What's Best - Public or Private School? 10 Questions for Sound Decision-Making

Posted by Sandy Spring Friends School on Feb 15, 2017, 4:15:00 PM
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For many families, the decision between enrolling a child in a public school or a private school is one filled with uncertainties. The following questions are frequently asked by parents and students when considering this important milestone.  Read on to find the answers that will help you make the right decision.

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Parent FAQs

Q: What is a private school?

A: Private schools are those funded and administered by non-public entities, typically through student fees (tuition) and/or private donations.

Q: Do private school students perform better academically than public school students?

A: The short answer is, it depends on the school. Many private schools utilize curricula that are distinct from public schools, and often emphasize knowledge and skill sets that may be different from the focus of public-school curricula. In many cases, private schools are correlated with higher academic performance, but not always.

Q: How much do private schools cost?

A: This also depends on the school. The national average private tuition is approximately $10,000 per year. However, this varies considerably among private schools, and many institutions offer scholarships and/or financial aid.

Q: What criteria do private schools use for admissions?

A: Applications that document a student's personal and academic information are standard admissions tools, as are interviews and competency tests. Teacher recommendations are often important for younger students, while past test results are commonly reviewed for older students. In some schools, a premium is placed on diversity of interest, extracurricular activities, and socio-economic background.

Q: Are private schools religiously-based?

A: Many private schools are parochial, though certainly not all. At SSFS, we employ the values of the Quaker tradition, and proudly welcome students from all faiths.

Q: Are private schools better than public schools?

A: This is really an assessment made based on personal values, and what you value in a school setting. At SSFS, we work hard to cultivate an environment that promotes personal and academic growth among our student body. We regularly review and revise our practices and standards to ensure the highest academic value for our students.  Our low teacher-to-student ratio allows for more personalized instruction and class participation - something not often found in a public school setting.

Student FAQs

Q: Do private schools have athletics and extracurricular activities? 

A: Yes! There are a variety of athletics, arts, and other extracurricular activities offered at private schools. In many cases, there are more opportunities for private-school students to participate in non-academic activities, regardless of skill level.

Q: Do I have to wear a uniform at a private school?

A: Many private schools do have dress codes, but not all. While some private schools require students to wear uniforms, more casual dress codes are usually employed.  Many private school students report they prefer wearing a uniform because of the reduced pressure around choosing the "right" clothes each day.

Q: Can a private school help me get into college?

A: Most private high schools, like SSFS, offer a college preparatory curriculum that includes Advanced Placement (AP) courses.  Special emphasis is placed on college counseling that begins as early as 9th grade for some private schools. In addition to an individual student's academic performance, admissions representatives from colleges also factor in how successful previous students of a particular school have been in their college or university.  Sandy Spring Friends School is proud to announce that we have a 99% college acceptance rate.

Q: Will the academics be harder at a private school?

A: Although the curriculum can be challenging at most private schools, students often find more support systems in place to make sure they get the help they need to succeed.  Class sizes are typically smaller than at public schools (fewer than 15 students), allowing more time for questions, discussion, and one-on-one time with the teacher.  This type of learning environment that private schools offer helps prevent students from falling behind.

As you consider your options, it's important to remember that the answer does not lie in whether one choice (public vs. private) is better than the other.  It's about finding the best learning environment for you or your child. 

Where will you find the greatest potential for personal growth and academic success?  You just might find it at SSFS!

Topics: Academics

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The Sandy Spring Friends School (SSFS) blog shares information weekly that inspires personal and academic growth in every aspect of life for parents and students.