A How to Guide to Finding the Right Fit and Facilitating a Smooth Transition
BY HAILEY HUDSON JANUARY 2019
Have you decided that it’s time for your child to switch schools, but you don’t know where or how to start looking for a new school? There are ten important steps you need to follow to find a new school and help your student successfully begin classes. The prospect of changing schools might be daunting for children and teenagers. But Kristen Peterec, high school counselor at Macon’s ACE (Academy for Classical Education), says to encourage students to keep an open mind. “There will be both positive and negative parts of the new school, just as there were positive and negative parts of the old school.” Here are a few ways to make the transition easier.
1 Be Informed. When it comes to choosing a school for your child, you need to obtain the maximum amount of information possible to help you make a decision. “Parents should be good consumers of education,” says Laura Perkins, ACE’s principal and co-founder. “Prior to going to a school, they should review as much information in regard to student achievement as possible.” In the early stages of the decision process, Peterec suggests looking on the school’s website “to see if the school’s expectations are ones that both [your] child and [you] can follow.” You’ll also want to study the Annual School Section in this issue—particularly, the School Directories. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of schools, you can visit in person.
2 Discuss the X Factor. The X factor refers to the features of a school that are most important to your family. This is something that will be different for everyone. To figure out what the X factor is for you, take a look at your family’s values and passions. Perhaps your faith is important to you, and you want a faith-based school. Maybe your high school student is a serious softball player with hopes of getting a college scholarship; find a school with a strong softball program. Or perhaps the single most important element to you is whether a school offers tutoring with its faculty members. Talk with your family to decide what the X factor is for you.
3 Hit Those Open Houses. Figure out your top choices and then attend those school’s open houses and any other workshops that are offered. You will find a list of upcoming options in our TAKE NOTE section in this issue. If you’re looking at a public school, keep in mind that most public schools don’t hold their open house until after classes have begun, so you’ll need to call and make an appointment for a tour of the facilities. That goes for schools of interest whose Open Houses aren’t listed in TAKE NOTE as well.
4 Ask Questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions—there’s no such thing as too many! If you’re not sure what to ask, Laura Perkins provides more tips on what you might want to ask both faculty at the school and parents of current students:
■ What clubs, fine arts, and athletic activities are offered?
■ How does grading work and what are the academic expectations?
■ What expectations does the school have for homework and outside reading?
■ If the school requires a uniform, what does the uniform consist of?
■ How does the school handle disciplinary infractions? How are students who disrupt class handled?
■ What is the credentialing for teachers?
Martha Eubanks, college counselor at Stratford Academy, says that “parents and students evaluating a secondary school for possible transfer should look closely at two aspects: academics and campus culture.” To get an idea of a school’s academic standards and opportunities, ask about whether AP courses are offered, how much contact students have with a college counselor, and where school graduates are attending college. Campus culture is equally as important as academics, and Eubanks says you can ask the following questions to evaluate a school’s campus culture: Are transfer students given an advisor and peer mentor to ease the transition? How will the student’s course of study thus far integrate into the new school’s curriculum? Will the student be able to continue to participate in such special programs as athletics or fine arts? These questions will help you get a broader picture of the school and what student life is like outside the classroom as well as inside.
5 Involve Your Child. Don’t forget to involve your child in every step of the process—after all, they’re the one who will be attending the school! Ask him or her what features he or she wants to see in a new school, take them to open houses, and let them ask any questions they have. Give your child a voice, and don’t make the decision without them; this should be a choice where parents and child, especially children at middle or upper school levels, should have input.
6 Pick a School. After narrowing your selection to as few schools as possible, it’s time to make the big decision. If you’re waffling back and forth between a few specific schools, it can help to sit down and make a list of the pros and cons of each school. Let your child make a similar list and then compare notes; this can help your family get on the same page to make the final decision.
7 Meet & Greet. Once you’ve made your decision, make an appointment to visit and tour the campus and meet your child’s new principal, teachers, and the school’s other faculty. “It is very helpful, if possible, that the student and parent come before the first day of school to meet with the school personnel [and] get their questions answered, have a chance to see the classrooms, [and] walk through the halls,” Peterec says. Eubanks also recommends that, if possible, “prospective transfers should sit in on classes.” This has two big benefits: It will help your student feel more comfortable about their new school, and it will help you as a parent ascertain what goes on in the classroom.
8 Preparation Is Key. Many schools distribute or sell textbooks to students who want to do a little more academic preparation over the summer. Furthermore, many public and private schools require students to complete a reading list or fulfill other requirements over the summer, so don’t forget to ask about those. And don’t overlook practical details such as purchasing uniforms. “It is also critical to bring all educational paperwork for [your] child—report cards, transcript, IEP, 504, etc.,” says Peterec.
9 Socialize. If the school offers informal meetings for parents, be sure to attend. Also, try to make opportunities for your child to meet other students before the first day. “Remember to reach out to a variety of students, [and] give yourself time to get to know the students,” Peterec says. Your student may want to form a study group or join a club in an effort to begin making friends and getting to know new classmates.
10 Stay Involved. You’ve looked at your options, chosen a school, and successfully sent your child off for their first day of classes. But your involvement with the school doesn’t stop there. In fact, it’s time to get even more heavily involved. Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities, and help out as much as your schedule will allow. Parent support is huge for kids who are transferring schools—being there for your kids will help that scary first day seem a whole lot easier.