There are more than 30,000 private schools in the US, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. With so many to choose from, it can feel overwhelming trying to decide which private high school is best for your family.
If you’re only looking at schools in the area where you live, the list obviously won’t be as long. But take the DC area for example. There are still dozens of private schools in Washington DC and surrounding areas, and picking the right option can feel like a challenge.
Selecting a school for your child is a loaded decision. The choice you make can determine their academic success, extracurricular opportunities, friendships, and more. So you’ll want to do your research and ask each school the right kind of questions.
Continue reading to find out what to ask so you can select the ideal school for your child. One that will tick all the boxes and best prepare them for college.
1. What Is the Curriculum and Teaching Methodology?
One of the first questions to ask when touring private schools should be about the school’s curriculum and teaching methodology.
Do the curriculum standards at the school meet or exceed your state’s standards? Does the school follow an accredited organization’s standards?
Do they have a specific teaching methodology, such as Waldorf, Montessori, or International Baccalaureate?
Here are the two things you want to get clear on:
Does the teaching methodology match your child’s personality and learning style?
Are the curriculum standards up to par with state standards?
2. What Are the Class Sizes?
Another important question to ask is about the class sizes.
Smaller class sizes are often associated with better student outcomes. This makes sense, as smaller class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios mean more one-on-one attention for your child.
Research shows that increased student/teacher interactions can be pivotal for student outcomes.
Does your child have a tendency not to ask for help? If so, low student-to-teacher ratios are especially important. If your child struggles with student self-advocacy, an attentive teacher with fewer students to assist will be able to look for visual cues that they need help.
3. What Is the Average SAT Score?
One important thing to look into when touring private schools is the average SAT score.
If a school has above-average SAT prep scores, this shows that the school knows how to help prepare students for college. Although SAT tests are no longer mandatory for all colleges, they can still play a big role in college acceptance.
If you’re looking specifically for private school rankings in the DC area, know that not all schools release SAT scores, but you can always ask while on your tour.
Among the private schools with the top publicly released SAT scores are:
- The National Cathedral School
- St. Anselm’s Abbey School
- Washington International School
- Maret School
All of these schools have SAT prep scores of 1363 and above. The National Cathedral School tops the Niche.com list with an SAT score of 1410.
4. What are the Tuition Fees?
You should always ask about the tuition fees and what’s included. Even if budget isn’t a huge concern, you should still evaluate the tuition fees and gauge the value.
For instance, a smaller private school might yield the same results, while offering slightly lower fees. The money you save on marginally lower tuition fees could be put towards specialized extracurriculars or additional college consulting or test prep tutoring.
5. What Extracurricular Activities are Available?
Speaking of extracurriculars, this is another important area to look into when touring private schools. Although you can arrange private extracurricular activities, having a range of school-administered extracurriculars can be convenient.
You won’t have to arrange transportion to on campus extracurriculars. You can also rest assured that these activities are administered in a regulated and safe school environment.
If a school does not offer a variety of extracurricular activities, this can also raise the question of whether the school is catering to the whole child.
Besides this, school-administered extracurricular activities can help boost self-confidence within the private school environment, and help kids feel like they are making a valuable contribution to their school. Participation in school clubs and sports can also help boost a teen’s high school resume.
6. What Does the College Placement Record Look Like?
If you want to prepare your child for college, SAT prep scores aren’t the only thing to look into. You should also ask about the placement record at the private schools you’re touring.
Which type of colleges are students getting accepted to? Do the schools on the list match your child’s target, reach, and safety schools?
7. What is the Discipline Policy?
Another important thing to inquire about when touring private schools is the discipline policy. Most parents want to ensure that discipline policies at potential private schools align with their own approaches to discipline.
Nobody wants their child to run wild at school, but the majority of parents also want to ensure that schools take an individualized approach to discipline. If a child is displaying unwanted behavior, you want to get to the root cause of it.
Therefore, don’t just ask about the disciplinary measures, also find out how you will be informed.
8. What Provisions are in Place for Academic Struggles?
One of the most important things to ask when touring private high schools is what provisions there are for academic struggles.
If your child has current academic struggles, you want to know how their future school is going to address these. If your child doesn’t currently have academic challenges, there may come a time when they do.
It’s important to find out what strategies a potential private school will implement should your child face academic struggles.
At the same time, keep in mind that you don’t only have to rely on the school to remedy these. Depending on the specific situation, even the best private schools might not have the expertise to empower a child to conquer certain academic struggles.
One of the reasons for this is that academic struggles can stem from things outside of the scope of school curriculums. For instance, your child might be highly intelligent but have a tendency toward disorganization and procrastination. This is common among people with weak executive functions.
If your child is bright but disorganized— and tends to procrastinate about homework and school projects— it’s usually a good idea to take a more targeted approach than leaving this in the school’s hands.
Here at Educational Connections, we specialize in helping students learn executive function skills so they can excel. By developing executive function skills, students can learn to manage their time, take control of their own learning, and more.
Look Further than the Private High School Rankings in DC
Are you busy touring the best private schools in your area? If so, now you know some of the right questions to ask.
No matter which school your child ends up attending, we can help equip them with learning strategies and confidence for K-12, college, and beyond.
Check out our tutoring packages. No matter your needs, we have expert tutors, executive function coaches, and college consultants that can help them excel, both at their new school and wherever the future takes them.