A Guide for Parents as They Tour Schools for Their Child
By Gretchen Herbst, Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Congressional School
That time has come. Whether it's a natural transition between grades or the thought that a child's current school may not be the right fit, it's time to look for a new school. And that process can sometimes seem daunting.
As you consider and evaluate different schools, you'll, of course, want to visit the campuses for yourself. A school can paint a picture online that might be pretty, but you won't know if it is the right school until you see it, walk around, peek into classrooms, meet teachers, and get a feel for whether your child could make it his/her home away from home.
While on a school tour, you'll have the opportunity to ask questions, and the answers you'll receive will make or break the school for you. The questions you ask will make a difference and we want to make sure you get all the information you need to make the right decision for your child.
Below is a list of questions and a downloadable that you can take with you on your next tour.
- Tell me about the culture of the school? (Purposefully leave this question broad to see the response and values communicated. Do they talk about community? Do they talk about the importance of developing character? Do they focus in on rigorous academics? You’ll learn a lot about the heart of a school from the initial response to this question.)
- How many children attend the school? How many students are in the average classroom?
- How long is the school day?
- Are meals and snacks provided?
- What does the school day schedule look like? Structured? Free? Rotating? Block?
- What competitive athletics are offered and at what grade do they begin?
- Is there a uniform or dress code?
- What accreditations does the school have?
- What kind of diversity does the school have?
- Tell me about the leadership of the school.
- What special features does your campus offer?
- Does your school have a particular educational philosophy? Lecture? Project-based? Play-based? Group learning?
- What curriculum do you use? How does it compare to other schools?
- How do you support students who are advanced academically?
- How does the school respond to a student not meeting academic standards?
- What is the school’s view on homework? What types of homework are given and how much?
- How does technology support teaching and learning in the classroom? How is screen-time balanced with other learning styles?
- How do fine arts fit into the curriculum? What classes are offered? How much time is spent in fine arts classes per week?
- How much structured vs unstructured play is there? i.e. PE, athletics, recess
- Where are your graduates accepted? Where do they matriculate?
- What is your approach to grades? Are they letter grades? Pass/Fail? A point or narrative system?
Social and Emotional
- What values do you instill in your students? How do you encourage those values?
- What are the leadership opportunities offered? Is there student government?
- Tell me about your approach to student discipline. How about student safety and bullying?
- Describe the student atmosphere.
- What does parent involvement look like?
- Tell me about the communication between parents and teachers. How often? What mediums of communication are used most?
Before and After School/ Transportation
- How do students get to school? Do you offer bus transportation?
- What does before and after care program look like if you have one?
- What extracurriculars and clubs do you offer?
- Is childcare offered during school breaks?
- Do teachers have opportunities for professional development?
- In what ways do teachers collaborate?
- How qualified are your teachers?
- What is the retention or turn-over for the faculty and staff?
- What does tuition include? What are extra fees?
- Do you offer financial aid and what does that process look like?
- Is there an entrance test? How much emphasis is placed on the results?
- What is expected of parents in regards to fundraising and development for the school?
The most important question you can ask as a parent looking for a school for your child is one you have to ask yourself:
"What are the unique needs of my child and
will this school meet those needs?"
We wish you the best as you go through this process!
Director of Admission and Financial Aid
at Congressional School