The decision to enroll a child in a private school is ultimately a family matter. For the student, a private school represents great opportunity-but it also has drawbacks. Many parents fail to consider the negative consequences of sending their children to preparatory school.
Deciding to attend a preparatory school and also deciding upon the best school for the child must be a family affair. Parents often make financial arrangements and considerations, but neglect other issues such as:
- Another (unplanned) child-could the family afford to send both children?
- Commute-if the private school is greater than ten miles away, the public school district may not provide bus service.
- Adjustment-how well does the child adjust to new surroundings and situations?
The family should discuss these items over dinner, as a unit. Even a younger child should understand the investment being put forth in his or her education, and parents should know exactly how their child feels about adapting to a new school.
Private schools typically emphasize key qualities. The family should discuss these qualities and determine which are desirable to them and what these values mean to the family.
- Academic excellence
- Collegiate goals
- Critical thinking skills
Although the typical preparatory school education is typically exemplary, it isn’t for everyone. Those seeking an alternative private school experience, particularly one without the snobbery associated with nonsectarian preparatory schools, should consider other options.
- Friends schools, run in the Quaker tradition, are prevalent on the east coast of the United States. These schools teach tolerance and are open to students of any religion. They are typically more understanding of students with learning disabilities.
- Religious schools, such as Catholic schools or Christian academies, may be more appropriate if the family is hoping to instill certain moral and religious values along with their child’s education.
- Same sex schools may be best for parents with special considerations.
- Boarding schools might work for families who live local to the school but wish for the student to live on his or her own during the week. If the parents also travel frequently, a boarding school can provide a safe and stable environment for a student.
Most private schools allow prospective students to meet teachers and visit the school for one or more days. The student can experience first-hand the differences in educational and social environments at a preparatory school. After the visitation, the visiting student should be encouraged to honestly discuss his or her feelings about the school with the family.
If the family chooses to send a child to a private school, the child will undoubtedly receive a top education. In addition to the more rigorous academic standards set by the new school, the student will experience some other differences in education and socialization.
Upon arrival at private school, other children will expect some basic information that may shock the family. Students will ask what the child’s parents do for a living, their nationality and religion (as well as denomination), and possibly income and other private matters. Some students may also wish to know if the child’s parents are divorced.
This is sometimes caused by other parents wanting to learn about the parents of the new child. It is a societal game, and if the family is not willing to expect and react to this situation, a nonsectarian private school is probably not a good choice for the family. Ensure that the new student is prepared for these questions and knows how to answer them.
Middle and High School Development
Many private schools offer a complete educational experience. A student may never have to go to a different campus, leave friends, or lose contact with old mentors and teachers. Similarly, private school students are encouraged to attend mixers with students of similar schools, allowing them to socialize with other preparatory school students.
While this creates a level of comfort for the student which will allow him or her to succeed in college, it also presents the possibility of a sheltered world view. Families of older private school children should take them to cultural and social events beyond their own social circle and peers. Students should understand that their lifestyle is privileged and should be exposed to others without the same conveniences in a genuine manner.
Drugs and Alcohol
Drugs and alcohol are issues at all schools, and events concerning them are highly publicized when they occur at a private school with a fine reputation. Marijuana and other drugs are less prevalent at preparatory schools than at most other schools, however many students can afford to spend lavish amounts of money on drugs and alcohol if they wish to and if the substances are available.
High school private school drug users typically smoke pot and follow designer drug trends. Currently, cocaine is popular amongst those that can afford it, so the parents should remain aware throughout the child’s education.
Many parents also allow permissive drinking. Parents let their children throw parties. Students are expected to hand their keys over to the parents when they arrive to avoid drunk driving, and most parents will expect students to stay the night if drinking is involved. This activity is illegal, yet accepted in many posh circles. Be sure to discuss this as a family and set rules based on what the family finds acceptable.
As at any school, the administration of a private school can be bureaucratic. Some schools’ administrations pander to the parents with the most money or influence in the community. Become accustomed to this behavior and always attempt to do what is best for the family.
With clear expectations and careful social navigation, private school can be an enjoyable and beneficial experience for a student if the fit is right. If there are doubts, the family should explore alternative options and should not rush such an important decision.