Relocation can be an exciting and, let’s face it, stressful experience. There are many reasons that you may be relocating—new job opportunities, family changes, or a new life adventure—but when this move involves children, it can be even more challenging. Looking for housing, securing a job, getting to know a new city or community, saying “goodbye” to family and friends—there is a lot to balance. And, one of the most important elements, of course, is finding a school for your child.
Whether you’re looking at private or public schools, it can be difficult to even know where to begin. If your housing has been confirmed, that can be helpful in determining the local public school option. It can also narrow down ideas about private schools in the area. Or maybe, you’re waiting to find the school and then finalize the community where you will live. It becomes somewhat of a juggling game for everything to fall into place. Where to start?
Tap Into Your Real Estate Agent
If you are working with a relocation services company or a real estate agent, you should have early conversations about school districts, local neighborhoods, and private school options. Your agent will be your “boots on the ground” and will be able to get you pointed in the right direction. They will likely have a list of school district boundaries. Schools are an important consideration in the real estate market, so don’t be shy about getting up-to-date and accurate information from your agent.
Do Your Research
If you have not yet relocated, Google is your new best friend. And, the good news is there are a lot of available resources that you can tap into to get to know schools and start to get an idea of what your options might be. If you need a tool to keep your thoughts organized, download this handy excel spreadsheet to get you started.
- The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) allows you to search a list of schools geographically.
- The Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW) and The Association of Independent Schools in Maryland and DC (AIMS) have listings of schools in the DC area. There are similar private and independent school organizations across the US.
- Websites like Great Schools (national) and DC School Hub (local to DC) are also great resources for learning more about a wide range of schools in your area.
- When looking at private schools, you’ll need to spend some additional time getting to know the various schools. School websites are the best place to start so that you can get a sense of their philosophy, mission, and curriculum. Look at their admissions pages, as well, to get a sense of the process.
- The National Center for Education Statistics is a great tool for gathering and analyzing data on public school districts—there is a wealth of information available.
- Public School Review has a robust search tool that allows you to identify the schools in a 5-mile radius of a specific location and also has a feature to compare schools.
Call the Schools
Once you have a list of schools identified, start making phone calls. For tips on how to speak with an admissions officer download the guide below.
Carve out 30 minutes each day to sit down and start calling private school admissions offices or public school administrators. These calls will help you narrow down your search, including:
- Determining public school boundaries and student body, special initiatives, and upcoming events
- Understanding private school openings, admissions processes and requirements, timeline needs
Visit the Schools
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, it will be important to set up time to tour the schools and meet administrators and members of the parent community. When exploring private schools, it’s important to know if your child needs to visit the school. They will likely want to meet the applicant in person, so you may want to plan your travel accordingly or discuss other options with the admissions office.
Consider working with an educational consultant
Some parents find that having an educational consultant to shepherd them through the process is worth it. Consultants can make the calls, inquire about spaces, and pair your child up with a school that might be a good fit. Consultants are wonderful advocates for your child/family. Washington Independent Services for Educational Resources has a fantastic list of consultants of all types in the Washington, DC, area.
Talk to Your New Neighbors
Have your eye on a specific neighborhood or community? Be brave and start talking to some strangers! Those folks who are already established in the area can be one of your best research tools (and, more than likely, they love talking about their child and his/her school).
They’ve already experience the local school or have enrolled in a private school and can share the inside scoop with you about their school choice. Be sure to talk to many different types of people so that you can get a wide range of opinions and ideas. Even connecting with local shop owners is a good idea—they are invested in the community and likely have a good sense of schools.
Narrow Down Your Options
Hopefully as you’ve been doing your research, it is starting to become clearer what school options you may have (and maybe where you’ll be living). At times, it can feel overwhelming to know that there are so many factors in your relocation that are out of your control and in flux. Rest assured, it will all come together and your child will land in a great school. One of the most important things you can do is just keep working at the process and getting all of your paperwork and research together.
If you are moving toward the private school option, you’ll want to move through the process as quickly as you can so that you can determine if the school is a good match for your child and family. You will want to know sooner rather than later so that you can determine next steps and the viability of enrolling.
Prepare Your Child for the Change
Finally, your child might need some extra attention during this transition. It is natural to feel a little nervous! Here are a few ways you can get your child excited about a new school.
Looking for a school for your child?
Lowell School is an independent school in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington, DC, that offers Pre-Primary, Primary, and Middle School programs. It offers a rigorous and hands-on curriculum that nurtures each child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn, and supports the development of individual voice and self-reliance. For more information, please call 202-577-2000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow Lowell on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.