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The Right High School: Myth versus Reality

Authored By: 
Maren Holmen, Director of The Tutoring School

Numerous articles (including our own on this blog) have been written about how to choose the right high school.  Clearly, this is neither easy nor easily quantifiable.  There are many references to making lists, doing your research, and asking questions of everyone you know.  These are all part of choosing the right high school—but it isn’t the core, in my opinion.


Myth:  There’s a right school for every person.

Reality:  The right school depends as much (if not more) on what a student puts into the equation.

Much like the supposed “dream school” that students look for in their college-admissions hunt, there is no one “right” school for a student.  There are plenty of schools that are not a good fit for a variety of reasons (the pace is too fast, there isn’t enough support and structure, there is a religious component that is at odds with the student,) but no school is perfect for a student in every sense.  If the school is willing or able to work with you to accommodate those aspects that aren’t “right” for you, then you will need to be willing or able to find common ground, as well.


Myth:  The right school will always be the right school for my child.

Reality:  People change.

We all know that teenagers are a constant work-in-progress, and they will continue to change as adults.  The school that was the perfect home-away-from-home may begin to feel alien to your 15-year-old.  Keep your eyes and ears open for hints that your child is feeling dissatisfied in his or her current school and keep an open mind about making the difficult decision to transfer to another school if things don’t improve.


Myth: The right school socially for my child will be the right school academically for my child.

Reality:  While the social component is important, a bad academic fit can dramatically affect the social and emotional well-being of a child.

Being a teenager can be difficult in the best of situations.  Hormones, changing relationships, and ever-evolving social structures can make daily experiences feel like battlegrounds.  Add academic stresses in and you can have a veritable minefield.  Students wish to have a school environment where they can merge the academic and the social aspects of their lives and overall, that is the ideal situation.  However, it isn’t always possible.  Your teen may not wish to admit it, but sometimes separating the two is the most beneficial.  You aren’t telling your child not to socialize with those friends she left at a previous school, but you are going to have to convince her that it is better for her “job” that she go to another school where she can work better.


The high school years are rarely smooth, as much as parents might wish it to be so.  Therefore, being open to the possibility that your child’s current school may not be the right high school for them could ease your own stress while helping your child navigate those teenage hurdles.