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10 Questions to Ask When Visiting a Private School

Have you considered a shadow day at a private school? Attending classes for a day can help you see what the school is truly like.

When you’re considering your next school, whether it is a day school or a boarding school, public or private school, it is an exciting time. You spend hours on web sites examining the curriculum, the schedule, the photos, the student testimonials, all in an effort to get a feeling for what the school’s culture is like and if it’s right for you, and to make sure it has the programs in which you’re interested. 

Then comes the really fun part: you visit.

I asked the admission office here at R-MA to tell me some of the best questions they tend to get. It turns out they get a LOT of questions! Below are ten of the FAQs that I thought should be asked in-person during a visit. While you can get R-MA’s answers online, I strongly urge you to address these questions during the interview/tour. How the school representative responds to these can reveal a lot about the school’s culture, and/or generate some good discussions that will help you get a better feel for things than just reading responses. 

1.    How many of the students stay on campus for the weekend? What do they do if they stay on campus?
This is a critical question if you’re visiting a boarding school, especially if your child plans to stay on campus most weekends.

2.    Can I find out how my child is doing in school? What are their grades?
This will give you an idea of the school’s commitment to communication. Is the responsibility placed on you or on the school staff? Is it all automated or can you actually reach a person?

3.    Are there adults who my child can go to if they need some support?
You might think you have the most well-adjusted child in the world, but there’s no accounting for homesickness—it can hit anyone. Is there a mentor, counselor, or someone else to go to? 

4.    How is the security of your campus?
The real question on this one is: do you feel comfortable after hearing the answer?

5.    When can I contact my child?  
Again, this is important for boarding schools. Some have tight schedules or allow phones or internet only at certain times. Make sure you’re aware of when those are and that you and your child are comfortable with it.

6.    What is done to assist a new student just entering?
Ask what the orientation program is like, and what happens in the weeks after that. Homesickness can hit two or three weeks after arriving at a boarding school. The adjustment might cause a drop in grades, when what you want to see is an improvement in grades. Know what to expect and how the students are helped through it.

7.    What type of medical facilities do you have?
You might want to ask how close the nearest hospital is as well. 

8.    How do you handle discipline issues?
Even if you have an angel and don’t think you need to hear this answer, what if other kids cause problems? Will they be affecting your child’s performance or quality of life?

9.    What’s the food like?
This is a hard one to answer with words. You might want to try to eat a meal on campus. Just remember that most kids at boarding schools complain about the food not because it’s bad, but because it’s not made the way Mom makes it, or because they eat it so often.

10.    What can students do after classes?
This should give you a feel for the opportunities and priorities at the school.

Again, R-MA’s quick answers to these questions can be found here, but we would really love to talk to you about them instead!