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2017 San Diego Private School Primer

A parent's guide to selecting the best campus and curriculum for your child's unique educational needs.

San Diego is home to more than 300 private schools, offering a wealth of exceptional choices. Naturally, you want to make an investment that helps your child grow academically, socially, and athletically, but where do you begin when it comes to the selection process? Friends and neighbors may speak highly of a particular school and online reviews may rave, but that does not ensure a perfect fit for your family. Read on for expert advice that will help you select a learning environment where your child can thrive and ultimately excel.

Looking Beyond The Brochure

Private schools tend to have unique, individual cultures. Exploring the school culture in advance can help you make a choice that aligns with your family values.

Is the school part of a community where parents are actively involved, or do most simply drop off and pick up? Are volunteer hours required? Does the school promote character traits and does that matter to you? Does the school have a policy concerning LGBTQ students? What is the disciplinary policy? (Think dress code infractions, behavioral issues, bullying.)

Begin with the End in Mind

If your children are in kindergarten or elementary school, your selection criteria for a private school will be quite different than if your child is entering high school. If you’re considering a K-12 campus, be sure to tour all of the campuses and ask detailed questions about each phase of the school’s curriculum. Some private schools have outstanding programs offered in the lower grades, but experience significant quality decline and attrition by grades 7–12.

Emphasis on Athletics

One component of a quality private school education is a well-run athletic program. A great number of private schools offer athletics rivaling many colleges and universities. If your child is already showing talent or interest in a particular sport, make sure the school you’re considering has an established program and consider meeting with the coach to ask more specific questions.

Top Six Reasons Parents Pick Private

  • Provide an education that will challenge the child (97%)
  • Help child develop/maintain a love of learning (96%)
  • Small class size/individual attention (84%)
  • Help child develop a strong moral character (82%)
  • Help child’s emotional and social development (77%)
  • Help child secure superior college placement (74%)

Did You Know?

There are 317 private schools in San Diego County, serving 59,524 students.

The average private school tuition is $8,580 for elementary school and $15,847 for high school.

The average acceptance rate is 85 percent.

51% of San Diego private schools are religiously affiliated.


Exploring Your Options

Is a religious curriculum important, or is your investment better spent on rigorous college prep courses? Here’s a quick summary of the types of private schools you may consider:

Traditional: This type of school may be a for-profit business or a nonprofit (such as those run by private foundations)

Boarding: A boarding school by definition is any school that offers food and lodging. Most require students to live on campus during the school year.

Montessori: This school model puts a great emphasis on exploration and individualized learning. Most offer curricula from pre-K through grade 8.

Parochial: A parochial school is a religious private school that receives funding from a local church.

Religious: These private institutions have a specific religious affiliation such as Catholic, Lutheran, or nondenominational Christian and often incorporate chapel services and faith-based training into the curriculum.

Quick Tips for Interview Success

Should you decide to move forward with private school enrollment, keep in mind that the school will also be interviewing you and your child. Minimize stress and help your child shine with these interviewing tips:

Body language matters.

Make good eye contact, smile, and be relaxed.

Dress appropriately.

Leave the jeans, sneakers, and baseball cap at home.

Ask questions!

Admissions officers appreciate children who take a sincere interest in their academic future.

Shake hands and say thank-you.

Good manners always impress.

Counting the Cost

Once you get past the sticker shock of the private school you just fell in love with, do ask about payment options.

Are there monthly or quarterly payment plans?

What about scholarships or need-based tuition discount programs?

It might be more affordable than you think!

Interview Checklist

Always plan enough time during your school tour to meet privately with the school’s administrator.

Here is a list of questions you should have handy:

  • Does tuition increase annually? If so, how much?
  • What are the additional fees (uniforms, books, technology/sports fees)?
  • What is the student-teacher ratio and class size?
  • Does the school have a STEM program?
  • What curriculum does the school use and how does it compare to provincial education guidelines?
  • If the school claims to be college prep, ask follow-up questions, since the term can be subjective. Are there AP classes? What about an International Baccalaureate (IB) program? Is dual enrollment available at the high school level?
  • What percentage of upper-class students go on to four-year university?

Vet the Instructors

Well-credentialed teachers are often the foundation of a private school education. Be sure to ask:

What qualifications are used to select instructors?

Are instructors single-subject credentialed?

On average, how much teaching experience do they have?

What kind of professional development is offered?

San Diego Private Schools Guide

2017 San Diego Private School Primer

2017 San Diego Private School Primer

2017 San Diego Private School Primer

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