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Is private school worth it?


Replies to: Is private school worth it?

  • amarylandmomamarylandmom Registered User Posts: 631 Member
    I have two sons that I have sent to private schools from nursery school. We moved once during their school careers, so have actually had them in two independent schools, one of which I would classify as "elite". I, myself, went to public school through 9th grade and then transferred to a mediocre private school. Here's a few observations I have that may help you with your decision making - - these are only one person's opinion so take it with a grain of salt.

    - If your child is very studious, public school can be a hard place socially to thrive. I appreciated being in and having my children in a place where academics are held up on as high a pedestal as athletics and other pursuits. Kids in private school respect the intellect of their peers a lot more.
    - The education is all over the map at private schools. One school our sons went to was WONDERFUL academically. Unfortunately, I didn't appreciate that until we moved. Then they went to an "elite" private where the education is considerably worse, but the reputation and college list is waaay better. It's hard to actually determine the quality of the academics unfortunately prior to sending your child, but do as much research as you can (call families who are currently at the private and ask for some names of those who have left to call as well). That being said, privates generally do a better job at teaching writing and communication skills - - both very key to future success.
    - Private school students tend to be very well mannered and confident. I think they pick it up from one another. It's a rare few that come into our home and don't greet us with a handshake, use our last names, and are confident and friendly. My boys both played baseball with many public school students, and I do think there is a distinct difference.
    - On the flip side, both my boys were pretty modest students in the private school venue (especially at the more elite private). There are some extremely bright kids, and even though both my children were bright, they were not as hard working nor were they as innately gifted as their peers. They were solidly in the 50th to 70th percentile at best. That component is tough. You work hard because it is a MUST, but the psychological awards of doing well and getting A's are only accessible to a few.
    - I have one in college. It's hard to really say how much going to a name brand school helped him get into college, but what did really help him was the network affiliated with the school. A lot of people on the board, teachers, etc. have college affiliations that were very helpful. I will say the top percentage of students did extremely well in college applications. In a class of just over 100, every single Ivy league school and Stanford and all the military academies were represented in the acceptances, some more than once. If your child is truly elite intellectually, I think these schools can give a huge boost.
    - The network at a private school with deep community roots may be the MOST valuable part to your student. My college age student has leveraged it to help get into the college of his choice and to get a great summer internship. It's been enormously useful already, and he's only 19. The boys' friends are very talented, going to great schools, and are headed on very successful paths. I expect these connections will serve them well for life.
    - The cost is tremendous, and honestly from a pure academic perspective alone, I probably wouldn't do it again for the entire school careers. They could have transferred at middle school age and received all of the benefits at a significantly lower cost. The risk you take is your child may not want to move schools at the older ages.
    - Also for me, private school was a tremendous blessing. I felt like a fish out of water in public school. Even at a really mediocre private school, I was so much happier. Both my children are/have been extremely happy in private school . . .however, I think my younger one would have probably thrived just as much in public - - maybe more because he could have been more of an academic star in public, and he's very charismatic so the social component is not an issue for him. My younger one doesn't care about an elite college nearly so much either so all the money spent may be for naught. Of course it is somewhat impossible to say!

    So, I'd say look at all the components of the picture - - your child, her personality, her hopes and dreams for herself, and try to gain a true perspective on the academics at the institutions you are interested in seeing her attend. Good luck!!!

  • mamommamom Registered User Posts: 3,663 Senior Member
    My S attended private from preschool all the way through HS. My D is currently in 8th grade and has also always attended private. There is a wide variation in the quality of privates. In hindisight my S's private middle school was a waste of money, nice school for rich mediocre kids. My D's private middle school is incredible. Well worth the money. If you are considering a private elementary school I would ask to see the ISEE test scores for the kids moving up to middle schools and ask what private middle schools are those kids getting accepted to.

    I have had many parents tell me they do not send their kids to private schools because they would rather save the money for college. Fact of the matter is, most do not save that money for college. Well at least the few who financial situation I know about.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,608 Senior Member
    Pulbic elementary schools are often fine. Middle school age is tough anywhere and there can be social reasons for private then. High school private may or may not involve better learning and college results. These days, the teach to the test culture in public schools, on a national basis, has, in my own opinion, significantly impacted quality, though there are always teachers who transcend. If you do public, get involved: volunteer, attend school committee meetings, help out in the town.

    I have to admit, I thought your post was a joke at first. At least the part about making $300K, owning a big home to impress relatives and owning several cars. I know people who have made significant sacrifices to send their children to private school. You would not have to sacrifice anything much. On the other hand, if you want to save the money, definitely move if the local public is not satisfactory.

