Leo Marshall, Director of Admission and Financial aid at The Webb Schools (Claremont, CA), is our guest for our "How to Find a Private School" segment. He shares how to kick off your school search on the right foot.

Marshall's advice can succinctly be captured by two phrases and one word- hard work, ask questions, and plan.

He recommends that families start thinking about private schools earlier rather than later. Starting late leads to too much scrambling. Parents, Marshall asserts, have required assignments in this process. A family's admission plan will grow out of an early start and well done assignments.

Parents must clearly know why they're considering a move to private school. This requires looking at their child as an individual- their strengths, weaknesses, and goals, to see what he/she needs out of a school.

Avoid the celebrity school name game. Take your clear view of what your child needs and then look regions for schools that work well with your type of student.

Marshall suggests beginning to make the student-school fit by reading statements available on school web sites. How does the school declare and explain itself up-front? What does a school promise to do? Likewise he advises staying away from generalities like the school's college placement list and the price. Look at programs that fit what the student wants and needs.

This is hard work.

Then, visit the school(s); talk people; walk around; and, ask some hard questions.

  1. Will my child be known?
  2. Will my child be able to think out loud?
  3. Are the teachers coaches first and givers of information later?
  4. How will my child's talents be engaged at that school?

If you do one thing, visit the school and don't apply to too many. Applying to too many schools sends an obvious signal that you haven't done the hard work.