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Why Private School

Robin Oliff
Parents in the Richmond, Virginia, area have many high-quality choices when it comes to elementary, middle, and high schools.
From public schools in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, and Richmond, as well as a wide range of private schools, parents have excellent options to consider.

Parents in the Richmond, Virginia, area have many high-quality choices when it comes to elementary, middle, and high schools. From public schools in Chesterfield, Hanover, Henrico, and Richmond, as well as a wide range of private schools, parents have excellent options to consider.
 
When faced with this choice, parents may wonder “should I consider private school?” And, if so, the next logical question is always “how do I choose which one?”

From experience -- I’ve worked in Admissions at Richmond-area schools for more than 20 years -- I know that the answer to that second question is unique to each family. However, there are some common themes.

Mission
Private schools (sometimes called independent schools) tend to be strongly mission driven, so it’s important to choose a school that fits your family. The mission should not only be words on a page, but should be lived every day in the classrooms and on the athletic fields, by the teachers, coaches, administrators, and students.

Class and School Size
Finding the right size school is a little bit like Goldilocks — too big, too small, or just right? The answer to this depends on your child’s personality and needs. Look for a school that is purposeful about its size, considering the right number of students per class and classroom. You may want to consider a school that is just the right size to facilitate personalized attention but is still large enough for a diversity of thought, skills, and talents in the classroom, on the theater stage, and on the court. Consider the average class size and student/faculty ratio to make sure your children will be able to build strong relationships with their teachers.

Academics
Private schools aren’t bound by the same testing requirements as public schools, which allows more curriculum flexibility. When teachers have to “teach to the test,” that can lead to a focus on memorization instead of innovative thought and real-life understanding. However, there can be quite a variation in quality of curriculum at independent schools, so make sure you’re choosing one with academic rigor that will successfully position your children for college applications and coursework, as well as their future careers.

Athletics
Athletic participation can enrich a student’s school experience, and enables children to learn important life skills like collaboration and the value of hard work. Athletics programs vary from school to school, and you may want to consider the breadth of the program (how many sports and which ones?) as well as the school’s athletic philosophy. Is it all about winning, or is winning valued along with development and teamwork?

Arts
A robust arts program means that arts aren’t merely electives; they are an important part of the curriculum. Even better? When art education is also integrated into other subjects, which encourages creativity and innovation. You may also want to consider schools where schedules and school size allow the flexibility for students to participate in both the arts and athletics.

Real-life Experiences
What students learn in school should go far beyond their textbooks. Look for visiting professor, innovator, and artist programs that expose students to the real-life application of their studies. Consider whether there is a community service requirement and/or travel opportunities that will take students off campus and immerse them in life beyond their neighborhoods.

Community and Networking
A strong community can enhance the school experience for the whole family. At a JK-12 school, both students and parents build lasting relationships that are important now and into the future. Additionally, alumni networks can give graduates a powerful networking and career boost.
 
As you are considering which Richmond-area school is right for your family, The Steward Admissions team is happy to help you consider the options and answer questions. We know that choosing a school whether public or private —is all about fit, and we’d like to help you find the right one.
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