Choosing the Best Fit High School

By Michele Bower

Many families explore private school options when their child is approaching the high school years.  We all know that a solid high school experience creates a great foundation for the college years to come.  But how do you even begin to choose a school if you aren’t really sure of where your child will fit, or what your options are?

There are a number of quantifiable aspects that distinguish schools from one another, and even schools that look the same are very different once you get inside. What’s most important is that you establish your own priorities as you look at each school’s website and attend school tours.  Here are six things that should be top of mind if you decide to look into private high school options:

Size: What is the school’s total enrollment and average class size?  Does the school start at ninth grade, or will some students be continuing on from a middle or elementary school division?

Geography: Do you prefer a suburban or urban setting? How important is location and commuting time to your family? Do you need to have access to a school bus?

Special Characteristics: Are you looking for a single-sex school, a religious one, or a school with a boarding option? Are any of these options off the table for your family?

Curriculum: Look at the curriculum guide, either in print or on the school’s website,  to determine what the school offers in curricular areas that are of particular interest to your child.

Student Life: Is diversity important to you and your student? Does your student want an environment with lots of extracurricular clubs and activities? What are the study abroad/semester away options? What opportunities are there for student leadership and service work?

College Placement:  What does the school’s college list look like? Are they placing students at colleges you could see your child attending?

The feeling that you and your child get as you visit each school is crucial. Each school has a distinct culture that is palpable when you walk onto the campus and you can get a good sense of whether your beliefs mesh with the school’s values. Often students and families remark that they can “see themselves” at one school versus another. It’s important not to ignore a gut feeling about a great fit!