Now that you’ve defined your ideal school and used the NAIS School Search to find schools that fit your criteria, it’s time to learn more about the schools on your list.
Review each school’s website and request an admissions packet. Don’t hesitate to call the admissions office with questions, even if you’re not sure whether you plan to apply to the school. It is in everyone’s interest to help you ensure that the school is a good fit for your student. Here are just some of the questions you may want to ask:
- What is the school’s mission or educational philosophy?
- Is the school accredited, and if so, by what accrediting agency?
- How many students does the school have? How diverse is the student body?
- What is the student-teacher ratio?
- Do the teachers have degrees in the subjects they teach?
- Is the atmosphere competitive or more nurturing?
- What kinds of students do best at the school?
- What types of learning experiences are available—in class, on the playing field, in extracurricular activities, in leadership programs and community service?
- How does the school get parents involved? What do parents typically do?
- How much is the tuition?
- Are there other charges, such as for books, lab fees, transportation, and so on?
- What financing options or financial aid does the school offer?
- What is the financial aid application process? When are the deadlines?
- What is the process for applying to the school?
When your child has special needs
Many students have diagnoses such as ADHD, anxiety, learning delays, physical disabilities, or behavioral issues. Other children have special talents they want to nurture or learning styles that require additional time or resources in the classroom. Whatever your child’s special needs, it’s best to talk about them honestly and early in the process.
Consider asking the school if you can speak with two or three parents of children who have special needs similar to your student’s. Ask these families:
- How does the school endeavor to meet your child’s needs?
- What do you see as the school’s strengths and weaknesses?
- How would you most like to see the school improve?
If your child is not admitted, it may mean the school doesn’t have the facilities or expertise to meet your child’s needs. In that case, the school wouldn’t be right for your child anyway.
Keep notes on every conversation you have, and look for consistency in the answers. This information should help you narrow your list of possible schools.
Then, you can plan to visit the schools on your list, and see for yourself whether they are a good fit for your child.