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Researching private schools doesn’t have to be painful

Updated: December 2, 2013 9:51AM



Searching for a private high school is a daunting process. With admissions offices rolling out their start dates for the 2014-15 academic year, it’s time to start narrowing down your list of potential schools. While the amount of information available on Chicago-area private schools can be overwhelming, by following some easy steps, you can beat the bell and have your child to class on time next fall.

Picture your student’s ideal school
Before considering schools, brainstorm everything that your child’s ideal school would be. Put some time in and maybe even think about the list over the course of a few days. Things like common interests among potential friends, public transportation routes and hot lunch programs should not be overlooked. The National Association of Independent Schools suggests attending school fairs and asking your student’s current teachers for advice as ways to build up a list of must-haves for your son or daughter. Once you have your ideals, prioritize and start looking for schools that will match up the best.

Don’t rely on rankings

Several factors go into compiling rankings, so it’s important to evaluate what considerations go into a list before making any decisions. For many listings, few of the variables have to do with student outcomes. Instead, most school ranking lists such as those published by U.S. News and World Report, focus heavily on enrollment and standardized test scores.

Speak to parents of older students
Familiarize yourself with the dynamics of a school by talking to a seasoned parent who has a few years under their belt. Having seen kids through graduation, they’re sure to have encountered bumps along the way, but it’s likely that a few positives have kept them enrolling their younger children over the years.

Prepare a prioritized list of need-to-know questions
After even a couple of tours, stats on class sizes, ACT scores and graduation rates begin to blur. With an overabundance of information to sort through, having a list to refer back to will ensure that you leave with answers to your most critical questions. Be sure to rank your questions in order of importance to guarantee the most important ones are checked off at the end of the day.

Schedule a shadow day (or a few)
Attending classes, sitting in on a lunch hour or taking in an assembly can provide a unique opportunity for your child to picture themselves as a part of the student body. As much as you are hoping your son or daughter finds the right fit, their future school wants the same and they look forward helping in the process. Pay attention to your student’s reaction when you pick them up at the end of the day. Listen and try not to interrupt with too many questions as they share their experience with you. Their initial thoughts will provide premium insight as to whether or not the school will make a good fit.

Read the student newspaper
Who could speak more honestly about classroom dynamics than the kids, themselves? A student newspaper is a great vehicle to garner a little insight into the everyday culture of a school.

Keep your child calm and confident during the testing process
Entrance exams can easily wear on the most laid-back students. Keep routines, focus on early bedtimes and aim for balanced healthy meals leading up to the big day. Steer away from over-analyzing what could be on the test or having your student cram. Several Chicago-area schools take interviews and feedback from current teachers into account when making admittance decisions.

When researching top tier options for a Catholic education in Chicago, consider learning more about Marian Catholic High School by contacting them at (708) 755-7565.



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