What Are You Looking For?

Photo: David Croxford

You and your child will want a clear idea of exactly what you’re looking for in a private school before you begin the search.
Here are some general areas you might consider.


Has the school been approved by a recognized accrediting body?


What’s the tuition? What about other costs? Are there general fees? How much are books, other activity fees, general student costs? Is financial aid available?

Before- and After-School Programs

Can younger children be dropped off before, or stay after, regular school hours?

College Acceptance Rate

How many of the school’s graduates go on to higher education? What’s the college counseling department like at the school?


Are there advanced placement or international baccalaureate classes? What is the student-to-teacher ratio? Does the school have co-curricular, athletic, art, music and drama programs? Is there a specific educational program, such as the Montessori or Waldorf method? How about year-round, block or modular scheduling?

Entry Points

The most common entry points are preschool/kindergarten, fourth, sixth, seventh and ninth grades. Do many children transfer into the school at a certain grade? Are there ages at which the school does not accept new students?

Extracurricular activities

Are there a variety of extracurricular activities? Sports teams, drama club, school newspaper? How about opportunities for community service?

Financial Aid

Is financial aid offered? How many students benefit from financial-aid programs? When must you apply?


How long will your morning commute be? What is the physical campus like?

Mission and Philosophy

Have you looked over the school’s mission statement and seen how it is incorporated into the school? Why was the school founded and how has its mission changed over the years?


Do you want a coeducational school or an all boys’ or all girls’ school? Which would work for your child?

Religious Affiliation

Does the school have religious ties? Is it independently governed or overseen by a church organization?


How difficult is it to gain admission into the school? If you apply to selective schools, make sure to apply to several.


What’s the total school size? Class size? How does the school fit with what you know about your child?