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 inaugural Education Expo on September 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The free event, which will take place at the Nautica Entertainment Complex on the West Bank of the Flats in Cleveland, also will include break out sessions presented by area experts with an eye on educating parents on a variety of topics.
In addition, there will be activities, raffle giveaways, and crafts to provide a full day of fun. Families can take advantage of the location with event day discounted admission to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and the Nautica Queen.
Registered attendees will be entered into a drawing for an annual family pass to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium, as well as a raffle for a 4-pack of tickets to Cedar Point. Pre-registration also earns visitors a $3 parking voucher; BOGO admission to the aquarium; a discounted pass for a sightseeing cruise on the Nautica Queen; a discount on food at the Nautica Café the day of the event; it also qualifies participants to receive a free tote bag if they are among the first 250 families to arrive.