Find a school that nurtures, educates, and helps students succeed in their lives beyond the classroom.

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One of the most important decisions you can make on behalf of your children is where you will send them to school. For a grade 6-12 experience, you will want a school that nurtures, educates, and helps students succeed in their lives beyond the classroom. What are some criteria to help you make a choice? Here are nine things to consider.

Academic preparation

Besides setting high expectations, the best private schools show students how to learn and how to advocate for themselves as agents of their own learning. Look for schools where teachers love the subjects they teach, enjoy the age groups they work with, and genuinely love to learn. Are the teachers available to help before or after school? Look for a school where the culture is to instill excellent and lasting skills and habits of mind. The bar will be high. Is each student supported to meet success?

The whole person

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Will your child thrive in a large school, or benefit from a smaller size? Small- to medium-sized schools enable the richest teacher-student bonding, allowing students to dig deep academically under careful tutelage. They also enable students to pursue their interests, from sports to music to performance. Maybe your child would like to write for the newspaper, or start a club, even initiate their own field of study. The best schools operate at a size which deliver supportive academic grounding even as they empower students to follow their passions.

Diversity and inclusion

If you believe our world is immeasurably enriched by its variety of people, then diversity and inclusion should be central values of the school you choose. Educational equity, social justice, thoughtful institutional policies and practices, and content and sources of a school’s educational program will help ensure representation of multiple perspectives and points of view, strengthening the educational experience for all.

Faculty development

Do the schools you are considering put their money where their mouth is regarding continuing education for their teachers? Ask if the school you’re considering offers individualized teaching improvement plans. These provide teachers with opportunities to identify the characteristics of good teaching, to learn deeply about a topic, and to venture off their own campuses to attend conferences and classes.

Technology

Technology is essential to the teaching, learning, and communication of the future. Ask about a school’s learning management system to see if it allows students the opportunity to practice and to engage in meaningful collaboration with their peers and teachers. Online learning options can increase the ways students learn. Subjects like computer science and resources like a “makers space” can ignite and delight, while helping to prepare your student for jobs that don’t yet exist.

Social and emotional health

To serve students optimally, it’s critical that your school integrates social and emotional learning. Look for a school where teachers and staff are committed to getting to know each student and to supporting student growth and development in partnership with families. Does your school have counseling available? Is there on-campus support for students and families? Today’s world brings all-new challenges to families. In the quest to nurture happy and successful students, it’s vital that school be part of every child’s “village.”

Fields of play

In searching for a private school, some parents are geared toward grooming children for the Ivy League. While rigorous academics are crucial, physical activities that teach teamwork and cooperation will go a long way toward preparing your child to thrive in the real world. Look for onsite athletic facilities with sports programs that welcome all levels of participation, to give your student enrichment of the body as well as the mind.

The road to college

There is a saying, “College is a match to be made, not a prize to be won.” Choosing the right high school is the first step in getting that match right. You’ll want a high school offering expert college counseling to its students – both through access to college representatives and through a personalized college search process with counselors who really know your child. Today’s colleges and universities present a dizzying array of choices. You’ll want the right guide.

The culture

Walk the halls of your prospective schools. Talk to students and graduates. Do you see joy? Intellectual courage? Student-teacher engagement? A spirit of inclusivity? A culture of respect? These are the intangibles that together make up the school’s culture: perhaps the most important variable determining what values your child will take away from high school.  There is a journey ahead. It should include challenge, excitement, fulfillment – and joy.

University Prep is an independent day school for grades 6-12, founded in 1976 by educators who valued intellectual courage and student agency. UPrep builds success through its challenging academics, enduring faculty-student connections, enriching diversity, inclusive community, innovation, and technological advancement.