When you’re starting your private school search journey, even the process of narrowing down your list of potential schools can be overwhelming.
How can you compare institutions with such different approaches, offerings, and communities? How do you contrast schools that seem so similar on paper (or, online)?
One smart way to simplify this process: attend a private school fair.
A school fair is when representatives from various schools come together in one location (either in-person or online) to provide information to potential students and families. School fairs may include keynote presentations from expert speakers, Q&A sessions with school reps, and a chance to meet with faculty, current or alumni students, or school leaders.
Right now, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt daily life, virtual school fairs are becoming a popular way to meet and compare the schools on your list, without having to attend separate in-person visits or individual online open houses.
Regardless of whether you plan to attend an in-person or online school fair this admission season, there are ways your family can prepare in advance and make the most of the opportunity.
There’s a lot you can learn about a school, its educational approach, and its community before you attend a virtual or in-person school fair.
To start, virtually visit the websites of the schools in which you are most interested. Read up on their missions, their faculty, and their curriculums. Find out about their offerings in the arts, athletics, and additional unique programming. Take a virtual tour of their facilities.
To learn more about their communities, read student or faculty blog posts (if available) or check out the school’s social media accounts. This will give you a great background on each school before you meet with a representative.
A school fair is a perfect place to gather quick answers to any lingering questions you may have about the schools on your list.
Once you do your background research, make a list of the specific questions you have for each of your top contender schools. These questions may have to do with cost, curriculum details, financial aid, community life, matriculation, and more. Having the opportunity to discuss any remaining concerns with school representatives should give you the clarity you need to further narrow down your list of potential private schools.
Perhaps you’re interested in specific programs, such as music or drama. Maybe you really want a private school with strong athletics. Perhaps community service opportunities or faith-based programming is really important to you.
Make sure you know what you’re looking for so that you can compare the offerings at a variety of schools. Consider creating a spreadsheet, or drawing a simple grid on paper, and filling in details from each school as they relate to specific topics of interest. This will ensure that you remember the key takeaways from each school in each category and can compare them after the fair.
For each school on your list, write down what action you will take after the fair. Maybe you need to do a little more research, or you would like to speak to a student or alumni about their experiences. Maybe you want to visit (or drive through!) campus in person.
During a school fair, school representatives will most likely suggest next steps to take if you are interested in moving forward with an inquiry or an application. This could be scheduling an interview, taking a standardized admission test such as the SSAT, or beginning the Standard Application Online.
The best thing about attending a school fair is that you’ll get to know a school much better than by simply reading their website or reviewing their social media presence.
Use this time to gather as much information as you can while keeping an open mind to what your best-fit may end up being. You may be surprised and find yourself drawn to a school that wasn’t at the top of your list!
The Enrollment Management Association (the makers of the SSAT) is offering free, comprehensive virtual school fairs throughout the admission season, featuring some of the best schools in North America. When you register, you will:
If you’re interested, register today! Attending a school fair is one of the easiest ways to kick off your private school journey, and now you can do it right from home!