    Chances are, your husband is also going to want to impress relatives with college admissions. My own kids went to a public that wasn't exactly inspiring educationally but we did a lot at home. They did fine with admissions. I wish i had had the money for private though, honestly. The best thing I can say is that they got an education that did not coddle them and they learned a little about the real world, that the world isn't fair, that you have to make your own opportunities and so on.
  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats Registered User Posts: 1,958 Senior Member
    @amarylandmom‌ Wow! That was very helpful. Thank you!
  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats Registered User Posts: 1,958 Senior Member
    @compmom You are definitely right with the "big name school to impress family" thing. But I find that I am really taking charge on the private school thing. He's too consumed with work to care about elementary school, so I'm really trying to make an informed decision on this one for my daughter

    @mamom What is your reasoning behind keeping your kid in private school?
  • mamalionmamalion Registered User Posts: 751 Member
    amarylandmom said it well.

    As a single parent, I love the civility cultivated at our private school. Kids aren't always nice, but overall, most are respectful and gentle, even in middle school. I wonder about all the money I have spent, but my older daughter received so much financial aid at an elite (that she wouldn'tt have gotten into without the prep school) that I feel it was worth it.

  • BestfriendsgirlBestfriendsgirl Registered User Posts: 935 Member
    edited May 2014
    Not all privates are better than public schools. A well funded public often has more options for top students and students with LD. A Small and not so well funded private school tend to have fewer course offerings and not as many ECs.
    I've found this to be true. Our Ss went to Catholic school K-8. For a variety of reasons, the local Catholic high school wasn't for us, so S1 went out-of-district to our state's top academic high school. He earned 28 college credit hours through AP classes, had much more variety in ECs and course offerings than he would have had at the Catholic HS and was much better prepared for college than a lot of his peers. But I really think they got a better foundation at the Catholic school than they would have at our neighborhood elementary. YMMV.
  • gouf78gouf78 Registered User Posts: 7,712 Senior Member
    edited May 2014
    It will always depend on the teachers--and good ones and bad ones are found no matter where you go. The main difference is that a private school can fire bad teachers. Parents have more say at a private school since they are paying the bills directly. But the bills are very high for that privilege.
    My son started private school in 7th grade. Wish he had been there a year earlier. The problem was that the public middle school just taught to the lowest common denominator with too much busy work and not enough actual learning. And I felt he just didn't have the best peer group. The private school had high expectations and it was worth it especially when he reached high school level. I think he's found college easier than many classes he had in HS. Learning how to study and write well have served him very well.
    Many families have their children at private Catholic schools here (more affordable) and some do move into other districts (and counties) to get into better school systems. The private school cost is so high that moving to get into a great public school makes good financial sense.
    That being said, our public system does have some fabulous teachers (some better than at the private) but unfortunately you can't always pick and choose.
    My best advice--volunteer at the school, get on a PTO board--put some time in at the school and see what goes on from the inside before plunking down big dollars for a private at such a young age.
  • katwkittenskatwkittens Registered User Posts: 2,299 Senior Member
    Did your senior go through the same system and is she graduating/graduated from your local public high school?

    After her gap year is she attending a college she was already admitted to this year and is deferring? Or has she not applied to college yet?

    Meaning have you and senior child gone through the application process this past spring......do you know how her schooling prepared her for college?

    Have you visited several privates and other publics/magnet/charter schools in your area so you know what is available?

    We are a family with 5 kiddos that all graduated from our local public school system, in the VERY rural south. Low SES school so high percentage of free/reduced lunch. Mine all did very well and spent a good portion of their time giving back within that local public middle and high school. They were given the opportunity to attend elsewhere and declined. They and I believed academics was just one part of attending school, the same theory applied when they were choosing colleges.

    The contributions they made to their schools and benefited not just others at their respective schools but helped to build their character and determine who they wanted to be. They received so much more in return. They realized that they could make a difference, even at an early age....and that started the ball rolling. Take advantage of opportunities that are presenting themselves.

    Whether that is to choose a new, better fit school for your younger daughter or moving and shedding some extra baggage (cars, big house to impress others) or making the school she is in a better school due to your and her participation and attendance.

    My kiddos were accepted to multiple ivy's, MIT, CalTech, service academies, OOS publics and in-state flagships with academic merit and athletic scholarships. All graduated from a very poor public school, one was valedictorian so good things can happen even at poor schools. Especially when the students have great role models as peers, success is contagious!


