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How to Choose the Right High School

Authored By: 
George Higgins, Headmaster

High school years are some of the most influential ones in a person’s life.  Children make that transition from being a child to a young adult, and the process of pulling away from parents and establishing independence and a personal identity moves into full swing.  The culture and environment during this pivotal period plays a major influence in the direction a person’s life will take when turning 18 years old.  How do you know if you are choosing the right high school?

First of all, there is no perfect school and, just like in life, everything is a compromise.  So relax and don’t let your stress level get out of control.  You need to begin by creating a list of the qualities that satisfy the student’s needs and interests, and one that embraces the requirements that the parents feel are important.  With this working outline, you can start your search.

The Internet is the obvious place to start looking.  Most schools have spent a lot of time and effort creating a website that captures what sets them apart.  Look to see if the website highlights many of the qualities that you want to find.  If the website is poorly designed or cliché in its content, move on to other schools.  I think it says a lot about a program if they don’t make the effort to make their first impression with you a really good one.

Once you have your list of possible schools, ask other students and parents if they’ve had any contact with these places and listen to what they have to share.  It’s helpful to know the first-hand experiences others have had at these schools.  (This shouldn’t keep you from pursuing a school if you still feel it’s a possible match, though.  Each person has a different set of expectations that may have impacted his/her school experience accordingly.)

Now it’s time to visit the schools that are still on your list.  Websites are nice, but seeing is believing.  Get your own hands-on impression by touring the schools and meeting with staff members.  Your gut reaction to the school’s environment will be the biggest factor in your final choice.

If the school of your choosing has offered you a spot in their student body, have the student spend part of a day observing.  The feedback from this observation will be the final piece that seals the deal.  Now, parents and student can discuss the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

Remember this process and the strategies that you employed to make it work.  If the high school that you finally chose was the right decision, you’re going to have to do this all over again when it’s time to find the right college!