Choosing a private school is a little like shopping for shoes. What looks good on the shelf isn’t necessarily what fits. By the same token, a school may seem like just the right place when you look at its website or brochure. But wouldn’t it be nice to try it on first?
Most Dallas private schools now offer (and many require) a visiting day, called a ‘shadow day’ for their middle and high school applicants. The visit allows kids to get a sense of what a school is like. Prospective students arrive before the starting bell and spend a full- or half-day with a current student. They attend classes, eat lunch in the lunchroom, and sometimes even dress out and participate in PE. Usually, part of the day is set aside for an interview with someone on the admissions staff.
The visit is a two-way street; your child gets a flavor of the school experience, and the school gets an up close and personal view of your child. Schools use the information gleaned from the classroom teachers to help make their admissions decisions, so it’s important to discuss the visit with your child first.
Here are some tips to help make your child’s visit a success:
1. Prepare – Introduce your child to the school’s website and other promotional material prior to his visit, so he knows a little about the school.
2. Blend in – Find out what the students wear and have your child dress accordingly. If students wear jeans, then have your child wear jeans as well. If the students wear a uniform, then a neat, conservative outfit is in order. Be sure he’s comfortable…it’s a long day.
3. Help your child make the best impression – Sit down with your child prior to his visit and have a Q & A. Some questions he should be prepared to answer include – Why are you interested in this school? What is your favorite/least favorite subject?, Why?, What interests/activities do you enjoy?, What do you do in your spare time? etc. You don’t want to stress your child about the visit, but I do think it’s important to remind him about using his best manners, being respectful to teachers and students, and listening attentively during class.
I encourage students to ‘shadow’ if they can. Your child’s experience is an important piece of the decision-making process.
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