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It's a question most families ask when they are considering private school as an alternative option for high school: How can I find private schools near me? While finding the right educational institution may seem daunting, there are many sites and resources available to assist you in finding a private school near you.
Start With a Google Search
Chances are, you've gone to Google or another search engine, and typed in: private schools near me. Simple, right? That might even be how you found this article. Doing a search like that is great, and it can offer a lot of results, but not all of them will be relevant to you. How do you get around some of these challenges?
To start, remember that you're likely going to see several advertisements from schools first, not just a list of schools. While you can check out the ads, don't get stuck on them. Instead, keep scrolling down the page. Depending on where you live, there may be only one or two options listed, or there may be dozens, and narrowing down your choices can be a challenge. But, not every school in your area will always come up, and not every school is right for you.
One great thing that comes with a Google search is the fact that, often, the results that you receive from your search contain reviews from people who currently attend or have attended the school in the past. Reviews can be a great way to learn more about the experiences other students and their families have had at a particular private school and can help you determine if the school might be the right fit for you. The more reviews you see, the more accurate the star rating likely will be when it comes to assessing a school. There's a caveat to using reviews, however. It's important to remember that reviews are often submitted by people who are either terribly upset about an experience or extremely satisfied. Not many “average” reviews are submitted, but that doesn't mean you can't use them as part of your research. It just means that you should take the overall rating with a grain of salt, especially if you only see a few negative ratings.
Private School Directories
Directories can be a very useful tool in your search for a private school near you. The best thing to do is to go to the site of a governing body, like the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) or the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), which are considered by many to be the most reliable directories around. NAIS works with only independent schools that are accredited by the organization, while NCES will return results for both private and independent schools. What's the difference between private and independent schools? How they are funded. And, all independent schools are private, but not vice versa.
Side note: if you're interested in boarding schools in particular (yes, you can actually find boarding schools near you and many families do), you might check out The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS). Many students want the experience of living away from home without having to live far away from home, and a local boarding school can be the perfect solution. This is something that students tend to do if they are nervous about going away from home to college for the first time. Boarding schools offer a college-like experience but with more structure and supervision than students find at a college or university. It's a great stepping stone experience.
There are dozens of other directory sites out there, but I highly recommend sticking to some of the most reputable ones. Many sites follow a “pay to play” model, meaning that schools can pay to be featured and promoted to families, regardless of rating or fit. You can also visit sites with longstanding reputations, like PrivateSchoolReview.com or BoardingSchoolReview.com.
There's a bonus to using some of these directories, in that many of them are more than just a list of schools by location. They also let you drill down into what's important to you when searching for a school. That may be a gender breakdown (coed vs. single-sex), a particular sport or artistic offering, or academic programs. These search tools help you fine tune your results and find the best private school for you.
Pick a School and View the Athletic Schedule
Believe it or not, this is a great way to find more private schools near you, even if you're not an athlete. Private schools tend to compete against other schools in their local area, and if it's within driving distance for the school, it's likely driving distance for you, too. Find a private school near you, regardless of if you like the school or not, and navigate to their athletic schedule. Make a list of the schools they compete against according to that athletic schedule and start doing some research to determine if they might be a potential fit for you.
Believe it or not, social media is a great way to find private schools near you and even get a glimpse into the culture of the school. Sites like Facebook offer reviews that you can read to find out what other students and their families think about attending the institution. These social media pages also let you view photos, videos, and see what kinds of activities are going on at the school. Private school is more than just academics; it's often a way of life, with many students involved in activities after classes end, including sports and arts. Plus, you can see if any of your friends like a particular private school near you and ask them for recommendations. If you follow a school, you can get updates about student life regularly and the bots that are hard at work learning your preferences may even suggest other schools in the area that you might find interesting.
People looking for the best private schools often flock to ranking systems for advice. Now, most rankings are going to return a wider range of locations than what you'd get doing a search for “private schools near me,” but they can be a great resource for collecting names of schools that might interest you and learn a little bit about a school's public reputation. However, ranking systems come with several warnings, ranging from the fact that many are based on information that is three or more years old or is often subjective in nature. There's also the ugly fact that some ranking systems are actually "pay to play", meaning that schools can actually buy their way (or influence their way) to a higher level rank. That doesn't mean that you can't use ranking systems to aid you in your search, quite the contrary; using a ranking list gives you a quick view at a school's profile and you can go and do your own research to find out if you actually like the school and wish to proceed with an inquiry. But, always take a ranking result with a grain of salt and don't rely on someone else to judge if a school is right for you.
When looking for a private school, the most important thing is to find the best private school for you. That means, knowing that you can manage the commute, afford the tuition and fees (and/or qualify for financial aid and scholarships), and enjoy the community. The school that's 30 minutes away might just be a better fit than the one that's five minutes away, but you won't know unless you look.