Choosing a New School? Important Questions to Ask

By Ingrid Palmisano….

Inigrid Palmisano

I know you are just getting settled in with school and  it’s hard to start thinking about next year already, but for the best K -12 schools in Miami, now is the time to get started and do your homework!  With so many choices, how do you decide? Being the Assistant Admission Director at local private school, I personally give over 400 tours a year with some years as few as 40 spaces available in the school. Walking onto an 19-acre campus can be pleasing to the eye with all of the different amenities offered but it is important to have the substance within that community to be just as impressive.  It is likely that while a family is assessing whether a prospective school is a good fit, I, or any other admission officer, is doing the same.  I value the questions that parents and students ask during the admission process and have come up with five questions that I encourage families to ask on tours.

What is your mission or your philosophy? This sounds like a general first question but it is often a missed one when determining a “good fit” for both student and school. While some families may have expectations of their children reading by three years old, it may be another family’s hope that a school would help to develop a love for reading.

What is the community like at your school? It is only by being immersed within a school that one can fully understand the culture of it.  I often have stories of students who are motivated to give of their time and gifts in service to others, stories of students who are so eager to learn that it is quite the norm to be grade levels ahead, or students who are passionate about their talents, that they become renowned artists and musicians.

Where do students attend college? While many families assume the high school process will lead to excellent colleges and universities, it is unfortunate that not all schools can say they have 100% graduation rate and acceptance to four year colleges and universities. If your plans are Ivy League, having designated College Advisors that get to know your child and assist them in the process is essential.  A school with graduates of those colleges and universities is also important.

How do you prepare your students for college? I just attended a lecture by a Harvard Professor that announced through his own research of freshman students determined that students who come from Independent Schools are taught to think in more abstract and collaborative ways. As a result of another survey he also mentioned that students from Independent Schools tend to think more globally and through dialogues were more prepared for discussion. He mentioned that due to the small class sizes, many Independent School students are less intimidated about asking questions and going to their professors for help.

What does your school offer in terms of financial aid? While there are many choices for free education in Miami, many of the Independent schools range in cost. It is helpful for a family to be forthcoming about whether or not they need financial aid. I have personally seen great students withdraw from the admission process because their families thought that they did not qualify for financial assistance. Advocate for your child if you find a place that you both know he/she belongs.

While these are just a few questions that I wish families would ask, I want to encourage any parent that is looking into schools for 2011 to become educated about the process and timelines. Take time to study a school’s website because this should provide a wealth of information.

Feel free to contact me with any admission questions at palmisanoi@miamicountryday.org.


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