Choosing a school for your child can be a complex, and sometimes complicated, decision. From locations, college preparation, to extracurriculars, this process can easily feel overwhelming. Taking a step back and focusing on key questions, however, can make parents’ considerations much simpler.
“A great place for parents to begin is by making sure that their child has the education that best prepares them for the future and lifelong success,” said Jay Philpott, Director of Admission and Financial Aid at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. Start by defining your family’s values and goals. What opportunities do you want your child to have? What values do you want to underscore: kindness, honesty, respect? What kind of friendships do you hope your child develops? Do you value the credentials of the faculty and the rigor of the school’s curriculum?
Defining core family values and non-negotiable traits in a school can help parents determine which school will be the best fit for their child. Here are some thoughts to consider when thinking about school choices:
Choose a School Based on School Culture Rather than Strictly on Outcomes
“It’s important to understand a school’s mission,” said Philpott. “Does the school’s mission align with your family values?”
A vision statement outlines where a school is going and what they have in store for their students. It allows the school to grow toward the future, to stay relevant, and to prepare students for tomorrow. A mission statement serves as the foundation on which the school stands firm. It is a proclamation that keeps the school grounded while they look toward the future.
As competitive as university acceptance can be, it makes sense that parents should focus on their child’s academic success. It is crucial that parents seek educational experiences for their children that, according to the National Association of Independent Schools, “nurture intellectual curiosity, stimulate personal growth, encourage critical thinking, and promote a lifelong love of learning.” It is also important to broaden this focus and reframe it to prepare students with life skills to handle a changing workforce and world.
“You wouldn’t want a child to get to college and experience their first challenge, when parents are not around, students need to be prepared with the tools and life experiences to overcome challenges,” said Philpott. “If students are just focused on test scores, they may be missing the important lessons of resilience, moving forward after a disappointment, or cultivating drive from having to work harder for the best grade. It is through challenges that students build character and perseverance.”
Choose a School Based More on Character Development and Less on Statistics
The lessons learned from challenges are crucial in developing a child’s character, a concept that you may want to take into consideration. Beyond academic challenges, what principles does a school practice to support character development?
St. Andrew’s is a member of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, an organization that offers a clear outline of principles and ideals. This involves inclusive and age-appropriate school worship; religious formation and religious study that is academically substantive; a devotion to honoring diversity and community life; and community service and service-learning, which is an integral part of the life of the school.
“Consider how a school creates the opportunities for character development,” said Philpott. “Are they deep, meaningful engagements based on a bigger world view? At St. Andrew’s, we use our Global Studies program that has meaningful service oriented programs in 6 different countries, weekly “Travel Thursday” speakers from across the globe, and cultural celebrations to broaden a student’s worldview. We have weekly Chapel services and religious study courses to expand opportunities of understanding.”
Choose a School That Aligns with Your Family’s Values
Most great educators recognize that the most important decision point is how your family’s personal values align with those of their school.
“At St. Andrew’s we value exploration, for it is in finding answers to questions and true problem solving, that a student’s mind is fully developed, and the confidence that sets the foundation of ‘I can do this’ is realized.”
“Making sure your child is gently pushed physically, spiritually, academically, with the appropriate balance of challenge and support at each grade level, is what every family is looking for when choosing a school,” Philpott said.
At the end of the day, the only real way to know if a school is right for your family or child is to get on campus. Visit St. Andrew’s in person or virtually. We invite you to get to know us.