Top Questions Parents Should (and Shouldn't) Ask Private Schools

The following piece was written by Liz Perelstein. Liz has been featured in our Admissions Expert series and is the Founder of School Choice International.


It’s hard to believe. The school year has just begun and it’s time to start applying to private schools that you’re considering for 2014. School tours and interviews are happening already, so here are some tips about asking questions when you’re visiting.

1. Do your homework. Schools do not want to waste their time or yours with answers to questions that you can find on the internet.

2. Your school visits are a time to find out whether it is right for your child. Rather than thinking about an interview as a test, think of it as a conversation – you learn about the school and they learn about your child in a collaborative effort to determine whether there is a good fit.

3. Reflect on your child before you visit a school. You will undoubtedly be asked to describe him or her in terms of personality, academic attitudes, and performance, as well as topics that you can’t anticipate. Think in advance about what you want to get across. Show them in addition to telling them. Examples that illustrate your points will bring your child to life.

4. Ask questions to which you genuinely want answers. Don’t be concerned that particular questions may jeopardize his or her chances of admission; if your child needs support that the school doesn’t provide, you don’t want him/her there.

5. Don’t try to impress the admissions office. NY area schools are inundated with families who try to impress them. Communicate about your child authentically. Admissions officers are very savvy and can pick up on platitudes a mile away. Schools are looking for families who genuinely care about placing their child in the right environment and who will be a positive addition to the school.

6. Ask for examples. If you want to know how the first grade handles children who are behind or ahead in reading, ask for examples of how children at both ends of the spectrum have been handled so you can get a sense of their ability to meet individual needs. If you want to know how a painfully shy child will be accommodated, don’t hesitate to share your concern and ask how they have worked with children like yours in the past.

7. Drill down. If your child is an athlete, don’t just ask about the content of the school’s athletic program and its facilities. Find out whether the intent of the coach is to win at all costs or whether every child can play on the team. Which matches your child and your philosophy?

8. Limit your questions about college acceptances. You have no way of knowing what determined prior students’ acceptances. Were parents legacies or donors? Did the class include a large number of student athletes? Previous acceptances reflect more than you see on the surface – and will not necessarily apply to your child. Instead, ask about the kind of support you and your child will receive when going through the college process. Besides providing you with information that is more likely to be relevant, it will be refreshing to the admissions team. 

Think about your child’s education as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. If your child is happy at school, does well, and participates fully, s/he will get into a good college. Your child’s school years are a once in a lifetime opportunity. Choose a school that will teach him or her to be all s/he can be and the rest will fall into place.


Visit School Choice International for more information.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.