October 11, 2018
6 Factors to Help Find the Right High School
Written by Darma Poonoosamy
It’s consideration season for parents all over the Antelope Valley, as they talk to their 8th graders and start to think about which high school will be the best fit. The most important thing to keep in mind is that you’re not looking for the best high school, but the best high school for your child, and for your family.
Before you get overwhelmed with the options, remember that there are certain key factors to keep top of mind for any school tour, open house or prospective student event.
1. Programs and Classes Available
This is probably the most obvious aspect of a high school to consider. Different schools have different curriculum and teaching styles, so asking about the course paths available to the typical students is a good way to get an initial idea of the classes at the school.
Class breadth can be important, especially if you’re looking at private schools. In selecting a non-public school, you should be more discerning in making a final selection, and make sure the high school offers courses or programs that align with your child’s interests or talents.
Is the school a college-prep academy? Do they offer advanced courses, like Advanced Placement classes or the new AP Capstone program? If you’re child is bright and ambitious, having these class available can help prepare a student for college or the workforce after high school.
2. Diversity and School Culture
A high school experience has an impact on the formative years of each student, so choosing a high school with a culture that appeals to your family can be key.
In today’s world, the diversity of a high school can be assessed based on the sensitivity of school policies and officials to different values, as well as cultural backgrounds. The culture of the larger school can impact how your child feels when on campus, so pay attention to how your child engages with the facilities and other students to gauge whether the environment is a good fit.
This important factor is best assessed on a school tour or at an open house event, when you can meet and talk to current students or staff members, and experience the look and feel of the school in person.
3. Class Size and Student Body Size
How students interact can play a pivotal role in an effective education. In the average or advanced class, ask about the teacher to student ratio. How are students expected to collaborate and engage with course material? Discovering more about the dynamics of the classroom can also help find the best fit high school for your family.
Student body size can also be an item to consider. If your child is particularly shy, then a giant high school would not be a great fit. Alternatively, an outgoing and social student might find a 40 person school stifling. This is a very important factor to any student's success, so schedule a tour of each school on your list if you haven't already.
4. Engagement Outside of the Classroom
Extracurriculars and athletics provide valuable exposure to non-academic pursuits in each high school. Always inquire about those activities that currently interest your child, and ask about introductory opportunities.
High school is a time to explore and grow, and not every child will stick to the same hobby or sport for their entire high school career. Know how a school supports transitions in interests can help you find which one will best provide students with a path to success.
One aspect of high school that parents sometimes forget about is their engagement with the larger school community. Does the high school require parent service hours? Are there volunteer opportunities for parents to participate within the classroom, or for special events? Selecting a high school affects the entire family, and understanding the expected parental time commitment can help narrow down your school search.
Especially if you’re considering private or charter schools, cost is a factor to take in to consideration. The cost of tuition should align with the overall offering of the school. The following benefits could contribute to high tuition:
- Small class or school size
- Greater teacher to student ratio
- Diverse subject matter or programs available
- Quality of facilities and campus
- Experience and background of teachers and staff
- Greater offering of extracurricular activities
- Technology and resources available (see below)
And if you are in love with a school where the tuition is not manageable for your family, ask the finance team about tuition support, payment plans, or if scholarship funds are available.
6. Technology and Resources
With technology embedded into our everyday lives, how tech is incorporated into the classroom is a very important factor to consider. Are there classes to put students on a path to success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries? How are digital elements infused with the lesson plan of non-STEM subjects?
The flip side of technology is, how is technology treated as a tool? Certain policies and expectations are beneficial to creating capable learners, but safe practices should always be in place to protect individual students. Ask about the school about these policies, and assess how they fit in with technology in your home to find a good fit.
The Bottom Line
Take a tour, assess how your child interacts within classrooms and in the hallways, and then have an honest conversation about their perception of the school. Did they feel comfortable on campus? What part of the tour or open house event were they most excited about? At the end of the day, the right fit high school has the right classes and programs to allow your child to grow and prepare them for life after graduation; don’t forget it is one that fits with your family’s values, expectations, and comfort.
If you’d like to take a tour to assess if Paraclete High School is the right fit for your school, register today!