at the best schools. Indoor hockey rinks, badminton and squash courts, equestrian facilities, natatoria, golf courses, boathouses for crew and sailing are all part of the mix of athletic facilities which you will find at the best schools.

This video shows the girls crew team at The Gunnery in Washington, Connecticutout on the water practising.
Strong sense of community
 
Money can certainly by many of the accoutrements prized by the best schools. However, money cannot buy the strong sense of community which your child will experience at the best schools. That strong sense of community has been created by the leaders of the school. It is absolutely essential in order to ensure the best possible experience for their students. Respect for others, empathy and concern for your surroundings, a sense of stewardship which comes from understanding that we must do the best with everything which has been given to us - these a some of the elements which you will find in that strong sense of community which defines the best schools.
 
Students cannot slip through the cracks at the best schools. Too many sympathetic adults are watching over your child. They understand the journey your child and her classmates are undergoing. They have the training and long years of experience to be able to extend a loving hand and kind word when needed. The best schools are truly concerned with educating the whole child, not just teaching her how to get an A in French language.
 
Impressive results
 
The best schools achieve impressive results. Their students go on to fine colleges and universities at home and abroad. They are equipped for academic work at the college level. Indeed they are equipped with many of the skills and knowledge which they will need in order to be successful in their adult lives and careers.
 
Which is the best school for your child? It might be one of the schools measured by some or all of the traits outlined above. More likely the best school for your child is going to be the school which is the best fit. You will know that school the minute you set foot on campus and experience what that school has to offer. The best school is the one where your child will be the happiest. Do your research carefully. Visit schools on your short list. Then apply with confidence knowing that you have selected the best schools for your requirements and your child's happiness.
 
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