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School Placement: School Tours and Open Houses

Mother and daughter meet with a teacher at an independent school open house

By Cheryl, WiseStart™ School Placement Counselor

The independent school application process is multifaceted as schools attempt to gain a more well-rounded view of prospective students. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you and your student are interviewing prospective schools just as much as these schools are interviewing you. It’s important to do a little research and come prepared with questions so you can make each meeting with a prospective school as productive as possible.

“Interviewing” Prospective Schools

A good way to “interview” a prospective school is to attend school tours and open houses, which present opportunities to learn more about the school to see if it’s a good fit for your student. These events may be virtual or in-person — either way, they can be very informative, and they give you a chance to ask questions.

The objective at these events is for students and families to learn as much as possible about the school to determine fit, including:

  • The school’s mission and vision, which should reflect the behavior and values of the entire school community.
  • The teachers, administrators, and students who are part of the school community — they should be able to articulate and demonstrate the mission and values of the school to see if they are in alignment with your student and family.
  • The school’s curriculum, which should be challenging and provide a breadth and depth of subject matter to prepare your student and ensure a successful next step to college.
  • The school’s extracurricular offerings, which should balance nicely with academics. Students should also have a wide variety of activities to choose from.
  • The school’s expectations of your student — not just in terms of academic performance, but from a holistic perspective.


This information will help you understand how the school will live up to your expectations for your student.

Preparing for the School Tour and Open House

To prepare for the school tour and open house, you should first do your homework by reading the school’s website. Decide what you are looking for in a school, and write down questions to ask during the tour and open house. Depending on what is important to you and your student, here are some questions you might ask:

Students, Faculty, and Staff

  • How many students attend the school?
  • What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
  • If a boarding school, how many boarders vs. day students?
  • How diverse is the student body, the faculty, and staff?
  • How long have the administrators and teachers been at the school? How much turnover does the school have, and why?



  • How many higher-level classes does the school offer, and in what subjects?
  • What types of elective classes are offered? Foreign language classes?
  • What is the teaching method? (Classical? Harkness? Other?)


Extracurricular Activities

  • What sports are offered? Are they junior varsity or varsity only, or do they offer clubs as well?
  • What arts programs are offered?


Additional Questions

  • Can accepted students have a visit day?
  • Is the school religious in nature? If so, what level is it integrated into the school culture?
  • What do the grounds look like?
  • Is it an urban, suburban, or rural campus?
  • How much is tuition?
  • Is financial aid offered? (If applicable)


Typically, during the school tour for middle and upper school, your tour guide is a student. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to ask them what they like about their school. What might they want to change if they could? Their answers might give you a clearer insight into the school as well.

Choosing the Best-Fit School

With the number of schools out there, it is important to get as much information as you can to make an informed decision. The goal is to find the right school for your student — one that has classes and extras that will allow them to thrive in their school environment. Your student’s education should challenge them, help them grow, and prepare them for the next stage in their educational journey. Equally important is that it is a place where your expectations and values are in alignment, both educationally and personally.

If the prospect of choosing the right school for your student seems daunting, don’t worry. IvyWise offers school placement admissions counseling that is customized to you and your child’s needs. Get started to learn more about how we can help your child achieve their academic goals.

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