Private High School vs. Public High School: Which one is right for your child?

Private High School vs. Public High School: Which one is right for your child?

The choice between a private high school vs. public high school doesn’t always come down to cost. Deciding where to send your child to high school can be a difficult decision. Last spring when in-school learning ceased and all schools across the country pivoted to remote learning, many public school families found that their school districts lacked the kind of robust remote- or hybrid-learning environments that private schools were able to provide.

As a result, many private schools, including private high schools, are experiencing enrollment upticks as some families have determined that the free educational option came at a cost. 

But how do you truly judge the value of a private school education? And how do you know if it’s right for your child? 

While different schools provide different benefits, a private education typically promotes smaller class sizes and more one-on-one attention from teachers and administrators. The extracurricular opportunities often are deeper and broader than public schools as well. And the networking potential from alumni connections, especially from among private high school graduates can help with careers.  

Whether you’ve already started looking at private schools, or are just starting to do your research, here is a breakdown of the differences between public and private high schools.

Size

Both public and private schools vary in sizes, but most private schools emphasize having smaller amounts of students in each classroom. Some students may love being a small fish in a big pond, whereas others may be looking for more intimate environments to learn and grow in. When there are too many students in a classroom, sometimes the educational value will depreciate. 

Consider the educational environment in which your child learns best. Can he thrive in a larger classroom? Will she benefit from a smaller faculty: student ration? Smaller classroom sizes allow for students to connect with their peers more and receive direct attention from their teachers. It can truly make all the difference for a student to feel supported in their learning endeavors.

Reputation

Some counties are known for their amazing public education, but that isn’t the case for everywhere in the country. You may be wondering if a private school education would benefit your child more or be considering making the switch. Private schools all differ in their benefits and reputations they hold. Be sure to do your research before choosing which school will be the best fit for your child.

Do a deep-dive into the website, social media, and admissions materials for a private school. If the school has an alumni magazine, read the class news section to see the accomplishments of its graduates. And talk to your neighbors, co-workers, and family members to see if they know current or past students. Asking current families about their experiences at a school is the best way to truly understand all that a school has to offer -- and where it might fall short for your child.

Many private high schools are known for producing students with higher achieving test scores, teachers with professional degrees, and advanced classes such as Advanced Placement or the International Baccalaureate program.

Special Programs

Public charter schools and magnet schools are also great options for students who may have a special skill or interest. Many private schools will also offer unique programs focusing on the arts or STEM-related fields with impressive research or internships programs for qualified students..

If your child is looking to specialize in a subject or gain more experience before college, check out the schools, public or private, in your area that may have a particular niche.

Religious or Single-Sex Value

Many private schools are centered around religious values or a single-sex education model. There are both proven benefits to single-sex education and schools that will promote religious-based curriculums. 

The benefits of Catholic, Christian, Jewish, and other religiously affiliated private schools are that they instill important lessons and values and are often less expensive than other independent schools. Additionally, many provide single-sex options to further help your child’s academic success and leadership potential.

Cost

As we navigate the current economic recession, cost is a concern for many families when choosing between private high school vs. public high school. Most private schools offer financial aid, and there are ways to budget expenses and save money for your child’s education. 

Comparing a private school cost to the programs and other benefits for students to what public schools in your area offer will allow for you to create an effective cost/benefit analysis. Now may be the best time to consider a private education for your child, particularly with the disadvantages the pandemic brings to educational value and in-person connections. A private education is an investment in your child’s future, and the past year has underscored the importance of such an investment.

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