How do I begin the process of finding the right school for my child?
While all the schools in NJAIS are committed to providing a positive and safe educational experience for all children, there is no common mold for our schools. Each school has developed a distinctive program and culture based upon its mission and suited to its own community. Finding the "right match" is not an easy process and parents should gather as much information as possible. It is recommended that parents begin this process the spring or fall before the year in which they wish to enroll their child. Also, parents should consider a number of schools as many schools have more applicants than places for new students.
Just as each school is unique, so each child possesses differing needs and desires. A family should spend time assessing what these needs and desires are. How competitive or supportive an academic setting is desirable? Is remedial help needed in certain areas? Does your child perform better in a structured or relaxed environment? Would your child be more comfortable in a single-sex or a coed school? Is a day school or a boarding school setting a better environment for your child? Are there special programs that would be of particular interest (international exchange, experiential education)? What are your child's favorite subjects, activities, sports?
At the same time parents need to consider their own preferences and concerns. What level of formality (dress code, approach to discipline) would make you most comfortable? Do you want opportunities to volunteer at school? Where do you hope your child will go for the next level of education? Do you have questions about costs and/or financial aid? Do you need an extended day program? Is transportation a concern?
As you attempt to answer these questions, you should also begin collecting information about the various schools in which you are interested. Call and request admission brochures and application materials or go to the Find A Member School section of this website to find links to our member schools. Find out the requirements and deadline dates of the admission process. Are interviews with you and your child required? What type of admission testing or academic assessment must your child undertake? Are references from current teachers required? Are there deadline dates for various steps in the process? When will schools make admission decisions and/or financial aid decisions? The more information you can pull together, the better able you will be to understand and navigate the process.
Visiting schools is fun! You may want to ask questions about the school culture, curriculum, students, faculty, administration, guidance, and the role of parents. When you tour a school, look at the interactions among adults and children. Be aware of what is displayed. And, listen to your gut.
How do I decide which school is the right choice for my child?
Once you have learned the admissions decisions from the schools to which you applied, you may have choices. If a school accepted your child, you will be given a certain amount of time to make your choice - usually two weeks to a month. While schools have a range of policies and procedures regarding additional visits, you might be able to visit the school again. Many families seek out parents whose children are already enrolled in the school. These parents can provide useful insights about the school's community, program, and faculty. Making the final decision is never easy, but be sure that your decision does take into account as many of the things you were looking for in the first place.
Whichever school you choose, be sure to inform the other schools which accepted your child of your final decision. Many schools have candidates on waiting lists, and these students are eager to learn whether a space will become available. Therefore, prompt responses are not only considered a common courtesy, but vitally important. If you are waiting to hear from a school and another school is demanding the enrollment agreement, you should call and ask to speak with the Director of Admissions at both schools. Some schools will extend the deadline while you wait to hear from another school. Other schools will make the deposit refundable. Schools differ in policies. It is important for you to ask, however, so that you are making a fully informed decision about your child's future.
Once you return the enrollment contract along with a tuition deposit, your family will be considered part of that school's community. You will hear several times from the school before the start of the next school year and will begin to experience the sense of community and caring that is such an important part of the independent school world.