When looking at a private day or boarding school for your child, Open Houses are one of the best ways to experience what the school has to offer, while meeting the teachers, parents, students, and administrators. At the same time, Open Houses can be a whirlwind, especially if you are considering multiple schools. I know this well, as I’ve gone through the process from both sides, as a parent (twice!) and now as a member of the Admissions Team at CH-CH.
From my experience in attending Open Houses with my daughters, and now helping run and organize them, I’ve put together the 10 most important tips to ensure you get the most value out of your visit.
If you are considering attending a private school’s open house, make sure to register as soon as you can. The first reason is that open houses are regularly filling up these days, and it’s important to lock in your registration before it fills up. Secondly, the school will likely send you the necessary information about the school and the open house once you’re registered. So, go ahead and sign up!
2. Do Your Research
Now that you’re registered, you can take some time and learn more about the school. Take a look at their website, their social media, and even their YouTube channel. This will give you a sense of their programming, and what day-to-day life looks like at the school. If any questions come up during this research, it will give you great questions to ask when you arrive for the open house.
3. Review the Agenda
Each private day and boarding school has a different approach to its open house. Check to see if the school has posted or emailed the agenda for the day. Students (and parents) are often nervous to visit a new school, full of new people. Reviewing the agenda together can help everyone know what to expect. Will students and parents have different tracks? Will there be a walking tour? Will students attend a sample class? These are all helpful in making sure there are no surprises when you check-in.
4. Note the Arrival Time
Some open houses are drop-in, where you can arrive within a set time frame, while others have a predetermined timeline for the day. Take note of when you can arrive early, and I recommend arriving at that time. This will help you arrive and check in before the “rush” of people closer to the start time. It will also allow you to get settled, and this is often the best time to have some relaxed conversations with current students and teachers that will be there helping. At CH-CH, our open house program begins at 1 PM, and registration begins at 12:30. We have lots of students and teachers ready at that time to talk with families and answer any questions.
5. Use the Lens of the Student
Once at the open house, try to approach everything through the eyes of your child(ren). There will be an overview of the programming, and introductions of students, faculty, and administrators. During this time, picture how your child will connect and thrive within these elements. There may be things that sound great to you, but it’s important to think about it from their point of view as well. You know your child best!
6. Take Notes
There will be a lot of information at these open houses, and it can all start to blend together, especially if you are attending events at multiple schools. Take lots of notes, quotes from students, programs that they highlight, and questions that you have along the way. These notes will help give some specific points to talk about with your child on the ride home or later that evening. What did you think about their ______ program? What did you think about when that student said _______?
7. Try it On
While walking around the school, seeing the campus, and meeting the people, think of it as trying on something new. How does it feel? The sense you get around campus will tell you a lot about the community and the overall feel of being on campus. This first impression is important and is often the moment that a family makes the shift in their mind, that this is the school. We recently had a family come for a campus tour and the student arrived back at our office, and told us, “This campus feels like home.” Be conscious of these initial feelings you’re having, and add them to your notes!
8. Engagement Check
One thing that I quickly looked for at the private school open houses I attended was how the current students interacted with each other and with their teachers. Did they look relaxed? Were they confident and having fun? While understanding that this is a potentially stressful day for them as well, it was important to see if their teachers were there supporting them and if they were supportive of one another. It’s another way of being able to picture your child at this school, could I picture them with this group of students? When I get to see students being themselves, that made an impact on me.
If there is one tip that is the most important, it’s this: Talk to as many students as possible! Ask them questions, because they are hands down the best representatives of the school. This is a great way to ask any of the questions that you’ve had along the way. If you need a question to get started, my go-to open-ended question is: What is your favorite part of this school?
10. Find Out the Next Steps and Timeline
You’ve left the open house, you can picture your student there on campus, and you’re interested in learning more, now what?
Make sure that you understand the steps and timeline for their admissions process. Here is a mini checklist and if you have any questions you can contact the admissions office, which helps families with these questions daily!
Q&A Checklist for Private School Admissions
|Question||Answer at CH-CH|
|Do they require a tour and interview? Can they be done virtually?||Yes, in-person tours and interviews can be booked here. Virtual interviews can be booked here.|
|When is the application due?||January 15th|
|Where is the application located?||We use the SAO, info is located here|
|What is the process and timeline for Financial Aid?||All Financial Aid information can be found here|
|When will I know if my child is accepted?||Acceptances are sent on March 10th|
I know very well that there is a lot to consider when looking at private day and boarding schools for your child. I hope this list helps you make the most of your open house visit. If you have any questions or want to reach out, I am happy to help!
Ami Maniscalco P'19, P'23
Assistant Director of Admissions