Here are five questions the answers to which will introduce you to the world of private schools.
I have targeted the first three questions at parents who are just starting to think about private school for their children. I can remember what it was like when we looked into sending our eldest daughter to pre-school. We had two primary concerns: paying for her schooling and understanding what the school would teach her. I know that parents today essentially have the same concerns. Possibly the last two questions might stump people who are familiar with private schools. My intention here is to offer some facts and figures as I compare private with public schools.
1. How many private schools offer financial aid?
The short answer is that just about every private school offers some form of financial aid. They do that because they are well aware that many families cannot afford to pay the full tuition and fees which they charge. Also, they don't want to admit only children from families who can afford to send their children to private school. Most private schools these days want to have as diverse a student body as they can. Consequently, there are over a dozen schools which now offer full financial aid to families with incomes below a certain income. These thresholds vary from school to school but typically are in the $75,000 range.
I am saving the best for last. The United States has a handful of free private schools. A dozen or so munificent, visionary citizens founded tuition-free schools in the 19th century and early part
Parents considering schools should read New York Times columnist Frank Bruni's book about college admissions entitled Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. Much of what he says applies in the private K-12 world.
New York Times columnist Frank Bruni has written a very useful book about college admissions entitled Where You Go Is Not Who You Will Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania. Obviously, as you can see from the title, Bruni's audience is parents, and possibly students, who are thinking about and applying to college. Yet as I read the book, I began to see many similarities between the private K-12 school admissions process and the college admissions process. I suggest that you read this book which will clarify your thinking as you go through the process of selecting a private school for your child. Bruni's insights will also prepare you for the months and years ahead when you and your child will be dealing with the mysteries of college admissions. In the meantime let's look at some of the things about college admissions which Frank Bruni points out which are remarkably similar to what we will find in private school admissions.
Treatment of legacies
Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions by Richard D. Kahlenberg and The Price of Admission by Daniel Golden are two additional books which you should read about legacy admissions. These authors go into great detail and cite many sources to support their arguments.
What is a legacy? A legacy is an applicant to a school who has a relative or relatives who attended the same school. You will find legacies in both private K-12 schools as well as at the college
It makes sense to cast your net widely when looking at boarding schools. Here's why.
First of all let's define competitive. At its most basic level a competitive boarding school is one which admits less applicants than it receives applications from. For example, a school has a fixed admissions deadline of January 31 each year. Last year it received 250 applications for 100 places. That means that 150 applicants were not accepted by the school. Perhaps some of them were put on the waiting list but we will look at that later.
So, essentially a competitive boarding school receives more applicants than it has places which it can offer to those applicants. Within the scope of competitive schools are several subsets. There is nothing official here, of course, as no organization will officially state that such and such a school is a highly competitive school or a less competitive school and so on. Having said that, you do not have to know a lot about private schools to look at the data which our site Boarding School Review offers after doing a little sorting of acceptance rates.
The other filter which we have to apply is for admissions to special schools. These schools which specialize in teaching students with learning disabilities, for example, have acceptance rates which are generally subject to other variables. In most cases we will classify these as non-competitive.
So, where are we going to set the bar? Anything below a 25% acceptance rate is very competitive. 26-50% is competitive. 51-75% is less competitive. Individual educational consultants will have their own scales
Whether a school uses the Harkness Table™ or doesn't use the Harkness Table™ is a matter of teaching style worth exploring in some detail.
My apologies to Shakespeare! Whether a school uses the Harkness Table™ or doesn't use the Harkness Table™ is a matter of teaching style worth exploring in some detail. That is what you and I shall do in this little essay.
What's a Harkness Table™? Well, depending on how you look at it, it is a table. Some would say it is a method. We will look at Harkness™ from all angles so that you can understand it and decide whether sending your child to a school which uses Harkness Tables™ is something you value.
First of all, the Harkness Table™ gets its name from a wealthy philanthropist by the name of Edward Harkness. He was a graduate of historic Saint Paul's School Concord, New Hampshire. In 1930 he gave $5,840,000 (approximately $60,000,000 in 2015 dollars) to Phillips Exeter Academy with the stated purpose, among other things, of changing the way students were taught. About one third of Edward Harkness' gift was used for the tables and necessary alterations to the classrooms in which they were installed. The rest was used for a host of other projects at Exeter including the addition of new teachers and halving the class size.
In Harkness' own words: “What I have in mind is (a classroom) where (students) could sit around a table with a teacher who would talk with them, and instruct them by a sort of tutorial or conference method, where (each student) would feel encouraged to speak up. This would be a real revolution in methods.”
What are you allowed to bring to boarding school? What are you not allowed to bring to boarding school? Answers to those questions and more.
Here's what we are looking at. Your daughter heads off to boarding school in a two months. She's got a horse and a cello and a raft of sports equipment including skis and field hockey sticks. You're going to need a truck to get her to school, right? It all depends. Let's review the items and equipment schools will allow her to bring and things she should not bring. Bear in mind that every school has its own unique rules and regulations concerning what can be brought on campus and what cannot.
Incidentally I remember quite vividly load our Dodge Caravan full to the brim with what I can only call 'stuff'. I never knew one young lady would need so much 'stuff' when she went off to boarding school. But she and her mother had determined what she needed and what could be left at home for another trip. I was comforted to discover dozens of other over-loaded vehicles at the school when we arrived to move our daughter in. And most of the fathers looked just as bemused as I did.
Let's start with the horse. Riding is an integral part of many boarding school athletic programs. If riding is important to your child, investigate the equestrian programs offered by the schools which you are considering. Our daughter had ridden in seventh and eighth grades. Fortunately for us, her interest in that expensive pursuit had waned by the time she was ready to go off to boarding school.
Learn why more and more students are choosing to do a gap or post graduate (PG) year at boarding school.
The typical three-month-long summer break gives juniors and seniors a great opportunity to explore a variety of situations and options.
Learning about a school from its website and social media pages is useful as you decide which school to choose. So is hearing what the school's alumni say about their alma mater.