03 Mar 5 Tips on Finding Your Next School
Next Schools Coordinator Nora Goddard shares her top five tips (plus a bonus tip!) for selecting a middle school. Independent school decisions letters are mailed on March 10.
We talk a lot about “right fit” during the Next Schools process. Does your child require additional academic support? Does your child want to go to a school where she can play sports and participate in the spring musical, all during the school day? Does your child not want to travel more than 30 minutes to get to school?
These are just a few examples of the types of questions you may ask yourself as you embark on this process. But, if you’ve applied to all your “right fit” schools, how do you know which is the most right?
Even after submitting your applications, touring campus, and going on your interview, there is still work to be done! Here are my top five ways to help your family select your child’s Next School.
1. Stay Engaged
How can you continue learning about your top 2 schools? Talk with parents of Advent alumni. See if your child can shadow a friend or former Advent student at the school for a day. Go to the school play or a basketball game. Subscribe to the school’s newsletter. This will help you get a feel of the real school community, not just what you saw through the admissions lens.
2. Be Open Minded
Right now you may be thinking in total hypotheticals, which can be a challenging hurdle to overcome. It’s great to know your top choice out of all of the schools you and your child applied to. Often times that top choice school can change, and last year, Advent families were surprised by the right choice at the end of the process. Come up with pros and cons for each school, or better yet, ask your child to do the same so that she continues to be excited for every school on her list.
Once you receive your acceptances, I encourage you to visit again. I know you spent the whole fall attending open houses, getting tours, meeting with admission directors, and spending time in classrooms. However, a lot can change in 4 months.
Often times, schools will have accepted student visit days. Now that your son or daughter is accepted to a school, does he/she feel comfortable walking the halls, interacting with the students, learning in the classes? Which school do they see themselves in? Which school community do you see yourselves connecting to?
4. Don’t Ignore Your Gut
Do you walk into the building and feel like your family could enter that building every day for the next few years? Does your child feel comfortable with the peers he has met? Have you engaged in meaningful conversations with teachers, administrators, and families that lead you to believe the school is focused on 21st century skills, social emotional development, STEM, creative thinking, and curiosity?
Ask these questions of yourself and talk about these issues with your child. Don’t ignore the feelings you get from your answers: it’s your gut telling you something.
5. Financial Aid
Sending your kids to an independent school is no small investment. There are 5 main types of financial aid: need-based financial aid, merit awards, payment plans, loan programs, and sibling and employee discounts. While most independent schools offer need-based financial aid, not all do.
Analyze the financial aid packages closely to understand what financial responsibility has been placed on you and your family. You know your family finances the best, so map out what the next 6 years will look like with the financial assistance the school is offering. Can your family stretch a bit or do you really need to go with the best offer? To learn more about financial aid, visit http://sss.nais.org/
6. Help Others
Independent schools give you a month to accept their offer. If you know on March 12 that you will not be attending that school, let them know right away. Another student might be dying to get off the waitlist and giving up your spot opens up that spot. Schools won’t be offended and you will be doing a good thing for someone else.