How to Choose a Private School: 10 Basic Factors Every Parent Should First Consider

Photo Courtesy of The Episcopal School of Dallas

How to Choose a Private School: 10 Basic Factors Every Parent Should First Consider

Choosing a private school for your child is a very personal process. Across the United States, there are many exceptional schools to choose from – public, private, parochial, magnet and charter. So how do you begin to narrow down your choices and, ultimately, decide which school is best for your child and your family?

This worksheet is a good way to start that process. It will assist you in beginning to think about a number of variables that may factor into your decision-making process. Determining your non-negotiable criteria and discovering where you may have some flexibility will help narrow your focus when it is time for the research phase.

It may be easiest to print this worksheet and have each member of your family complete it, and then come together to compare and discuss your answers. By empowering your child to be part of the decision-making process it’s likely they will experience less stress and be excited about their prospective school choices.


  1. What types of schools do you prefer?
    1. Day School
    2. Boarding School
    3. Single-sex
    4. Co-ed
    5. No Preference


  1. Would your child prefer to stay at one school for the duration (PK to grade 12) or change schools after a major division break?
    1. Stay at one school, PK-12
    2. Change schools after elementary or middle school years
    3. No preference


  1. What size school would best suit your child and your family?
    1. Small (< 200)
    2. Medium (between 200 and 600)
    3. Large (> 600)
    4. No preference


  1. Is it important that your child be required to wear a uniform?
    1. Yes
    2. No
    3. No preference


  1. Is a school’s religious affiliation, or lack thereof, important to your family?
    1. Christian
    2. Jewish
    3. Non-denominational
    4. No preference


  1. What is the tuition range you can afford, and will you need flexible financing options and/or tuition assistance?

An affordable annual tuition range for us is $                                to $                               .

  1. Yes, we would like flexible finance options
  2. Yes, we will need tuition assistance
  3. No, we will not need tuition assistance


  1. Is diversity important to you? Diversity can be related to socio-economics, ethnicities, religions, and a variety of other factors.
    1. Diversity is important
    2. Diversity is somewhat important
    3. Diversity is not important
    4. No preference


  1. What is an acceptable commute time, and how important is it? Consider not only time to and from school, but the ease in which you can attend campus community events, activities, sports, playdates, etc…
    1. Less than 10 minutes
    2. Between 10 and 20 minutes
    3. No more than 30 minutes
    4. Very flexible on commute time


  1. What special programs or extracurriculars meet your child’s interests or needs? Are global opportunities important to you? How about sports? Can the school provide these?              

We want a school that has the following:

  1. Extracurriculars: ____________________________________________________________
  2. Global Opportunities: ________________________________________________________
  3. Sports: ____________________________________________________________________
  4. No Preference: ______________________________________________________________


  1. Does your child have a diagnosed learning difference that requires accommodations?
    1. Yes, my child has a learning difference
    2. No, my child does not have a learning difference


  1. Are you strongly interested in a specific type of academic program?
    1. Traditional College Preparatory
    2. International Baccalaureate
    3. Montessori
    4. Dual Language
    5. No preference


Your completed worksheet will allow you to identify the schools that meet your basic criteria, and eliminate those that do not. Once you have identified your target schools based on your criteria, complete the private school short list. We recommend starting with 3-5 schools.

Private School Short List:

  1. ___________________________________________________________________________
  2. ___________________________________________________________________________
  3. ___________________________________________________________________________
  4. ___________________________________________________________________________
  5. ___________________________________________________________________________

Congratulations! You are now ready to start the research and exploration stage.   This article is courtesy of The Episcopal School of Dallas


About the Author:

Ruth Burke is the Assistant Head of School at The Episcopal School of Dallas, overseeing Enrollment, Development, Alumni Relations, Communications, and the Strategic Plan.

Ruth’s experience in independent school administration spans 28 years, at three nationally-recognized schools, in the roles of administrator, teacher, coach, advisor, and dean. She has also served as conference chair for the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) Admission Conference and lead numerous panel discussions and seminars for the Secondary School Admission Test Board (SSATB), National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and ISAS.

From 2009-2012, Ruth taught four-day seminars for Independent School Management (ISM), leading admission professionals from across the country in the application of best practices and admission trends.

Burke earned a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Masters in School Administration from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.

Quote: Navigating the world of Independent Schools can be intimidating…but it doesn’t have to be. I hope that by sharing my experience with parents, they will feel more at ease throughout the process. – Ruth Burke


Additional Resources:

Top 5 Ways to Afford a Private School Education

National Association of Independent Schools, Parents Guide

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