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Public vs. Private High School: One Family's Perspective

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Public Vs. Private High School: One Family's Perspective

My son recently graduated from a high-quality private high school and my daughter is in 12th grade at a high-quality public one. My son prospered at private school, while my daughter would not change her educational experience at public school. I have an inside view of both worlds. Rather than provide my perspective on the pros and cons of each educational option, I am sharing the astute insights my daughter offered when she lobbied to stay in public school. Here’s a recap of our conversation with my points and her counterpoints:

Just think, in private school you’ll get:

  • Intellectual and creative classmates.

“You mean just the same type of kids I’ll have in my honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes?”

  • Teachers who have the opportunity to get to know you, your interests, your work, and your potential better.

“True. There’s no place to hide in a small class.”

  • Personal attention from an adviser who meets with you one-on-one every week to help shape your high school experience.

“But mom, that’s not the real world. I have to learn to advocate for myself. Why not sooner versus later?”

  • A much better chance to play on a varsity team in more sports.

“Maybe so, but I’m never going to want to play three-seasons of varsity athletics in college anyway.”

  • Friends from all over greater Boston, the country and even the world.

“Right, but I’ll become more and more disconnected from friends in our community. Do you want to drive me downtown and to other suburbs to be with friends on weekends? And then, when I get my license, do you want me driving downtown and to other suburbs myself?”

[Find private high schools in your area.]

As we all know, students thrive in different educational environments: one size does not fit all. My son preferred a smaller, more hands-on learning environment, where as my daughter loves the community aspects of her public school. Consider the most important characteristics of a school community for your child. Which schools offer these attributes? And my last thought: be sure that you and your child do not view high school as a means to an (elusive) end, but as the best option for four fleeting years.

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