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What to Consider When Searching for the Perfect Private School

Public, private, charter, magnet, faith-based, Montessori, homeschool and more.

With so many wonderful education options available, choosing the type of school that is the best fit for your child can feel like a daunting task. You may wonder — where do I begin? 

For parents who are considering private school, we have asked two experts to field some questions to help parents in their private school search. Christine Williams is the assistant principal and director of academics at Guerin Catholic High School in Noblesville. Jennifer Wiley is the director of admissions at Highlands Latin School in Carmel.

What are the differences between private and public schools? 

Williams: Every school has a mission and vision that is unique to them, based on the school’s history and the community that it serves. While I cannot speak for all non-public and private schools, as a Catholic school, we are blessed to serve in an environment in which the spiritual development of our students and faculty is at the heart of all we do. As Catholic educators, we recognize parents as the primary educators of the faith and we hope to create a learning environment that mirrors the love and growth our parents desire for their children within their homes. 

What should parents consider when looking for a private school?

Wiley: The process of finding a school for your child can be overwhelming. I recommend beginning by making a list of what is important in a school to your family. Some areas to consider as you make your list are academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, community and faith.  

There are a number of steps you can take to get to know a school. I would recommend doing as many of the following as you are able: check out the schools’ websites to learn as much information as you can, attend open houses to learn more and possibly meet staff and students, schedule a private visit through the admissions office and come prepared with a list of questions, ask if your student can shadow to give them a feel for the school and also help them with the transition, and find out if you can speak with a current family to hear about their experience.

I also recommend keeping notes from each of your visits, as it can be difficult to recall answers to questions and details after you have visited a few schools. Try to keep an open mind, and remember that you are not looking for a perfect school, but one that is a good fit for your family. 

What else should parents know about searching for a private school?

Williams: Do not be afraid to ask questions that are specific to your children and the hopes you have as a family. 

Wiley: I recommend that families write down questions in advance, as it is easy to forget what you wanted to ask once you get there. It is hard to make an exhaustive list, as every parent has their own specific concerns, but some suggestions to ask about are academic philosophy and curriculum choices, class sizes, teacher experience, parent involvement, fundraising expectations, other costs besides tuition, disciplinary procedures and what the school community is like. Admissions personnel should be well informed about the school and want to help you determine if the school is a fit for your family. Don’t be afraid to ask detailed questions. 

Private schools often offer a unique focus and smaller school community that can be a good fit for many families, but many assume they cannot afford to send their student. Before deciding that private school isn’t an option for your student, take a look at the actual costs per year and speak with the school to determine if there are scholarships or financial aid available.

Whether public, private, Montessori, charter or one of the many other educational options available, when searching for the right school for your child, don’t be afraid to ask questions and trust your gut. And remember, you are your child’s advocate and know them best, and that knowledge goes a long way. 

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