  • ProudpatriotProudpatriot Registered User Posts: 1,549 Senior Member
    I have to say that you can afford private school. The question really is whether you want to spend the money or not. I can't answer than question for you. But to say you can't afford it is laughable.

    We have 3 sons. They are currently 20, 18, 15. The oldest is at Case Western. The middle will be attending Belmont. The youngest is finishing his freshman year at a private day school in Florida. Our kids have attended private school from 6th grade onwards. They attended a charter school from K-5 and we were very happy with that school. If we were not happy we would have moved them to private school.

    Private schools have students who want to do well in school. In most private schools it is "uncool" to get bad grades, not do your work, or be a behavior problem. As a result my kids were surrounded by kids who wanted to learn. Not every kid loves every subject but in general the atmosphere promotes learning. My kids are very studious kids who really love learning so being in an environment where learning was somehow not cool would have been torture for them.

    At our particular school kids are expected to do well in school AND to participate in some other activity at the same time. It is rare to come across a kid who only does well in school. My sons peers win national math/science competitions, win recognition at statewide academic competitions, compete for state titles in athletics, etc. Private school in general are full of student who are very accomplished in and outside of the classroom.

    In my opinion, this is the real benefit of private school. The benefit of private schools is that the community seeks excellence in many different areas. This is what your children will take away from private schools IF YOU PICK THE RIGHT ONE.

    There are mediocre private schools. If you are careful you can find an excellent one. As for not being able to afford private schools on a $300K income I say that is hogwash.

  • prefectprefect Registered User Posts: 1,281 Senior Member
    I think it's worth it if you choose the school wisely. In my opinion, you should be looking for an independent school, one that is a member of the national association of independent schools. The school should have admissions standards including testing, interviews, letters of recommendation, etc. there should be a board of trustees and an endowment.

    Most schools will have a profile where you can check college placement, test scores, etc. The advantage that the best private schools in our area have is class size, facilities, college counseling. The course rigor is much much higher than the best area public schools in the area and even better than the local community college. Overall, I would say the private schools have a better social atmosphere as well.

    If your goal is top college placement only, you may be disappointed. However, I would say that a B student at a good private school will have more options than a B student at a public school. Part of this might be due to the superior counseling at private schools and counselors advocating for individual kids. Mod course this is a lot easier to do when you're assigned to 15 kids vs 300.

    Most of the religious affiliated schools in our area are mediocre. They're more like public schools with Jesus instead of private schools and are more interested in religious instruction and indoctrination rather than pure academics,so if that's not your goal, proceed with caution. The Catholic schools tend to be less like this, but still aren't usually as strong as the secular independent schools.

    If you're thinking of switching your daughter to a private school look at the admissions stats. So e schools only accept kids at certain grades and some grades are much more difficult to get admitted to than others.
  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats Registered User Posts: 1,958 Senior Member
    @katwkittens We went through the application process with my oldest. We were fortunate that she went to an amazing public high school that was pretty small so she got the attention she needed. She went through the same public school system, but the administration changed to the poor administration that is there now. She will be attending Swarthmore after her gap year.

    Congratulations on the acceptances to those top schools :) That is wonderful!

    I have been browsing the websites for quite some time now, but haven't gone to the schools.

    Also, one fear that I have is that my d will begin to get a sense of entitlement. Some of my friends talk about how their kids felt as though they deserved to go to the top schools because they went to a top private. Not because they actually earned it. But it seems like you all have good experiences with your kids, so that shouldn't be a problem.
  • AnnieBeatsAnnieBeats Registered User Posts: 1,958 Senior Member
    @proudpatriot Well of course we can afford a year a private school right now, but in the long run, I'm trying to figure out whether it will be worth it. According to my calculations for the school I'm interested in, we would be paying $268,000 for my youngest to go private school through high school. But I have to consider the hefty price of Swarthmore, my middle child will be applying to college in about 5 years, we have a little bambino on the way... So there are a lot of huge financial commitments we have to prepare for.

    It's actually kinda scary when you add things up. I don't even want to think about how much I'm paying for all of this. I might pass out when I try to add it all together.
  • katwkittenskatwkittens Registered User Posts: 2,299 Senior Member
    Sounds like you already have your answer.

  • oldfortoldfort Registered User Posts: 23,003 Senior Member
    You are going to have 4 kids to put through college, large house and toys, unless your h salary going to continue to go up, I think you would be stretching it.
This discussion has been closed.