Editor’s note: this story was originally written in 2018 but has been updated for 2020.
When it comes to researching potential schools for your child’s education, it’s a good idea to start early. In fact, experts recommend beginning your search for information nearly a year in advance — during the fall of the year before your child will be entering his or her new school.
“In the fall, schools offer open houses, student visits and parent tours designed to help prospective families learn about their programs,” says Kathy O’Neil, assistant head of school for enrollment management at Hawken School. “Applications are typically due in the winter, so the fall is the best time for prospective families to determine where students will apply.”
Bill Musolf, director of enrollment management for Lawrence School, explains, “Committing and investing in a new school should be a thoughtful process, as it is obviously an important decision for the path of a child. As such, many admission processes are designed to be thorough, ensuring that their program will adequately meet the needs of a particular student. And with that thoroughness comes a time commitment. So it is clearly best to start the process early.”
He adds that some programs even become “full” or “closed,” where they are unable to accept additional students at a particular grade.
“‘The early bird gets the worm,’ so to speak,” Musolf says. “Starting early in the process allows parents to be equally thorough, perhaps even taking time to observe the program first hand.”
School & Student Services offers the following general timeline:
- September or October in the year before you want your child to start in the new school: Begin your school search.
- November or December: Begin the financial aid application process.
- January or early February: Your admission applications are due.
- January or February: Your financial aid applications are due.
- Late February or early March: Schools send out admission decisions.
- March or April: Schools send out financial aid decisions.
- April, May, June: Schools require your final enrollment decision, tuition deposit to reserve a spot in the class
Where to Begin
While gathering details about a large number of potential schools can seem overwhelming, in general, the initial information is easy to come by, whether it’s found on each school’s website or at a local school fair or education expo.
“Schools offer an abundance of information on their websites, so start there,” O’Neil says. “Then attend an open house or schedule a campus visit or tour. The best way to get a real sense of a school is to spend time on its campus observing classes and engaging with students, faculty and administrators.”
Musolf encourages families to start asking others if they know anyone who attended that particular school. “Get the inside ‘scoop’ of testimonials. It would also make sense to investigate if there is tuition, and if so, if the school offers any financial assistance. This could prevent a family from going through the process and becoming accepted, only to learn the tuition is potentially beyond a family’s means.”
For the opportunity to gather information and speak with representatives from dozens of Northeast Ohio schools offering a wide variety of options for public and private school education, plan to attend the Northeast Ohio Parent Education & STEM Expo 2020 — East & West.
Both events are free and will be taking place on Sunday, October 4, at Acacia Clubhouse at Cleveland Metroparks, located in Lyndhurst; and Sunday, October 11, at Market Square in Crocker Park, located in Westlake (NEW this year). Both events run from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. In addition, there will be activities, raffle giveaways and a full day of fun!
NEW This Year: Drive-through Option
You also can choose to do our “drive-through” option when you register. You can select this ticket through Eventbrite and receive a tote bag full of goodies without even leaving your car!
Click here to register for FREE for the Education & STEM Expo 2020 — East & West