10 Categories to Consider When Building Your School List

Each independent school community provides a unique educational experience. It is important to approach the admissions process with a clear understanding of what you want and need so that you craft a list that is a reflection of your child’s academic capabilities and interests. This requires knowing specific categories to keep in mind as you continue to perform research on various schools. This can feel overwhelming given all of the school options, but it doesn't have to be as long as you utilize resources such as this blog post and TLM’s Building Your School List Worksheet, that you can download here. Below are categories to think about as you solidify schools that you will be applying to in the fall.

  • School Type: Which environment will allow your child to thrive academically and socially? Do you prefer a day school, a boarding school, coeducational or single-sex? I attended a co-educational public school through grade six and a single-sex independent day school from seventh grade through twelfth - I’m happy to provide insight on both learning environments.

  • Location: Where is the school located? This may seem like a no-brainer, but was the commute convenient when you attended your interview(s)? Is your home close enough so that your child can take part in after school activities? Do they have a bus service? My commute to Hewitt was about an hour and a half, on a good day. My grandfather rode the train with me a few times before I began private school in seventh grade so that I would get the hang of the bus and train route, but it was a little scary at times! It was also the only reason I got a cell phone that young as well, for safety purposes! The commute took a lot out of me, so this is extremely crucial to think about when considering a school. What toll will it take on your child’s mental, physical and emotional health? Their studies and participation in extracurriculars?

  • Grade range: Do you want your child to attend a school that serves them through elementary, middle, and high school? Sometimes, it may be worth considering a K-8 so that your child can actively participate in the high school process.

  • Educational philosophy: Most independent schools distinguish their learning communities to be traditional and progressive. This distinction will inform how classes are taught or if students receive tests. If you aren't 100% sure, these are areas that you should inquire about during your school visit and something your child can make a mental note of on their revisit days to determine if that philosophy resonates.

  • Student body: What is the total enrollment of each school you are considering? Are the class-sizes small enough? Perhaps a larger school suits your child the best. Do the students reflect diverse backgrounds? Take some time to reflect on some children you do know that attend various schools - can you imagine your child modeling after them? If that was a strong yes, write the school they attend down!

  • Faculty: In primary grades, how many teachers are in the classroom? We can discuss how to do a deeper dive about additional questions to ask regarding faculty members during your interview.

  • Facilities: What do the school grounds look-like? Are the students cramped? Is each department well-equipped with appropriate resources (e.g: gym equipment, art supplies, lockers, etc)? Are there features that you must absolutely have like a swimming pool, science lab, STEM Lab, a state-of-the-art athletic center?

  • Curriculum: What courses are offered? In which order are the math and science courses taught? Are any of the classes interdisciplinary, so that what they are learning in a history class can be brought to life in an innovation lab through 3-D printing? Most importantly, does the curriculum fit your child’s learning needs? Does the curriculum reflect their mission statement - if they proclaim to be equitable, how does that translate into course offerings and who/what they study?

  • Co-Curriculars and Learning Resources: Does the school provide programs that fit your child’s needs and interests? Can you envision them joyfully immersing themselves into various offerings? Consider learning resources, language programs, athletics, service learning programs, leadership opportunities, and STEAM programming.

  • Financial Aid Package: Independent schools can cost more than $50,000 each school-year. Who is offering a package that doesn't strain your family financially? You won't know this information when crafting your list, but it's something to keep in mind as the admissions process advances. I will not provide financial recommendations, but can provide an overview of financial aid when we work together and am happy to help you review and understand your awarded financial aid package. I highly recommend consulting with a financial advisor to better prepare for the cost of this invaluable education.

If you are interested in discussing this further and need assistance navigating options, please schedule a free consultation here.The TLM Building a School List Worksheet outlines additional categories to consider. Remember to download your free resource here.