You are here
1. Prepare before your visit.
Make the most of limited time on-campus by exploring the school’s website and promotional materials before you arrive. Jot down key points that make this school appealing, plus any questions or concerns. A visit is the opportunity to confirm or clarify these impressions.
2. Tune into clues about the school culture.
Students often find that multiple schools can serve their academic needs, but being academically successful depends upon finding those schools where they feel truly comfortable. Remember that in the 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week boarding school world, more time is spent outside than inside the classroom. As you tour the campus, soak up the intangible atmosphere of the architecture, the grounds, and the people moving about. Could this place feel like home?
3. Check out the dining hall, student center, library, gym, and other places students cluster.
Rather than sitting in on a class, spend your time observing students as they interact informally among themselves or with faculty. Do students tend to hang out in small groups or large groups? Which approach fits your style? Does the study atmosphere feel good in the library? Do students seem relaxed in the dining hall? Introduce yourself and ask students about the school. Even if you had a student-led tour during your visit, remember that is only one individual. Take the opportunity of being on campus to observe the larger student body. Are the students respectful of each other and of you as a guest? Would you feel comfortable spending time among these students?
4. Investigate student activities.
For a quick snapshot of campus life and school spirit, review announcements posted on community bulletin boards. Notice what kinds of sports, arts, and other clubs are available. Find out what trips and events the school plans during weekends. How do you imagine yourself participating in this community?
5. Keep expectations of dorms realistic.
A dorm is your home at school, but it will never be the same as your family home. Of course take in the size of the rooms and the quality of the bathrooms. But also notice how students personalize their rooms and enjoy creating their own cozy spaces.
6. Make notes immediately.
Before leaving campus, take a moment to reflect on the information gathered—and to write impressions down. Does this school offer ways to develop your particular passions? Does it also inspire you to try new pursuits? Can you picture yourself as a successful student here—both in and outside the classroom? Students should trust their instincts and form their own opinions on these questions because they are the ones who will be actually attending. Make notes now to use in decision-making later because memories are more vibrant when they are captured in the moment.
Audrey Noyes Ludemann helps families seek independent school education, ranging from day schools to boarding schools and from elementary to secondary grades. She also is an invaluable resource for planning across different learning styles—serving families whose students are gifted and/or have moderate learning differences. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org