The in­sider’s guide to the pri­vate school open house

What to look for, what to ask and how to de­cide if you’ve found the right fit

Toronto Life - - Special Advertising Feature -

Find­ing the right pri­vate sChool in toronto can be just as tough as find­ing a great place to live in the city. Like buy­ing a house, choos­ing a school in­volves con­sid­er­ing count­less mov­ing parts: qual­ity, lo­ca­tion, size, price and a cer­tain je ne sais quoi. Luck­ily, there are ways to help par­ents find the right fit for their child. Here, to kick off our an­nual di­rec­tory, are four tips to help you con­quer the school-hunt­ing process. Get up close and per­sonal

On­line re­search will help you com­pile a list of con­tenders, but you’ll need to pound the pave­ment to find the school that’s right for your fam­ily. Start by bring­ing your young­ster to open houses—most pri­vate schools hold them in Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber (see pg. 97 for a more de­tailed cal­en­dar). Fol­low that up with one-on-one in­ter­views at the schools that stood out, where you can ask about specifics that mat­ter to your fam­ily: school cul­ture, cour­ses on of­fer, sports pro­grams and other ex­tracur­ric­u­lars. Plan ahead— but don’t panic

When you’ve set­tled on your top choices, ap­ply early, as spots tend to fill up quickly. Schools send of­fer let­ters to new stu­dents in Fe­bru­ary, but don’t fret if none ar­rives. Most also hold ad­di­tional open houses in the early spring, so you’ll have an­other chance to check out other schools be­fore ad­mis­sions close for good. Be fi­nan­cially savvy

Tuition costs can be in­tim­i­dat­ing, but don’t let them knock a school off your fam­ily’s list of op­tions. Most schools of­fer fi­nan­cial aid (needs-based bur­saries for lower-in­come fam­i­lies) as well as merit-based schol­ar­ships, which can cover a por­tion of, or in some cases, the en­tire cost of tuition. Some schools also of­fer flex­i­ble pay­ment plans or dis­counts if mul­ti­ple sib­lings en­rol. Out­side of the aca­demic world, re­li­gious groups, sports or­ga­ni­za­tions and the pro­vin­cial govern­ment also of­fer as­sis­tance, so cast a wide net. Know the dif­fer­ences

Not all of the fol­low­ing schools are tech­ni­cally “pri­vate.” Schools that use the pri­vate des­ig­na­tion are for-profit busi­nesses, while in­de­pen­dent schools are non-prof­its run by elected boards of governors. Each has its ben­e­fits, but it’s worth know­ing the dif­fer­ence: ac­cred­ited in­de­pen­dent schools are con­sid­ered char­i­ties, which means you can re­ceive a tax re­ceipt for tuition. You may also get a re­ceipt if there’s a re­li­gious com­po­nent to a school’s cur­ricu­lum.

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