Should My Child Transfer 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.

There are many reasons you may consider changing your child’s school, but often, parents don’t act on these instincts. Many parents are afraid to trade the devil they know for the one they don’t know.  Even though a child may be unhappy, struggling academically, or feeling under-challenged, parents typically are worried about their child’s transition. If the child is not thriving, parents often think it could be worse in a different environment. If a child is thriving in certain respects – for example, socially but not academically – parents may be concerned about recreating a positive social life in a new school.

While I generally view mid-course adjustments as a good thing, I never advocate changing schools before first trying to work with the teacher, the guidance counselor, and even the head of school to rectify the situation. And, if a child shows prolonged misery before going to school, frequently feigns illness, vomits, is unusually tearful, or has major appetite or sleep changes, things may be serious enough to consult a professional. A change of school is not necessarily the answer, and should not be made without addressing the other issues.

In this post, I will address times that a change may be a good idea, and also seek to dispel some of the myths that prevent parents from acting. 

Why change your child’s school:

  • A child may attend a school that doesn’t suit his or her learning style. Some children learn best in a structured environment where the teacher directs learning. Other children do their best by learning concepts through experience. If you find that your child’s learning style is mismatched with the school’s philosophy, you may be trying to fit a round peg into a square hole and a transfer may be worthwhile.
  • Many schools are ill equipped to handle a child who is not mainstream – not only academically, but on any dimension. Not every private school has resources to deal with children who have special educational needs. On the other side of the spectrum, profoundly gifted children may not receive the support they need to prosper when teachers focus on children who are not doing well. 
  • You may wish to consider a change of school based on your child’s interests. Often, when parents choose the first school, they know little about their child. As his/her interests develop, the school s/he attends may not offer courses or extracurricular activities that will support his or her growth.
  • Your child may not fit in socially. Every school, and each cohort within a school, has a personality. If your child isn’t accepted or is bullied, these are issues, first, to be addressed with the school administration. However, sometimes s/he will fit in better in a different environment where s/he can find a more natural peer group.
  • If a family moves to a new area, distance can be a good reason to change schools. Not only is the school far away, spending time with friends or participating in sports and cultural activities can be an effort. 
  • Finally, if a child requests to change schools, take this very seriously. Few children want to make a significant life change unless they really are out of step. When my daughter started high school and came home saying “it isn’t cool to be smart here,” we honored her desire to change schools and she had a wonderful high school experience as a result.

If an educational change makes sense for any of these reasons, don’t be afraid to make the switch. Parents often think it is impossible to get a place in a school in a non-entry-level grade. This simply isn’t true. People move from one city or country to another, families move from the city to the suburbs or vice versa, and chance vacancies occur. There may not be the same number of options as there are during an entry-level year, but the competition isn’t as fierce either.

Children are resilient. While we never like to see our children go through difficult times, flexibility and the ability to adapt to new environments are valuable skills to teach children and an important part of their education. Changing a child’s school when things aren’t working teaches them problem-solving skills.

After working with thousands of families in transition over the past 15 years, I am convinced that getting the right fit far outweighs the costs of the transition itself.

Visit School Choice International for more information.

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