With the onset of fall, a majority of Baltimore area Independent Schools will hold open houses as part of an integrated effort to introduce themselves to you and your family. These weekend events often provide the first glimpse into the independent school community. Plan to attend several open houses – the journey will be well worth your investment. Open houses provide you, your family, and most importantly, your child with an opportunity to get a sense of several different schools’ environments and a glimpse at the diversity of faculty, staff and students at each school.
As you attend each open house, make a list of five key areas that your visit should include:
- Academics. What is the school’s educational philosophy? How do they teach?
- Atmosphere. Do you have a sense of a warm, nurturing environment?
- Leadership. Were you impressed with the head of school or the division head?
- Faculty. Did you have an opportunity to meet any of the faculty?
- Facilities. How do they measure up? Are they modern and updated?
The missing ingredient is of course the student body. As a follow up to the open house, you should schedule a family tour during the academic day. This will provide you and your child a deeper opportunity to evaluate and experience the school’s educational community. The next step will be for your child to spend a day “shadowing” a current student by attending classes, eating lunch with other students, and attending a school wide event.
Now comes the challenging part all families face when choosing an independent school education. How will your family pay for it? As you work with the admissions team at each school of interest, they will walk you through a four-part financial aid process that includes:
- Financial Assistance
- Determining Need
- Payment Plans
Each school has very specific deadlines for the financial aid process. It is critically important to meet each of those deadlines. You and your spouse will need to set aside several hours to complete a comprehensive financial aid form. Many of these forms will be online and will require access to your most recent tax returns. If at any point during the process you have questions, be sure to consult with the admissions team at the school. Don’t let the process intimidate you. Plan ahead as you will need to do a fair amount of research of your family’s financial records.
As you begin the financial aid process, here are two online resources that will help educate your family and provide an overall context to the journey. Good luck!
NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools)
The NAIS website has an outstanding financial aid resource section, “Affording Independent School”. If you plan on applying for financial aid this is a must read.
B.E.S.T. (Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust), http://www.besttrust.org
From the B.E.S.T. homepage: “Founded in 1987, B.E.S.T. supports academically ambitious African American children with financial need in the Baltimore area by assisting them through the admissions process as they apply to Independent Schools.”
Jonathan Oleisky is president of Kalix Communications