Where a student decides to attend high school – four of the most formative years of his life – is a major decision for him and his family. This is when gathering information, doing thorough research and asking the right questions come into play – but nothing is as informative as an actual campus visit.
Plan to visit your son’s top choice schools early and often. Every school has its own varied and unique opportunities to explore, and visiting the school will also allow you to learn more about its academics and educational philosophies.
“Even a short visit will help you identify a school’s strengths and challenges. It’s also the only way to get a feel for a school’s climate — intangible but important factors like the dynamism of the teaching, engagement of the students, quality of communication and respect between students, teachers, administrators, and parents, and the overall sense that the school offers a safe and inspiring learning environment.” – www.greatschools.org, “The School Visit: What to Look For, What to Ask”
1. Do Your Research
Before visiting the school, do some research about its programs, faculty, campus, and student life. This will give you a better understanding of what the school has to offer and help you prepare questions to ask during your visit.
Start with a review the school’s website and become familiar with their:
- Mission and school philosophies
- Admissions process
- Important dates and supporting admissions documentation requirements
- Course offerings & Advanced Placement courses
- Fine art, club & athletic opportunities
- Faith formation activities and spiritual guidance
- School-wide events & traditions
- Financial aid process and requirements
Also, check out social media pages, student media publications, and any online resources to get an accurate understanding of everyday life at that high school.
2. Prep Your Questions
Armed with your knowledge, start compiling a list of questions that answer the rest of your concerns. Topics of interest might include:
- Does the school help students prepare for college? Do they also support them in the journey to identify and select the right college?
- How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
- Does the school support students in participation in multiple clubs or sports?
- What are some of the school’s greatest accomplishments?
3. Schedule a Tour
Contact the admissions office to schedule a tour of the campus. This will give you an opportunity to see the classrooms, labs, grounds, technology and athletic facilities, and other parts of the campus. You might also be able to talk to current students and faculty members during your visit.
Remember, you’ll probably want to take notes during your visit so you can remember important details later. Plan to write down the names of people you meet, important dates and any other information you think might be helpful.
4. Make The Visit
Once on campus, observe classes and talk with teachers, coaches, administrators, and current students. Don’t be afraid to ask questions: you’ve got to be comfortable and confident as this is a major family decision.
Ask about the school’s academic programs, extracurricular activities, and campus culture. Ask about everyday experiences, and look at class sizes, teacher/student interactions, and educational support opportunities.
During a school tour, you can also take time to evaluate the school’s facilities such as classrooms, libraries, sports facilities, and technology resources. This can help you determine whether the school provides the resources you need to achieve your academic and extracurricular goals for your student.
5. Talk To A Current Student
Often, the most compelling aspect of a tour or a visit is meeting current students. No one can paint a better picture of a high school than the students who walk the halls daily. To ensure you are asking the right questions while visiting, here are a few examples of questions you might like to ask a current student:
- Where did you go to middle school?
- Why should we consider this school?
- What colleges are you applying to?
- How has this school fostered your faith?
- What is your favorite memory at this school?
- What advice would you give a prospective 8th-grade student?
- What clubs or organizations are you a member of?
Also, don’t forget: Make sure to include visits, if possible, to the extracurricular activities, sporting events, and play productions at a school that interests your son.
6. Follow Up
After your visit, consider following up with the admissions office to thank them for their time and to ask any additional questions you may have. This can help you stay on the radar of the admissions team and demonstrate your interest in the school.
7. The Right Fit Feels Right
By visiting and researching each school and asking the right questions, you will discover that a school community is much more than just academics. As a family, you want your son to feel like his high school is a home away from home, someplace he wants to be even during his free time. Look for that added piece of community and brotherhood. High school should be more than an education but a rite of passage: a time in life to look back on with fondness and pride.
Learn More About Us
At St. Thomas High School, a Roman Catholic college preparatory school for young men in grades 9-12 in Houston, Texas, we are focused on educating and enriching outstanding young minds during the most formative years of their lives. Through high-tech classrooms and state-of-the-art athletic facilities to the constant celebration of its rich and storied tradition, the diverse and welcoming St. Thomas community prides itself on providing the most fulfilling and well-rounded high school experience to inquisitive, ambitious and extraordinary young men. We foster a brotherhood for life.