It may feel as if your child has just begin the school year, so the last thing on your mind is the best school option for next year. After all, your focus now is about making this the best year it can possibly be. You are thinking about homework policies, after school care options, and transportation arrangements. You will get to next year, well...next year. Sure, you are in the culminating year of your preschool or elementary school or middle school, but there is plenty of time to explore options, right?
It may surprise you to see advertisements for private school admissions open houses that begin as early as late October. You may be even more surprised to learn that many of those people who attend the open houses have already previewed the school with a campus tour. A thorough search of independent schools takes time. In the South Bay, we are blessed with many great school options, each of which has a distinct ethos. A current parent at my school showed me an excel spreadsheet with ten different elementary schools she was weighing before making her selection. Scouring websites, visiting open houses, attending campus tours and school events, arranging shadow days and assessment days all takes time and organization. These logistics are in addition to your own reflections and conversations with your trusted fellow parents. So the process starts now, in the fall, just after you have gotten settled into this year.
At Saint Andrew's Episcopal School, we have found that the families who know us well through the admissions season are the most enthusiastic and compelling applicants. They get a sense of the curriculum and expertise of the faculty at the open houses. They see the program in action and speak with students on campus tours. The students get to participate in a class and experience the kindness of their potential future classmates through a shadow visit. Admissions officers, administrators, teachers and current parents are available to answer questions. It is a big decision to choose a community where you will educate your child, so schools want you to be fully informed.
Most application deadlines for independent schools are in January. Some schools require standardized testing and/or an assessment given at the school, which are generally administered in the winter months. The schools communicate their decisions for all of their completed applications in mid-March. Then you have a chance to go back to your spreadsheet, weigh your options, and choose the school that best fits your child and your family. It is the beginning of a profound and long-lasting relationship and very much worth the time that you invest on behalf of your child and for your family.