How to Choose a Top Private School for Your Child

With over 34,000 private schools in the US, nearly 4000 of which are in California, the choice available to parents has never been greater.

Of course, that also makes the decision of which school is right for your child that little bit more of a challenge.

Are you starting your search for a top private school? Read on for our detailed private school guide on what to consider when looking for the best educational destination for your family.


When choosing a private school for your child, you want to look at the driving time and find a school within easy distance from your home. And don’t forget to look at practical aspects such as easy, safe parking.

You want your child to have a top-class educational space that will inspire their minds. When selecting a school, consider the surrounding area. How big is the campus? What outdoor space is on offer?


The best private schools offer a balanced, rigorous curriculum that will engage and stretch your child to their full potential.

That will give your child the well-rounded education that will set them up for success later in life when applying to college.

Consider whether the school offers advanced or accelerated courses in core subjects like math and science for more gifted children.

You’ll want to know if your child will get the attention and the support they need in the class. Find out the typical class sizes and whether the school uses support staff to assist in the classrooms. 

Extracurricular Options

You’ll want your child to have the opportunity to apply to some of the top colleges when they finish school. So now is the time to get them involved in a range of extracurricular activities that will expand their horizon.

These types of activities give your child new life skills beyond the classroom. Some children will discover passions and talents that stay with them for decades.

An excellent private school will have a range of extracurricular activities to fit all children’s skills and personalities. That might include sports, music, languages, arts, drama, STEM workshops, or community programs.

These activities often run after school hours and will be valuable if you need after-school care to fit in with your daily work schedule.

Learning, Social and Emotional Support

Some children will have additional needs. And all children navigating the modern world need some level of support from a school that reaches beyond the academic.

Look for a school that provides support and care that will help your child grow up confident, balanced, and happy. 

Academic Reputation

You’ll want some reassurance that you are paying for exemplary education when you are sending your child to a private school.

Take the time to review the academic reputation of the school, including attainment levels in key subjects. Ask prospective institutes to provide any information they have on destination schools and colleges for past students.

Remember to think about your goals for your child. What are your long-term priorities for their education? Asking this question will help you find the school that aligns with your personal goals. 

Parent Recommendations

Current and past parents of your shortlisted school are likely to provide an honest and detailed account of the school’s strengths and weaknesses.

You’ll get helpful insight into whether this school will be the right choice for your child. 

Prepare Questions

Before you approach your shortlisted school, prepare a set of questions. A good school will be open and transparent and will be happy to answer any concerns or reservations you have, so don’t be afraid to ask. 

School Open Day

A school visit is essential before you make your final decision. That will allow you to see the facilities, talk to the teachers, and talk to current students in the school.

If you can, take the time to observe the school separate from the official tour. Watch how students interact with each other and with staff. If you see the school during the lunch period, watch for children’s activity.

Are there children who sit alone or seem isolated, or is there a warm camaraderie in the school?

That will give you an intuitive answer about whether you can see your child enjoying the school and settling into the environment.

Make sure the tour includes a look at some of the resources and facilities you should expect from a top private school, including IT equipment, library, and sports grounds.

Religious Teaching

For families of faith, religious instruction will be a central part of your school choice. You’ll want a school that not only reflects your values but involves you and your family as part of the school.

Find out how religious teaching fits into the academic and social aspects of school life, how embedded the faith is in the teaching ethos, and whether it is part of its values.


Scholarships are sometimes on offer for the most talented and gifted students.
If you feel your child is advanced in one curriculum area, talk to prospective schools to find out what scholarships are available and the criteria.

Scholarships are competitive, and for some awards, there may be rigorous examinations or auditions for candidates, so keep this in mind.

Review the Admission Process

Each school will have its criteria for accepting students. That might include academic performance, religious affiliation, and evidence of extracurricular achievements.

Take time to review the school’s website, as this will contain details of the step-by-step admissions process, including any deadlines that you’ll need to add to your calendar.

The Top Private School for Your Family

Opting for a top private school is one of the most valuable gifts you can bestow upon your child. You’ll be offering up a world of opportunity that comes from a first-class education. 

The exceptional Catholic teaching environment we have created at Notre Dame Academy in the beautiful Carmel Valley is here for you to explore.

To discover more, take a look at our mission and values and book a tour to explore our outstanding school in person.