At Cheshire Academy, we’re all about finding the right fit. That’s why we encourage you to do your research when it comes to finding the best boarding school to match your needs.However, we know that’s easier said than done. When it comes to finding the best boarding school, families can easily become so inundated with information that they don’t know where to begin. That’s why we’ve created this five-step guide to launching your private school search.
1. Talk it over with your family.
We’re fond of reminding families that not every school can be a perfect fit. It’s not about finding the BEST school, but the best school for you. The perfect private school will depend on the high school experience you and your family want—and more importantly—the experience you need.
Start with a list. Do you love art? Science? Football? Or maybe you are more of an introvert and would benefit from a school that challenges students to participate in clubs and activities. Consider your learning needs: do you need one-on-one academic support, or a school with more discipline?
Many students at Cheshire Academy are well-rounded but don’t yet have a passion that calls to them yet. Our flexible program offerings make our school a great fit for students who need to try lots of different classes in order to find their niche.
2. Start Googling.
Now that you have an idea of what you need in a boarding school, the next step is to figure out what’s out there. The best way to do this is by searching for independent and private schools in your state. Boarding School Review and the NAIS School Search are great resources for figuring out what’s in your area.
When you arrive on the site of a new school, make sure to look at their program offerings. Many schools have “signature programs” (Cheshire Academy offerings one-on-one academic support with Roxbury, an IB Diploma Programme, and an Art Major program).
Often, signature programs give you a good sense of what each school values. For example, Cheshire Academy values intercultural communication and preparedness for entering the global economy, exemplified by our International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.
3. Create an Excel Spreadsheet.
As you visit each website, compile school information into a spreadsheet. Indicate the programs that are important to you at the top of the spreadsheet so you can compare what each school offers.
As you complete the spreadsheet, you will be able to cross out schools based on the programs they offer. For example, most boarding schools require every student participate in an athletic offering for each season (fall, winter, and spring). Schools that value other team activities, like yearbook, theater, or dance, allow students to substitute an athletic season to participate in one of those activities. If you love theater but find a school that doesn’t allow students to substitute an athletic season for theater, it will be easy to cross that school off the list.
At Cheshire Academy, we put together a free spreadsheet template you can download to help with your private school search. Make sure to include contact information in one column of the spreadsheet. This will make step number four a lot easier!
4. Contact your favorite private schools
At a certain point, it becomes necessary to move beyond the website to contact the admission office by email or phone. Websites are great, but it’s the people that make the school. That’s why we encourage families to reach out to schools once they’ve established a list of ten to twelve preliminary schools.
Make sure to introduce yourself and your family to the admission officer and request to receive emails from the school. Email newsletters often contain information on school life as it’s happening on campus, so you’ll be able to see photo galleries, write ups, and news articles about school life as they’re posted on the website.
Once the admission officer knows what is important to you, she’ll be able to point out other programs the school offers that might not have been available on the website. Make sure to keep your spreadsheet updated as you learn more information!
5. Visit campus
Once you’ve contacted an admission officer, it should be easy to set up an on-campus visit. We recommend attending at least one open house event. It's a great opportunity to learn from other families also searching for the perfect private school. While you might not think to ask about spring break trips, another student might. You’ll benefit from the new perspective and will be able to learn more about what the full boarding school experience might look like.
Don't forget to prep for your on-campus visit! If you do decide to apply to the school you're visiting, you'll want to make sure you make a great first impression and get the most out of the experience.
At the end of the day, it comes down to finding the best boarding school for you and your family. That means zeroing in on what’s important to you, narrowing down schools by program offerings, and visiting the campus in person. And don’t forget to stay organized!