Choosing a School For Your Child: A Toolkit For Parents

Parents frequently tell us that it is difficult to learn what is unique about schools, making the process of choosing the right school somewhat challenging. In fact, they often ask us to tell them what sets Pacific Ridge apart from other schools, hoping we can help them identify the factors to consider. Some important differences, such as school size, numbers of students in a classroom, and course offerings, are measureable and readily available, but what else should you take into account?

This page contains some tools and resources we hope will help you as you embark on this important process. As always, should you have questions about Pacific Ridge or specific issues you would like to discuss, we encourage you to contact us.

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Consider Your Priorities

We suggest you start by listing the top priorities that you already know are critical for your family. School size, financial considerations and proximity from home are a few that are on many families' lists. Other priorities will emerge as you conduct your research. To help you develop them, click the box at right to download a list of questions we've started for you.

Make a Spreadsheet

Create a spreadsheet where you can list factors important to you and enter the data for each school on your list. Create several columns so you can add factors you may not have thought about in advance. A starter spreadsheet can be downloaded by clicking the box to the right.


Visit the schools you are interested in on a school day, if possible. Prepare, in advance, a list of questions you want to ask, including both objective and subjective information. It's important to observe not only how many students are in a class but to note the feeling in the room. Do the students look engaged? Are they happy? Are they connecting with the class content and the teacher?

Look Beyond the Classroom

Ask schools about both curricular and co-curricular programs, requesting descriptions of what they are and how they are implemented. For example, if a school reports a service learning program, ask when and how the students do the service. It's important to understand if programs are available to all students, or to only a select few. And, is there time in the day for the student to get involved?

Talk to Friends

Talk with friends who have children attending each school, particularly those families who share similar educational goals and interests. If you don't know any families at the schools you are considering, ask the school to provide a list of parents who would be willing to talk with you.

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Talk To Your Child

It's important to be clear from the beginning how your family makes decisions about education, and what role you would like your child to play. We believe that adolescents do not have the life experience to successfully make a decision that will affect their educational growth and development for the next 2 to 6 years, and often base their opinions on social factors that concern them right now. We encourage you to think about this before having a conversation with your child, so your family's decision-making process will be balanced and informed.

Enjoy the Process!

We hope you will enjoy the time you spend looking at schools. After all, choosing the best school for your child is one of the most important decisions your family can make and your child will appreciate knowing, now and in the future, the care and concern you have for this aspect of their life. Whether you decide on Pacific Ridge or another school, we are always happy to discuss the school search process with you and answer any questions you may have.