Applying the Goldilocks Principle to Your High School Search

Applying the Goldilocks Principle to Your High School Search
Sarah Powers - Dean of Enrollment


How to create an extensive list of schools to consider at the beginning of your search: 

The beginning of the high school search is both exciting and daunting for a family. The choices available to your child can span the entire country and websites tout engaging classes, signature programs, championship athletic teams, fascinating art electives, and interesting student clubs. So, where to begin? Just like Goldilocks, I encourage you to spend time considering all options to help build a list of “just right” schools. Here are some questions to start.

1. What type of school are you looking for and how far from home are you willing to consider?

Talk through these questions with your child. What family values do you want to find in a school environment? Is there a specific geographic radius that is conducive to your family’s lifestyle? Is your child intrigued by the idea of a boarding school?  

2. What are your child's "must haves" at a school?

Create this list with your child. What are those arts, athletic, or club programs that your child wants to continue (or start!) in high school? Does your child have a favorite subject and are there specific classes your child would like to take such as marine biology, robotics, or Chinese?

3. What schools are on your child's "long list"?

Ask your child’s teacher or guidance counselor if they have any schools they would suggest your family visit. Typically, if they know the private high school market and know your child well, they will add schools where they feel your child will thrive.

4. What other schools fit your family's criteria?

Use school search tools and databases to expand your list. Databases—such as Private School Finder, OWL Boarding School Guide, and—can help filter schools by preferences and make it easy to add more schools to the list.

Answering these four questions should give you an extensive list of private high schools to consider, but before you move forward, I challenge you to add a few schools that don’t fit perfectly into your “just right” list!  Perhaps look at an independent school that is a little farther away and requires your child to board or has a community makeup different than your child’s current school (e.g. single-gender or all gender)

Word–of–mouth suggestions from other parents can be a valuable resource. 82% of Americans say they look for recommendations from friends and family before making a purchase, so it makes sense you want to hear the opinions of other parents. Every child is unique, as is their school experience. When gathering information about schools, ask parents open-ended questions such as: What made your child choose this school? What other schools did you consider? Overall, what has your child loved about the school? What has been a challenge? Would you recommend the school?”

Once your list is built, spend time as a family looking at each school’s website, take their virtual tour, and sign up to be on their mailing list. As you spend more time learning about a school by visiting its campus and meeting its community members, the clearer it’ll become as to whether it is a “just right” school for your child.

Happy searching!

Author: Sarah Powers - Dean of Enrollment

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