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The Right Road

The Art of Finding the Fit

A student's potential to thrive at any given school grows directly out of that environment's ability to educate the whole child.

When families first begin exploring educational options, it is important to reflect on the whole of their child's unique personality. Going beyond academics, consider social skills, values, spirituality, goals, athletics, interests in the arts, and anything else that is a priority for the candidate.

Similarly, in refining an applicant's list of desired schools, look beyond average test scores. Each institution has its own culture, structure, and signature programs. Some schools provide more support than others to nurture students' increasing independence. Academic communities also vary widely in tones of formality, competitiveness, and which values give the most energy to their overall characters.

Finding a school with the right chemistry for a student's success is a journey of self-discovery. It requires applicants and their parents to be candid about challenges, as well as strengths. It entails prioritizing needs, as well as goals. At the same time, families should research the opportunities independent schools offer through the lens of how they willeducate the whole of their individual child.

During the admissions process students need to advocate for themselves and continue gathering information to get a true sense of whether a school suits them. The ideal match is an educational environment where a student feels challenged while also having some level of immediate success. Thus students have the confidence and motivation to take the risks that lead to growth and maturity both inside and outside the classroom.

Education has its own form of yin and yang: Schools want students who will participate in every part of the community; students want schools where they feel comfortable doing so. The focus on educating the whole child is the foundation for the art of finding the fit.

Cammie Bertram, founder and president of The Bertram Group, is sought after as a speaker at national and regional forums on education and educational directions. She can be reached

This article is reprinted with permission from Moffly Media's Independent School Guide 2013-14.