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Choosing a high school comes with its fair share of considerations. Is it within a convenient distance of your home? Is the curriculum fit for your child? Are there opportunities for extracurricular activities? Conversations are thrown around by parents, retelling stories of disappointment, elation, and anything in between. One parent may love what a high school has done for their child, while another may express their distaste, simply due to personal experiences, or stories they have heard from friends and family. Essentially, you can only listen to so much. When choosing the right high school, it all comes down to experiencing the school yourself.
So, how can you do this before enrolling your child? That is what we’ll aim to explore. There is more to it than just turning up and wandering around the school grounds (although this is a vital step that we will explore a little deeper). Being proactive in your search, asking questions, and searching for evidence that will reinforce your decision, can grant you confidence and comfort when making that ultimate decision. With this in mind, let’s explore five pivotal things to consider when choosing a high school.
Many people may make their decision based on the school’s reputation, or through conversational evidence. This is not advisable. While certain schools may be well established in the community and boast impressive grades, factors such as these are only part of a larger picture. Choosing a high school is a very personal decision. Some schools may wow you with a slick presentation or an illustrious speech from the headteacher. Open evenings will be offered and, while it is still advised you attend to gain the entire perspective, you must remember that the school will be trying hard to present itself in the best light possible.
Take this on board, but, if possible, also make time to attend during a regular school day. Speak to the students and ask about their experience. Most of the time, students aren’t afraid to speak their minds, so this will give you a good insight into the true nature of the school. If the high school avoids giving you the opportunity to speak with a student, take this as a red flag. Visit the classrooms and see if they’re cared for or neglected. Have discussions with the teachers. Aside from the children, teachers are the most important cog in the machine. Are they passionate? Tired? Enthusiastic? Unbothered? Friendly? After all, your child will be spending the most time with these people. If educators can build a solid relationship with their students, engagement and learning outcomes will be bolstered.
Once you have gained an understanding of the school’s fundamental operations on a daily basis, take its educational philosophy into account. Every school is different. While one school may excel in a certain academic area, another could offer more in other subjects. For example, if you have discovered that the school places a great deal of importance on ‘teaching to the test’, this may be a structure that proves rigid and stifles creativity.
For more opportunities, you should look for high schools that develop their curriculum in a deep, holistic way, allowing students to explore different learning styles. Take into account the type of interests your child has, whether these are accommodated for, and if they would benefit from specialised skills (such as problem-solving, critical thinking, creativity, and more). Gaining a more thorough understanding of the school’s educational philosophy will allow your child to receive a lot more from their learning journey.
College support and student outcomes
Transitioning from high school to higher education can be a daunting, confusing step for any student. Take the effort to find information about what occurs beyond graduation. Ask questions related to the percentage of graduating seniors that are accepted into their first-choice colleges. Look into the college acceptance rate for the schools you are considering.
Numbers and data can certainly help you gain a wider view of the whole picture, such as class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios, but looking into the statistics found beyond their time at the school will give you a clearer idea of where your child’s ultimate path may lead. If a high school successfully supports its students in making this intimidating leap, this is a good sign.
High schools don’t end with academia. Of course, while core education is a vital part of any school, also take into account extracurricular activities offered by the high school. Is there a variety? Are there options that will suit your child’s interests? Do clubs, teams, and communities exist? As many colleges take extracurricular involvement into consideration, such activities will provide more opportunities going forward.
Not only this, but extracurricular activities can truly enrichen any student’s experience at the school, offering them valuable skills that can be carried forward into future pursuits. Schools are not solely about words and numbers. Schools are there to help mold students into well-rounded individuals, allowing them the opportunity to become familiar with students outside of the classroom. There is absolutely no harm in searching for a school that gives students something exciting to look forward to at the end of the day.
As mentioned before, choosing a high school is a very important, personal decision. The most important thing to consider comes down to your instincts. For example, if an open evening is extremely linear, filled with unrelenting PowerPoint presentations, without the chance for open discussion with staff or students, take it as a red flag. This is the sign of a school that may be hiding something, fearful of being discovered. It will also be a firm indicator of you and your child’s future relationship with the school.
On the other side of the coin, if the school is open for you to have open discourse with its staff and students, this is a good sign of the communication you will experience going forward. Ultimately, look for a school that you feel has a warm and inviting atmosphere, with content children and teachers, and your child will reap the benefits.
1. “How to Choose the Right High School” by GreatSchools Staff – https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/choosing-high-school/
2. “A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing the Right High School” by ThoughtCo – https://www.thoughtco.com/choosing-the-right-high-school-2774351
3. “5 Things to Consider When Choosing a High School” by U.S. News & World Report – https://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/articles/2019-05-29/5-things-to-consider-when-choosing-a-high-school
4. “How to Choose the Best High School for Your Child” by Parenting for Brain – https://www.parentingforbrain.com/how-to-choose-high-school/
5. “Choosing a High School: 8 Important Factors to Consider” by Noodle – https://www.noodle.com/articles/choosing-a-high-school-8-important-factors-to-consider