5 Tips for Choosing a School
Applying to and choosing a school in NYC can be daunting. There are so many choices: public, private, charter, parochial… and within public you’ve got charter, dual language, general education, gifted and talented, goodness! Even within say, a G&T program, or a dual language program, not all schools are created equal. Different schools work differently.
I went through the process and I know how overwhelming it can be. I remember thinking to myself: what if my son doesn’t get in anywhere?! What then?? I remember thinking “I can’t put all my eggs in one basket.” So I made sure to apply to charter schools, public schools, private schools and I even had considered the parochial schools in my area.So many options but you don’t know what you’re going to get. When you’re in the process it is definitely stressful.
So, I wanted to share my insight and tips for those parents who are going through this process. This is from what I have learned in my own experience, talking to members of my community, education advocates and my experience writing about parenting as a blogger.
Here are my 5 tips when choosing a school:
- Do your research and ask questions! There are no dumb questions. I repeat. there are no dumb questions! Ask yourself: What is the school’s educational philosophy? Does it align with yours? (You can check out 20 questions when visiting a school here).
- Visit the school. I can’t stress this enough! You need to get a feel for the hall ways, the vibe of the people, the energy. Your child will be spending A LOT of time in those rooms, with those teachers and administrators. Tour the school, talk to the people who work there. Observe. Soak it all in. Close your eyes and imagine if you could see your child there. Is your child smiling? Are you smiling as you walk through the building? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? That’s what you want!
- Talk to parents (and kids!) The school tells part of the story, and parents will tell you another part. They can vouch for school communication, the responsiveness of the teachers and administration to complaints and concerns. They will tell you why they chose that school, why their kids love it. They will also tell you what they wish they could change, or what they don’t like.
- Test scores aren’t everything. I repeat. Test scores aren’t everything. Every school has a profile online, and you can access testing scores. You can also access information on platforms like insideschools.org. I will say, take that information with a grain of salt. Test scores don’t tell the whole story of a school. Perhaps, students have improved significantly from one year to the next, perhaps they have a robust art program, or a theater program. Test scores don’t tell you if the school is educating the whole child, if socio-emotional development is an important part of their philosophy (I mention this because it is for me).
- Go with your gut. Finally, this is the most important thing. Go with your gut. You know what environment your child will thrive in. You know if a school’s environment will fit with his/her needs. Ask yourself what is important to you: is it a diverse school community? high academic standards? a focus on educating the whole child? access to after-school? Close your eyes, and imagine your child there. Is your child happy? Are you happy? Do you get butterflies in your stomach after you visited the school? Do the interactions make you smile? Go with the school that gives your butterflies, where you see your family thriving.
Finally, a word of encouragement and hope for parents going through this process now: things shift, people move, waiting list spots become offers, things change through the summer.
Put your dream school first, and then put your schools in order of preference. The universe has a way of working things out and I’m confident you will get into a school that works for your child and you!
Good luck, NYC parents! YOU GOT THIS!