Choosing a Private High School in Vancouver

Written by Alexander Academy in Private School on January 4, 2021

It is at this time of year that we begin to field a lot of questions about high school selection. Families are asking simply because they want to guarantee that their child is accepted to the right school.

In all honesty, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question. However, there are some core pieces of information that all families should consider when choosing a high school.

First, university admission officers do not compare students across high schools since experiences, opportunities, and high school environment vary widely from school to school.

Admissions officers review applications in relation to what is available at your high school. They spend time learning about your high school and its unique offerings by visiting your school, getting to know your school counselor, and studying your high school profile. Some information commonly researched by admissions officers to understand your performance within the context of your high school may include:

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  • What courses has the student taken and how did they perform in the chosen courses?
  • What percentage of students from this high school continue with post-secondary studies and what institutions are they attending?
  • Did the student maximize the opportunities offered at this high school?

Secondly, individual students thrive in different types of learning environments; therefore, choosing a high school where you personally will thrive is what will help you with your university applications.

For example, some high school students may enjoy large classrooms with lecture-style teaching. While there will also be students who flourish more in small, discussion-based classrooms.

High school choice is about finding the right fit for your child. When choosing your child’s high school, think about their learning style, their motivating factors, their interests and activities. Based on these factors, which of your high school options best meets your child’s individual needs in those areas?

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It may go without saying, but no one high school is going to guarantee you child a specific university decision outcome. There is never a guarantee that you will be admitted to a specific university as you have to do the work to earn your university admission. So instead of considering the outputs of your high school options, consider the inputs, where will you be happiest and the most prepared for success.

Questions to ask about Private Schools

There are some necessary questions to ask when you are considering a private school for your child.

It is important to visit a variety of private schools and talk with the school directors as well as meet the teachers, other members of staff, and go on a school tour. Below is a list of questions to keep in mind:

1. What is your school mission, vision and values?

It’s important to find out the mission, vision, and values of the secondary school. You may then compare the school’s educational beliefs to make sure that they are consistent with your own beliefs and values. Ask to see the mission statement, and how this is carried out in the school. Find out how the mission of the school is practiced and is translated through the curriculum, teaching, and learning.

Alexander Academy group of students studying Student holding a Canadian flag
  • What is the school’s mission, vision and values?
  • How do these compare with your own educational belief?
  • How is the mission applied in the classroom?

2. What type of student best fits your school?

Make sure to find out the type of students a secondary school is looking for.

  • Describe a typical student at your school?
  • What is the typical academic focus of your students?

3. How does the delivery of curriculum set your school apart from the others?

Find out the school’s curricular approach. Is the delivery student- or teacher-centered? It is important to ensure that the delivery of curriculum supports your child’s learning style.

Do you have a specific curricular approach, and if so, what is it?

Alexander Academy Math Teacher Highschool students talking outside the school

4. What are your class sizes and student-teacher ratios?

Private schools often have smaller class sizes and lower student-teacher ratios allowing for more personalized attention, student engagement, and differentiated instruction. It is important to know how the school is taking school advantage of the small class sizes and low student-teacher ratios.

  • What is the average class size and student-teacher ratio?
  • Do you offer individualized learning and differentiated instruction and how does this look?

5.  How much is tuition?

Most private high schools, require you pay extra for uniforms, extracurricular activities, supplies, textbooks, field trips, and more.

  • How much is yearly tuition?
  • What exactly does tuition include and not include?
Highschool student carrying books Highschool students talking outside the school

6. What extracurricular activities does the private high school offer?

Many private high schools offer a variety of extra-curricular activities which include after-school and lunch clubs, teams, art and science programs, and, community service opportunities. Ensure that the school will offer activities and courses that meet your child’s interests and needs as well as BC graduation requirements.

  • Tell me about your extra curriculum program?
  • How often do these activities take place?
  • Are these activities included in tuition?

7. What are your teachers’ qualifications and what professional development opportunities are available to them?

Most private schools, including IB schools, have passionate, and well-trained teachers.

Find out about credentials of the school’s teachers. Also find out about the teacher’s professional development.

  • What are the educational qualifications of you teachers and what training do they have?
  • How do your teachers develop themselves professionally?
Alexander Academy Teacher and students inside the classroom Alexander Academy students with teacher

8. How do you integrate technology into the classroom and curriculum?

Find out is the school equip classrooms with interactive whiteboards, laptops, and more. Some schools, also offer optional courses in tech-based subjects, such as computer science, programming, robotics, and graphic design.

  • What kinds of technological resources do you have?
  • How is technology integrated in the classroom at each level of education?
  • Do you offer tech-based courses, and if so, which ones?

9. How does your measure student achievement?

Since it is important to know how your child is doing, then you will want to know the school’s philosophy on assessment.

  • How does your school measure student progress?
  • How are often do you report on student progress?
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10. What is the student life like at your school?

Find out as much as you can about student life.

  • What regular community-building activities does your school offer students?
  • How do you cultivate strong relationships among the student body?
  • How does the school deal with social problems, such as bullying for example?

11. How can parents get involved in school life?

Find out how a school welcomes parents and look into what opportunities are available to you. Also, find out about the line of communication between parents and the school.

  • How are parents involved in the school?
  • Is there a parents’ association?
  • How do teachers and administrators communicate with parents?
Alexander Academy student raising hand Alexander Academy parents and student

12. How is the school operated and governed?

Find out as much as you can about how the school is operated and who is responsible for making decisions.

  • Are you a for-profit, or non-profit school?
  • Is the school owner-operator, or is there a board of directors?
  • Who do I go to with questions about my child?

Other questions to ask private schools

In addition to these important private school questions, there are other questions that are also worth of consideration.

How is the school environment? Is it a welcoming, clean and a secure campus?
You may also ask what the percentage is of students who go on to university. Reading a list of

Alexander Academy International Student inside the classroom Alexander Academy group of diverse students

post-secondary schools where students have been accepted is a great way to research.

Asking about safety policies is also important as you’ll want to make sure your child is in safe hands. Consider the facilities and what resources are available to students such as recreation, food services or internet access. What is the homework policy or how does the school address behaviour issues?

Finally, be sure to ask how the school manages academic challenges and what they offer to students who are having difficulty meeting these expectations.

Choosing a high school for your child is no simple decision and we hope that we’ve helped prepare you to take the next step. If you have any questions or would like to know more about Alexander Academy, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll be happy to help!

Looking to start the application process? Apply to Alexander Academy here
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