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How to Choose a Private School for Your Child

Private school is great, but only if you know how to choose a private school for your child's unique needs.

I like to think of myself as a very unique person when it comes to my schooling. I'm a veteran of almost every type of school system the United States offers. I spent most of my elementary and middle school in the public school system. I then switched to a private middle school, followed by vocational schooling.

After all the different schools I've experienced, I can honestly say that private schooling is my favorite. Private schools can offer individual attention, better educational standards, connections to high society, and opportunities that are just simply not there in public school.

I'll be honest; I think every child should experience the education a good private school delivers. If you have the money to send your kids to private school, you absolutely should.

Great as a private education can be, it also can be the worst thing you can do to your kid. It all depends on how you choose a private school for your child. Speaking as someone who's been in and out of the best types of schools and education systems in the US and helped parents pick schools before, here are my tips.

Before you begin, read this about having a special needs child.

Not all private schools are going to be right for your child, and some schools will be able to cater to them better than others. This is especially true if you have a child who has special needs or who is emotionally disturbed.

Certain states have laws that allow parents to advocate on behalf of their children in order to help them gain access to schools that cater to their special needs. If you have been considering getting them into a specialty school, check your local laws.

Many public assistance sites will have rosters of schools that are equipped to help children with special needs get the care they need. If you have a social worker for your child, asking them about free private schooling can guide you to the right school.

Does your child have special needs or disabilities? If so, you need professional help when you choose a private school for your child. Specialized schools can help them become stronger, healthier, and happier adults!

What kind of private school do you want?

I cannot emphasize how different private schools can be from one another. As a parent, your job is to pick a school that will have the kind of environment that does right by your child.

Some private schools are highly academic with elite reputations. Others are known for having a curriculum and culture that emphasizes religious doctrine. Even more might be better for likely sports scholarship candidates.

Each school will have its own perks and pitfalls. Here are some good rules of thumb to consider when you choose a private school for your child:

  • Elite private schools have excellent academics and can offer amazing opportunities. This is a private school category that works for parents and children alike in terms of networking. You can rest assured that your child will be highly educated and college-ready at these schools. The drawbacks to this type include a very high price range and low acceptance rates.
  • Religious schools offer a strong emphasis on morality, lower prices, and a more unified culture. If you are deeply religious or want to have your child immersed in your religion's culture, attending a religious private school can be a great choice. Religious schools are more affordable, but they also vary greatly when it comes to academic achievement. In some rare cases, your child may get a better academic education in public school!
  • Charter schools are government-funded schools that occasionally accept children from low-income households. They typically offer better academic standards than typical public schools do, and may be affordable for low-income families.
  • Montessori schools are for children that excel in a fast-paced, decentralized system. They use a "hands off" approach when teaching children, and encourage them to become curious about topics at their own pace.
  • Troubled teen programs are not advisable, period. These private schools are linked to emotional trauma, sexual abuse, and in many cases, suicide. They are also priced extremely high and can be predatory in nature.
  • Boarding schools are great for parents who want their children to learn to live on their own. Boarding schools can offer up a lot of camaraderie for your child, better preparedness for college, and typically have world-class educations. Unfortunately, they are often equal in price to elite private schools.

Of course, there are other kinds of private schools, but these are the most common.

Choose at least five schools to tour and apply to.

You may have a school that you want to send your child to, but there's a small problem here. While you can absolutely choose a private school for your child, your children actually have to be accepted into that school in order for them to study there.

Private schools, as it turns out, can be very picky about applicants. Your child may be gifted, but your school of choice still might not accept them. That's why you need to apply to multiple schools.

Prior to applying to any private schools, encourage your child to beef up their grades, volunteer work, and after-school activities. It might be the only way to get your child accepted into a good system.

Ask other parents in the area about each school's reputation.

Though you should never choose a private school for your child on reputation alone, you should still take a school's reputation into account. Reputations are very telling!

Many schools that market themselves well don't have a good local reputation because of scandals that were covered up. Other schools might be known as "hidden gems" or "up and coming institutions."

Seriously, talk about them! The more you learn from other parents, the better off you will be when you decide to select a school.

Before you apply to any school, take a tour of the school with your child.

Schools can look great on paper, but be terrible in person. The only way you can know is to actually tour the school with your children in tow. Your child should take a look around and figure out if this is the place they'd want to go. After all, they're the ones attending!

When touring a school, make sure to ask about the curriculum, the teaching philosophy they use, how strict they are with attendance and classroom etiquette, their school uniform policy, after-school activities, how report cards are issued, and the overall culture they promote.

If you're interested in picking this school, make a point to ask about the admissions process and take notes. Knowledge is power, here!

Ask your child which schools they would want to attend.

Some parents may disagree with me here, but I've always found this to be a very important thing to do. Your child will, in many cases, know which schools they want to attend by the time they finish a tour.

Kids know when they will or won't fit in somewhere, and in many cases, can also tell you where they'd thrive. While it is up to you to finally choose a private school for your child, please do consider taking your kid's input into account.

Apply to at least three private schools.

Remember when I said that private schools can be picky? In order to figure out which school your child can attend, you are going to need to figure out which schools will accept him.

You should apply to each "maybe" school you tour, even if you aren't totally sure that you want to have your child attend. At the end of the day, it's the parent's final decision that determines whether or not a child goes to a private school.

Once you get the acceptance letters in, you're going to have a pool of private schools that you can choose from.

If you are waiting on special assistance for your child's schooling, keep up to date with your advisor during this period.

If you have a special needs child or are part of a low-income scholarship program, you will probably have an advisor who wants to keep abreast of all the advances your child is making.

Talk with them about the admissions process and how it's affecting your family's budget. In certain cases, they can offer assistance and advice to make things better.

Take a look at each school's tuition price and scholarship programs, and pair them up against your income.

As much as we all wish we could shower our kids with billions of dollars' worth of education, the truth is that money is an issue for most of us. We are not all millionaires or billionaires—and that means that the most expensive private high schools in America can be out of reach for most of us.

The reason I suggest doing this after you get acceptance letters is because it doesn't make sense to worry about a school's prices when it didn't accept your child.

When you decide to choose a private school for your child, tally up the annual tuition and fees (minus scholarships) that each school requests. Then, measure it against what you're getting in terms of education, experience, and quality.

Above all else, select a good school.

With all the touring, curriculums, and reputation-scanning that parents are set to do, it's important to remember the bare-bones basics when you choose a private school for your child. You should choose an educational institution that is recognized as a school above everything else. 

What do I mean by that?

I'm saying that you should always check to see if your school is accredited when scoping out private schools. An unaccredited private school is not recognized by the American school system, which means that your child will not be able to attend college or even get a recognized high school diploma.

Scarily enough, there are unaccredited schools for children out there. They are money drains, and they are absolutely terrible for your kid's future. Thankfully, you can avoid them by just doing a little bit of research when you are applying for those schools anyway.

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