Skip to content

Image of a library

Choosing A School - A Checklist

>School Size and Type
>Academics
>Extracurriculars
>Daily Life
>College and Afterward


Ask yourself these questions and share the answers with your family to help you make your list. Some of the questions will be more important to you and your family than others. Listing your answers in order of importance will help you decide which schools are worth investigating, and which you can check off your list. These are also excellent questions to ask when visiting schools and when interviewing. 

School Size and Type 

  1. How far away do I want to go? 

  2. Would I rather live on campus at a boarding school, attend a day school, or join a community with both boarders and day students? 

  3. If I choose a boarding school, would I want to come home on weekends (five-day boarding) or stay at school all week (seven-day boarding)? 

  4. Where is the school located? Would I enjoy a quiet, rural setting, a school in the suburbs, or a school in the middle of a large city? 

  5. Would I prefer a large (500+) student body, or would I be more comfortable in a small school? (Keep in mind that even in very large independent schools, class size may be small. Checking the student/teacher ratio — the number of teachers per student — will give you a sense of how large classes are likely to be.) 

  6. Is the school single-sex or coed? Which is better for me? Why? 

  7. Is it important to my family that I attend a religious school? If so, what religious instruction do we seek?  

  8. Would I enjoy being in a school that includes all age levels, from kindergarten or first grade up, or would I learn better in school that only includes upper grades? Why? 

(back to top)

Academics

  1. Do I need a school that is structured, or one that offers students more autonomy? Which type would work best for my learning style, and why? 

  2. What is the school’s formal curriculum and educational philosophy? What do the different departments require? 

  3. Can I pursue independent study? 

  4. What if I find the school very difficult once I am enrolled? Are there support services to help me catch up or to support my learning style?

  5. Does the school offer the special programs I am interested in? 

  6. How tough are the grading standards at the school? How often are reports sent home? What happens if I begin to slip in one or more subjects? 

  7. What is the honor code at the school? What happens if someone violates it?

  8. What strategies are used to teach students who are not fluent in English?

  9. How does this school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade level standards?

  10. How is technology used to support teaching and learning at the school?

  11. What kind of library resources are available to students?

  12. What are the school's biggest accomplishments?

    (back to top) 

Extracurriculars 

  1. Are there opportunities for community service at the school? Are there community service requirements? 

  2. Is a powerhouse athletic program important to me? Is a strong theater, music, or art program available? How about academic clubs? 

  3. What are the athletic requirements? How are the facilities? 

  4. Are there intramural sports for kids who don’t want to play on a varsity or junior varsity team, but who enjoy athletics? 

  5. Would the school allow me to pursue a special interest outside of the extracurriculars offered, such as ice skating, horseback riding, or ballet? Are there special programs for these interests? 

  6. Does the school offer outdoor education or international programs? 

  7. What is the student government like? 

(back to top)

Daily Life 

  1. How does the school strive to make new students feel comfortable and welcome?

  2. If I go to boarding school, how is my roommate selected? Can I live on my own in a single room? 

  3. Will I have a homeroom teacher and/or an advisor? 

  4. Is there a dress code? 

  5. What are the school rules and how strictly are they enforced? Will kids who mess up get a second chance? 

  6. Does the school have a counseling program for kids who are struggling with the issues of adolescence or other issues? 

  7. If the school is religious, how does religious observation fit into school life? If I am not a member of the religion, will I participate in religious observation? 

  8. What if I have a food allergy or a moral/religious reason not to eat certain foods? Can the school meet my special dietary needs? And is the food good? 

  9. Does the school have traditions such as an all-school hike, a winter carnival, a special event at graduation, or a holiday assembly? Do those traditions appeal to me? 

  10. Would I enjoy the social life at the school? 

  11. What’s the school calendar like? Will it fit into my family’s needs and lifestyle? 

  12. What is the typical schedule for the school? 

  13. How well are the facilities maintained? Are bathrooms clean and well supplied? Do the grounds look safe?

  14. What is this school's approach to student discipline and safety?

  15. How does the school support students who have academic, social, and emotional difficulties?

(back to top)

College and Afterward

  1. Do alumni stay actively in touch with the school after they graduate? Do they support the school financially? 

  2. What percentage of the school's graduates attend college? 

  3. Is there a lot of support for the college admission process? 

  4. Where do graduates of the school go to college? Do they feel they were well-prepared? 

  5. What jobs do alumni of the school have?