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Is an Independent School the Right Choice for your Family?

Defining what an independent school is and how to begin the admission process
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Sponsored by Puget Sound Independent Schools

At some point during a child’s educational journey, every parent must ask if their local public school is the best choice. Perhaps they’d prefer a school that offers smaller class sizes, additional extracurricular offerings or more personalized instruction than what’s offered at their child’s current school. Or, families might be interested in single-gender institutions or ones that align with their religious beliefs. In the Puget Sound region, there are myriad educational options available to families, and the choices can be overwhelming.

Many parents don’t know much about independent schools, and even if they’ve heard the term before, they might not know how to begin the admissions process. It might seem like a mysterious club that’s tough to approach, let alone join. Are independent schools the same as private schools? Do families have to be religious to attend? Do students wear uniforms?

Independent schools are just what the name implies: they are schools without a district to oversee their budget and operations. They are non-profit entities, governed by a Board of Trustees, and accredited via a rigorous process through the Northwest Association of Independent School (NWAIS) to ensure that they meet a set of high standards for the curriculum, program and operations.

While each independent school may serve students in a variety of grade levels and embrace a different learning philosophy, there are some commonalities you’ll discover among them. At independent schools parents will find extraordinary teachers (many with advanced degrees), small class sizes, and an environment where teachers nurture and stimulate students’ intellectual curiosity, personal growth, and critical thinking skills. Many offer personalized instruction, a plethora of academic and athletic activities, and the latest technical innovations to enhance their curriculum. The arts are often emphasized, and math and science courses are rigorous and engaging. Language arts, international study and outdoor programs are also a part of the independent school experience.

If your child will begin school next year, or may need a different kind of school to really take off with learning, it’s time right now to look. Tours, open houses and fairs happen in the fall. Independent schools have selective admission programs—you’ll have to apply in order to be considered, and you may want to apply to several schools. Many schools share the same application timeline to simplify this process for parents. That deadline will sneak up on you—it’s in mid-January!

After you apply, each school will work with your family to get to know you and your child well. You’ll answer questions, ask questions and the school will engage with your child to make him or her feel comfortable and to see if it’s a fit. During this process, you’ll get a sense of what each school is about and meet members of the school community.

Puget Sound Independent Schools is an admission consortium that works collaboratively to streamline and make the admissions process more accessible for prospective families with common dates, information, and forms. We host inclusive school fairs and feature more than 40 member schools around the Puget Sound region. Unlike the NWAIS, we are not an accrediting body, but rather we were founded by admissions directors. Visit our website at pugetsoundindependentschools.org for a comprehensive list of schools, open house dates and more.

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