One of the advantages of living in the Hudson Valley is the variety of educational options.
Beyond public schools, the region boasts a wide range of independent/private schools featuring distinct learning philosophies. Careful investigation of select schools is crucial in determining the one that provides the perfect atmosphere for your child to grow and flourish — the one with a community and learning environment that not only accepts, but also fosters his or her innate talents while also furnishing new opportunities.
It is vital to do your homework and find a school that is the right “fit” for your child, where he or she will make friends and be prepared to succeed in college, career, and life. Keep an open mind: the right fit may not be same school for your child as the one that your colleagues are talking about for their children.
The Masters School, a Dobbs Ferry-based, coed day and boarding college preparatory school for grades 5-12, provides five key points to consider to help you determine which school is best for your child:
1. Location and Facilities
What are the logistics of traveling to and from the school — by car, carpooling, public or private bus, or Metro-North? Consider local day schools that also have a boarding component, such as the Masters School. A local boarding school offers a child the advantages of a boarding school environment, but is convenient for the family to visit and attend school activities, and still allow the child to have an occasional weekend at home.
Tour the campus and facilities to determine if they match your child’s needs and enhance the learning, athletic, and social experience.
2. Educational Program and Philosophy
No one knows your child better than you. Is he or she better suited to a large or small school? Coed or single-sex? Is your child an accomplished athlete, artist, or musician? Is your child very strong academically and needs to be challenged, or a student who requires a more supportive academic environment?
Ask probing questions of the admissions office; a good admissions officer will work with you to determine if your child will fit in socially and thrive academically.
To succeed in college and beyond, today’s students must be able to think critically, conduct research, collaborate, and communicate effectively. Ask about the school’s day-to-day teaching methods. For instance, the Masters School utilizes collaborative group classes, so students are shoulder-to-shoulder with their teachers and one another.
Determine where your child will develop into the strongest problem solver and most effective communicator. Read the course catalog carefully; pay particular attention to signature course offerings, extra-curricular activities, and “field trips” that fit your child’s hobbies, sports, and interests.
Every school has a distinct personality. The Internet, though a valuable tool for getting basic information, is not always effective at capturing the school’s character. A school visit is imperative.
Ask current students and alumni what life and education are like on the campus, and whether the school “culture” is compatible with your family’s lifestyle.
Today’s students benefit greatly from exposure to a student population that is racially, ethnically, and economically diverse. Many private schools intentionally seek cultural diversity, especially boarding schools that often draw 10-15 percent of their student body from other countries.
Look at the list of teachers and student/teacher ratio—talented educators and smaller student/teacher ratios are key drivers in a private school’s tuition. Contact specific teachers by email, ask them questions, and try to arrange a time to meet when you visit the campus.
If your child is interested in art, music, or sports, make sure you are comfortable with a coach or instructor’s philosophy and approach.
Try to visit the school during a regular school day. Is the classroom organized in the traditional fashion with rows of desks, or do the students sit around more collaboration-enhancing tables? If you can observe a class, pay attention to how the teachers treat and engage the students, stay on task, etc.
5. College Counseling
Talk to the college counselors and ask about their process for guiding students to the best college for them, not necessarily to colleges that look best on the school’s matriculation list. Being realistic, are students from that school being accepted to the types of colleges where you believe your child would thrive?
Through careful investigation of private schools, you can find the right fit for your child.
The Masters School
49 Clinton Ave., Dobbs Ferry
The Masters School is a coed day and boarding school that engages 5th-12th grade students in a rigorous college preparatory curriculum developing the complex skills for a complex world. Students benefit from the resources, diversity, and activities of Masters’ seven-day campus, accessible faculty, and proximity to New York City.
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