High school is the time when most children develop and refine their academic interests, lay the groundwork for a successful college application, and form transformative friendships. Choosing a high school for your child is not something to be taken lightly. It’s important to make a decision grounded on extensive research and in-depth analysis of all possible options.
How to choose the best learning environment for your child? How to find a high school that will nurture your child’s talents, qualities and skills? The abundance of schooling options can feel overwhelming to a busy parent, but this guide can help you cover the most important issues. Here are a few questions that will help you select the best option in your vicinity.
What’s in the Curriculum?
Each child has a different range of strengths and weaknesses that become transparent when faced with academic challenges. Some children score highly on logical-mathematical intelligence tests, others have high verbal intelligence. This means that your child may prefer some academic subjects related to his innate abilities to the detriment of others.
When choosing a high school, study thoroughly the curriculum. What subjects or areas of study are predominant? What electives are available? If your child wants to study a foreign language or take advanced computer science classes, make sure this is an option. At the same time, your child needs a balanced education, so the curriculum should be inclusive.
How Is the Learning Environment?
Another key aspect to consider is that some children thrive in a structured learning environment, with well-defined tasks and assignments, while other children prefer to learn at their own pace. Also, some students work better individually, others in groups. Look at teaching practices and homework policies to get an idea about the learning environment in each high school you’re considering.
Have in-depth discussions with your child about his school performance in the past. What were the main challenges? What learning style does your child prefer? Does your child like interactive lessons with a lot of visual material or can perform well just with individual reading? Consider that public schools have a more traditional teaching approach, while private schools are much more flexible in this regard.
Private or Public High School?
When researching high schools, have a look at all the options in your area, including public and private institutions and vocational schools. Some private high schools offer financial aid, so an elite education for your child may be more accessible than you think. Although public high schools can also provide a top learning experience, private institutions have a more diversified offer, with a focus on flexibility, innovation and community. When searching for the best high schools in Utah for example, you will find that private institutions rank higher.
Public high schools are typically larger and have a wider selection of extracurricular options, whereas private high schools have more closely-knit communities with a smaller list of extracurricular activities. If your child is interested in sports or various clubs, a public high school can be a better fit. However, if your child has niche interests like theatre or writing, a private high school can be a great environment to develop these interests.
What Facilities Are Available?
For a good learning experience, a high school must provide access to a wide range of resources. If you want your child to have the possibility to develop new interests, engage his or her academic curiosity, and study effectively, access to academic facilities is crucial. Some essential facilities are cafeterias, libraries, science labs and playing fields.
Some children may also love access to gyms, fitness centers, dance studios, stadiums, tennis courts or media centers. If you think your child is interested in one of these facilities, add it to your priority list. Facilities that allow students to follow their passions are important also because they are the perfect environment for cultivating friendships and developing a healthy social life.
How is the Atmosphere?
Once you have a list of favorite high schools, plan visits to each. This is an excellent method to see how is the atmosphere on the campus or in the classrooms. It is also a chance to verify if the online information matches reality. Is the learning environment formal or informal? Are the facilities as presented on the website? How is the student-teacher interaction? What is the level of cleanliness, order and security? How do students interact with each other? Does the campus look buzzing and friendly?
During your visit, try to meet faculty and staff. Normally, you should be allowed to discuss with teachers and the principal, so you can get direct, detailed answers to your questions and doubts regarding the educational process. If a one-on-one meeting with the principal is possible, don’t forget to ask about their expectations to make sure both you and your child can conform to them.
What Do Test Scores Say?
The main goal of a good high school is to help students achieve academic performance. Test scores can be a valuable indicator in this regard. Examine the lowest and highest scores to get an idea about how competitive is the learning environment.
Do test scores show major fluctuations in recent years? By analyzing the trends over several years, you can determine whether a high school has managed to improve the academic performance of its students over the years or, on the contrary, whether it has suffered a decline in academic rigor. Although test scores are not a precise method for judging a school’s effectiveness, they are good clues.
Last, But Not Least
After gathering and assessing all information, don’t forget to ask your child for input. Present your options and explain in as much detail as possible why you think a certain institution is better than others. Discuss practical matters such as transportation options, schedule or tuition costs. This is important because both you and your child must be fully convinced that your final decision is the right one. Choose a high school that feels right for both of you, even though you may have different criteria in mind.