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A new session is on its way, and many parents will be considering registering their kids in a school for the first time or change their school. If you are considering a private school for your child(ren) education, try to remember that big thing you bought last. How did you overcome any concerns or hesitations you had about the item before buying?

Perhaps you read reviews online to ascertain the claims made by the manufacturer. Perhaps you asked friends or family members who already own the product for their opinions. Even if we don’t think the opinions of others make an impact on our decision-making, they do: the majority seek recommendations from friends and family before making a purchase, and most consumers are more likely to trust non-paid recommendations than any other type of advertising.

Selecting a new school for your child is no different. Enrolling in a private school is a big decision and a huge investment. While you must make a decision based on your own research and feelings, there is also a place for outside perspectives in your decision-making process.

During your school search, conversations with current and past families can help you gain important insights into the school community and an understanding of the school’s educational approach. However, these opinions should play a small and specific role in the school search process.

Why is this important? Not every school is right for every student, just because your neighbor’s child excels at a school does not mean your own child will experience a similar thing. Do your own research and exploration, form your own opinions, and narrow down your list of potential schools to your top choices before asking for outside opinions.

Once you’re ready to have conversations with current or past families, note these tips:

  • Ask open-ended rather than yes-or-no questions. This will ensure you gain deeper insights and feelings in their responses.
  • Don’t lead their answers. Saying things like, “I heard the teachers are really strict. Is that true?” puts that thought and opinion into their minds before they respond.
  • Don’t argue or disagree. Every family will have its own unique school experience. If what the parents tell you doesn’t match up with your perceptions, it doesn’t mean they’re wrong or overreacting — it just means you should do a little more digging to find out if other parents have had similar experiences.

So with those in mind, what type of questions will help you gain more information? Here are 9 simple questions that will lead to important insights:

Image Credit: Education Week

1.   What prompted your decision to choose this school?

Finding out the top reasons other families chose the school you’re considering will help you see if their priorities align with your own families’ needs.

2.   What was the comparison with other schools you had in mind?

This will help you identify what stands out for the family and why they chose the school.  

3.   What were your concerns before committing to this school?

Finding out what a family was worried about before they made their decision could help alleviate your own concerns about a school.

4.   Did any of those concerns become challenges once your child enrolled?

You will find out if any initial worries had by the families about the school were eventually dissolved, or it becomes a real problem when they joined the school.

Image Credit: Optimus Blog

5.   What do you think is the school’s biggest strength?

It is great to know what other families appreciate most about the school. Eventually, if there are different answers, it helps you have a well-defined notion about the school’s strong points.

6.   What is the school’s area of weakness?

There is no perfect school, the pitfalls of schools are not always identified until you become part of the school. Knowing those areas can help you prepare for any problem you might face in school.

7.   What do you have to say about the school’s community?

a school’s community school be creative, accommodating, and relaxing. If current and past families have a different notion about this, then you know that is not the right environment for your child.  

8.   What words would your CHILD use to describe the school in general?

Parents and students perceive community in different ways. If you can’t ask a student to describe the school community, ask the parents how their child would talk about the school. Parents always hear their child’s positive remarks and negative gripes, so they can give you some honest insights.

Image Credit: IB Community Blog

9.   Do you think your family will stay at the school through graduation?

Knowing a family’s long-term educational plans will help you understand if they believe the current school will serve their child well over time, or if they will soon be looking for a new option.

Again, the insights gained from current or past families at a school you are considering for your child should be one small part of your school-search research. Use this information to help you form a complete image of a school to ensure that you find the perfect learning environment for your child.

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