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By: School Search Solutions
Date: 04.13.12 | Category: Favorite Posts

SCI Insider Series: Tips for the Private School Application Process

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This week, School Choice President Liz Perelstein explains how to initiate the school search process–making that essential School List.

Making Your School Lists:

Undoubtedly you have been hearing names of private schools since the day you started thinking about having children. Whether applying for pre-school or high school, your views have been shaped by your friends, your colleagues and information you have read. I would like to encourage you to think about creating your list of target schools in a different way.

Think about your child, his or her strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Is he shy and reticent? Does she act like a politician? How does he respond to pressure? Are there certain kinds of teachers who have brought out her best in her previous school? For a moment, disregard the names of schools you have been thinking about and create a list of the attributes of a school that seem like they would be right for your child. What about you as parents? What are your most important priorities? Religion or none? Parental involvement or less? Distance from home? All of these are valid. Which are yours?

With these answers in mind, go back to the schools you have been considering and reread their websites, particularly the philosophy and mission statements. See if you can glean any information that relates to the priorities you’ve now established for your child. Admittedly, all schools put their best foot forward, but what they consider their “best foot” varies, and you will be able to detect significant differences just by reading readily available materials.

At this point you may find you want to augment your target list or the number of schools to which you already have applied. But what do you do if the schools you now think would work best are not schools that your peers have recommended? What if they don’t have enough students getting into top colleges? In the United States today, children can go to a top college from any school. It is the student’s performance in school rather than the school name that determines ongoing educational opportunities. Colleges prefer children who thrive a school. They want to see that a student performs well, has a genuine love of learning, and is an engaged member of the community.

7. I have to move my child out of private school; how can I avoid negatively impacting my child?

Children are extremely resilient and don’t, as a matter of course, suffer long-term as a result of moving to a new school, although the anticipation of change and the early stages in a new school are challenging for everyone.  In typical circumstances, the children who find change most difficult are those whose parents do, and are therefore overwhelmed by guilt.  So it is important that parents make every attempt to recognize and convey the opportunities inherent in change and to address any problems as a family.

Parents should share as much about the circumstances as children want to know and are able to absorb, using their questions as a guide.  It is essential that they are told that neither they nor their parents have done wrong, and that the current economic circumstances are something that the world is confronting together.  Parents may explain that many of their friends also make life changes as a result.  Some move homes, others change schools; different families will make different kinds of choices, but sacrifices will be common among friends and family members.  Most importantly, parents should be available to speak with their children and to answer any question they may have.

Even when upset and preoccupied, parents should be careful to make thoughtful choices about the new school, reflecting on academic and social characteristics of their children and how they have fared in their current school, in addition to family values and logistical circumstances.  They should gather lots of information and ask many questions about matters important to children, rather than simply the factors that may be more pressing to adults.

Before starting the new school, it is wise to engage the head and/or teacher in a conversation about the child so that good class placement decisions are made and the teacher understands the child, his/her needs as well as current circumstances.

Communication, both with the school and with the child, is the key to a successful transition.  When families are calm and thoughtful, a change of schools can give children an opportunity to learn essential life skills, such as making new friends and dealing with uncertainty, which are an invaluable part of any education.