What is the right school for my children? How do I make this decision?

Just as the students are settling into the routines of the school year, many parents may be wondering: What is the best academic and social environment is for my child? Choosing the right school is one of the most important decisions a parent makes and the process can be daunting. As parents pose these questions, they easily can feel overwhelmed and frustrated.  After extensive research, The National Association of Independent Schools has suggested that parents consider the following questions in their search:

Are there high-quality and committed teachers?

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Is there a low student-to-teacher ratio?

Do students feel challenged by their school?

Are there strong partnerships among parents, teachers and students?

Does the school have a climate that supports achievement?

These key questions can guide parents as they visit schools. It is really important to keep in mind that although you may be able to answer “yes” to all of these questions, it is the quality of the experience that will make the difference for your child. Small class size and low student-teacher ratio readily provide the opportunity for faculty to know the students well. Rigorous academic standards coupled with teacher excellence also contribute to realizing the potential of the student. But this is only a starting point so I suggest that you also explore these questions:

What kind of personality does the school have?

How will the experience at one school actually be different from the experience the child will have in a different environment?

What evidence is there that the school is true to its mission?

Will my child thrive in this community?

Of course the best way to get to know a school is by visiting it. The aim of your visit is to become acquainted with the school’s mission and see how this is reflected in the academic curriculum and the extracurricular activities.

Take advantage of Open Houses and Admission Information Sessions. If there is willingness for open dialogue among different constituents in the school, already you know that this is a culture that welcomes and respects you. Sometimes it is the unwritten curriculum, the core values that play such an integral role in defining a school and its environment.  You can’t read about this on a web site, it only becomes apparent when you enter a school, walk through the halls and speak with the students. If communication doesn’t shut down when the official school day ends, that is a quantifiable difference.  

The community itself can create opportunities for learning. When students and faculty  come from many places and have a variety of interests and beliefs, their diversity brings  richness to the classroom experience. Look for a community in which students respect one another, develop a sense of social responsibility, feel safe, and strive toward excellence.

The National Association of Independent Schools believes that in order to teach 21st century students, character, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, communication, and cosmopolitanism should be the skills embedded in the curriculum. In your search and visits, closely examine if the school will reflect this focus and approach.


To read more about selecting a school for your child, visit the Admission section of the National Association of Independent Schools website at http://www.nais.org/admission/index.cfm?itemnumber=435&sn.ItemNumber.


If you have any questions, or would like to discuss some of these essential questions when selecting a school for your child, please contact me,  lcoleman@whschool.org.

Good luck in making one of the most exciting decisions that will impact the growth and development of your child.

Linda Coleman

Director of Admission and Financial Aid

The Wardlaw-Hartridge School