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How Do You Know If You've Found the Right High School?

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Director, The Tutoring School

If you are the parent of an 8th grader, you are probably in the midst of asking yourself the question, “How do I choose the right high school for my child?”  From asking friends & fellow parents to performing an internet search to going to open houses, you are certain to be presented with a lot of options.  Most (if not all) of them will sound like great places for your child to learn.  So what makes a school the “right” school?

First, don’t rely just on what you hear from other people or a school’s website—go see the school for yourself.  Since so much of your child’s life will be spent in that school, it’s important that they (and you) see it with your own eyes to make sure that it feels right.  I also recommend that, if at all possible, you go during the day when classes are in session; you will see the students and faculty in action at that point, even if only for a few minutes.

Second, ask questions!  Just like a student in a classroom, compile a list of all the questions you want to know about any school as well as a list of questions about the specific school you are visiting.  Encourage your child to do the same—they’re the one who will be going there every day!  What is the school’s philosophy?  How much homework can students expect every night?  How large are the classes?  What is the student body like?

Third, see if you can speak with a parent of a current student.  There are some things that only another parent will appreciate about the interplay between the school and the student.  The school, of course, will direct you to a parent who will sing the praises of that school, but you can often get a better sense of whether you’re choosing the right high school for your child after speaking with someone who has been in your position.

Ultimately, all of your research will come down to a gut decision (and whether or not you are accepted to your first-choice school).  I encourage you to go with your instincts (they’re generally picking up on something you may not acknowledge consciously).  Good luck!