1. Make a list of qualities you are looking for in a school. It sounds obvious, but writing out a list really does help! Before you begin your Internet research, make a list of exactly what qualities you are looking for in a private school. Start with geography, throw in some academic programs and clubs, and then narrow your needs down to the smaller things like “robust architecture” and “chocolate chip cookies in the dining hall.” This will focus your search and enable you to connect with admission officers, request information, or start scheduling your visits.
2. Interested in a particular class or club? E-mail the instructor and ask the in-depth questions you may not get from a school’s website. There is only so much a school can fit on their website—and no one wants to overwhelm you with possibilities! Chances are there is much more going on in a particular program, class or sport than you can drum up from the web. Make a connection—e-mail the instructor who teaches the IB ‘Theory of Knowledge’ class or the Basketball Coach and ask away! (Hot tip: this also ‘demonstrates interest’ in the school—a huge plus for any admission officer considering your application.)
3. Contact the admission office and ask them to connect you with a current student. Chances are, the folks in the admission office know a student or two who want to talk to you! It’s always great to hear from someone who actually attends the school. A real student perspective will help you to imagine what your day-to-day life may be like; what you can expect from the classes and dining hall; what prom was like last spring; and what students typically do on the weekend.
4. Attend an event at the school. It’s critical to visit the school and take a tour. But what lies beneath the surface? Arranging to attend an event at the school (a pep rally, a theatre production, or a football game) can really capture a sense of the school’s spirit and offer you the inside view you were looking for. You may have a chance to connect with current students and find out why they chose to attend. If you can’t make an evening or weekend event, arrange to sit in on a class when you visit campus, or have lunch in the dining hall with a student ambassador. You’ll get the inside scoop—and might even make a new friend!
5. Hear what the students have to say. Dig deep! Not everything of value turns up in a google search. Don't be afraid to ask your admission officer directly for more resources! Seeking out examples of student work is a great place to start-- a student newspaper or literary magazine; a class Tumblr account or blog; or a student-produced video or on-line class project might give you the extra information you are looking for.