What to Ask Private Schools

No two kids are exactly alike. No two schools are, either. When looking at private school options at any grade level, it's important that parents ask questions that help them identify the key differences that will help determine what private school is best for their child.

Knowing the right areas to ask questions about is an important step going into private school interviews and tours. As you dive into your exploration of private schools, keep these thoughts in mind:

1. What do you really want to know about this private school?

This is different than what you think you should ask. You may feel that asking about test scores or admission rates is what's expected, but it will be most beneficial to everyone if you ask about the areas that truly matter to you. Don’t shy away from tougher questions if they’re important to you, but also try not to delve too deeply into uncomfortable areas that put the admissions officer on the spot, such as those regarding your child’s specific chances of getting into the school.

2. How is this private school uniquely positioned to help my child?

Think about how your child learns and thrives, as well as his or her strengths and weaknesses, and focus your questions according to those needs. Is your son an excellent writer but struggles to work with others? You might want to ask about how the school promotes teamwork. Or, say your daughter has an interest in engineering or math—are there robotics teams or other extracurricular offerings that will boost her learning beyond the typical curriculum? Think about whether the school’s overall mission fits the goals you and your child have.

 Goal  Example Question
 To increase your child's socialization opportunities  What kinds of group and teamwork opportunities do you  provide?
 To expand your child's music education  Are band, orchestra, and/or choir offered? What are the  programs like?
 To prepare your child for college admissions  How early do guidance counselors and teachers start  providing support for college applications?

3. “Tell me more about …”

As with a job interview, you want to go in with as much knowledge as you can glean from the school’s website and other available references. This will help you ask better questions and prevent you from looking like you don’t care, which is the impression you’d likely give by asking for information you could have easily gotten online in five minutes of research. Identify something the school succeeds at that coincides with your goals, and then dig deeper to show your interest.

4. How does this private school keep up with emerging technology?

It’s no secret that edtech is growing rapidly. How are teachers at this school able to use technology in the classroom to enhance learning and introduce students to new skills? Do they utilize digital textbooks? What is the policy on student smartphone use? On a related note, how is the overall curriculum reviewed, and how often does it change?

5. Does this private school approach the arts from a global, multicultural perspective?

Whether or not your child is artistically inclined, a broad education in music, art, theater and cultural differences is invaluable in a time of increasingly global higher education and professional opportunities. If your child does have a specific interest in an artistic area, find out how that can directly be supported by this school. Some areas you might want to inquire about include the following:

  • band
  • orchestra
  • choir
  • acting
  • drawing/painting
  • dance

6. What is the philosophy on athletics at this private school?

Many private schools require all students to participate in athletics or some other form of physical education. The lessons in teamwork and health can be invaluable, but if this is an area where your child particularly excels or struggles, you may want to find out more about what his or her experience will be like.

7. How do teachers and administrators at this private school communicate with parents?

Many private schools have sophisticated websites, blogs, or social media pages, but how are individual teachers communicating with parents about the classroom and their individual students? What systems are in place for emergency notifications?

8. What support does this private school offer for college applications and preparation?

Rather than asking where most graduating students are accepted to college or what their test scores are, dig deeper to find out specifically how the school’s guidance staff would eventually help your child through the college admissions process. It may seem far away, but it can never be too early to prepare.

Any topics you want to know more about? Let us know! The Varsity Tutors Blog editors love hearing your feedback and opinions. Feel free to email us at blog@varsitytutors.com.