5 Tips to Finding the Best Washington DC Area School for Your Child

5 Tips to Finding the Best Washington DC Area School for Your Child

By Trevor Waddington, Founder, DCschoolHUB

There are hundreds of quality tuition-based preschools and private/independent schools in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. If you are reading this, you are likely considering the tuition-based route. However, finding the right school that matches your family’s wants, needs, and values, as well as addressing your child’s learning style, strengths, and challenges, can be a daunting task. Even if you do find what you feel is the perfect match, there is no guarantee your child will be accepted. Even more, there’s the tuition. Some schools annual tuition is the equivalent of a new car, every year, per child. So if you are going to shell out all that dough, you better start researching soon! Here are the top FIVE tips to consider when starting your search for potential schools.

Here are my 5 Tips to Finding the Best Washington DC Area School for Your Child

1. Location

If you’re like me, you don’t want to be in transit with your kiddo for two hours a day. So it’s important to know your route to and from. Unless you are new to the DMV, you know what I-95, the Beltway, I-270, and I-395,  to name a few, are like during rush hour. Plus, only one minor fender bender and you are toast. When starting your search, sit down with those involved – spouse, nanny, relatives – and decide how far you are willing to travel, and by travel I mean time-wise. This can be accomplished via Google Maps, but be sure to match the depart time, so you get there during the arrival window.  Finally, make a hard comfort zone – distances you are willing to travel – and do not deviate from it. If you push too far outside your zone, you will end up resenting someone or the school if half your day is spent transporting your child to and from school.

2. Cost

CAccording to Private School Review, the average price of private education in the District is $25,014, but most of your marquee schools are in the upper 30’s and lower 40’s. Believe it or not, some DMV schools are pushing the 50K mark. When looking at schools, it is essential to figure out the bottom-line cost. To do this, you need to determine what tuition gets you. Are meals included? What about sports equipment? Is there a requisite donation you need to give annually? What about the grade or class-based fundraisers? Don’t forget transportation, orchestral instruments, and field trips. It all adds up. My suggestion is to speak to a parent at the school who may be able to shed some light on expected costs beyond tuition. Then it is up to you to make sure you can handle it long-term. Yes, financial aid and scholarships may be available, but that’s never guaranteed. I’ll cover cost saving for private school in another post.

3. School Focus

This one makes me shake my head pretty regularly. Often, parents and even students get caught up in the name, prestige and awe-inspiring facilities of a school and pay less attention to if the school is a good fit for their child. If your kiddo needs to move around and works best in small groups, then a traditional prep school might not be the right fit no matter how much you like the crest on the blazer. My advice is to think of your child first. S/he is going to be the one attending the school and you want them to be happy, engaged, and challenged. To learn about a school’s focus, take a look at their website. Usually, on an ‘About’ dropdown they will have a page that discusses their philosophy and programmatic ideology. On those pages, you may find terms like Montessori, International Baccalaureate (IB), progressive, Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf to name a few. Find out what they mean, and if it melds with your child’s learning and living style. When in doubt, you may want to consult an education professional to help you determine what’s best.

4. Family Values

Once you’ve determined it’s a good fit for your child, you then need to make sure it’s a good fit for your family. At this stage, questions about religious-based, single-sex, and boarding schools come in. How comfortable would you be sending your child to a Catholic school if you are Lutheran? Would you trade co-ed for all-girls if the program was an optimal match to your daughter’s academic prowess? Could you bare to send sweet Johnny away to a boarding school? Many boarding schools are moving to a 5-day boarding model so you can have your child home on weekends…if you want. We advise that you have this conversation before starting the process. You might be surprised to find that your co-parent or spouse prefers to leave God for Sundays.

5. School Model

Do you want your kiddo in one place until college or experience different schools throughout the years? That’s typically the question that abuts the K-8 vs. K-12 debate. If you get in at age four to a school that ends in grade twelve, you never have to go through the harrowing admission process again until college rolls around. The counter to that is what your child needs now may not be what s/he needs academically, socially, or emotionally down the line. This is a tricky debate because there are very valid arguments for both sides. In this situation, my advice: go with your gut, and you’ll likely end up in the right place.