The school visit: What to look for, what to ask
There's no substitute for seeing the schools on your list in person, where you can watch the teachers in action and ask key questions.
Learn more on what to look for when touring schools in these videos:
Video: A guide to private schools
Video: How to find a middle school
By GreatSchools Staff
A school visit is an invaluable way to learn about whether a particular school is the right place for your child. Dropping in on the seemingly sacred world of a school may feel awkward, but you can be sure that you're not the first parent to peek in with great interest, and you certainly won't be the last. Even after a short visit, you'll have a much richer sense of the school's strengths, challenges and approaches toward teaching and learning.
School visit checklists
How to plan an effective visit
- Do your homework before visiting schools. Read about the schools you'll be visiting. Examine their school profiles on GreatSchools.org and make note of any questions that arise about student performance, resources or teacher background. You'll want to ask the principal these questions when you visit each school. Talk to other parents and go to the online edition of the local newspaper to search for articles about the schools.
- Schedule your visit. Call the school's main telephone number and ask to speak with the school secretary. Explain that you're considering enrolling your child and would like to make an appointment to visit, ask questions and get a feel for the campus. Find out if you'll be able to meet the principal and a few teachers while you're there.
- Ask and observe. When you visit a school, be sure to ask questions and observe the environment. The sample questions below can help you get started.
Key questions to ask
- Does this school have a particular educational philosophy or mission?
- What is this school's approach to student discipline and safety?
- How does this school encourage and monitor students' progress toward meeting grade-level standards?
- What kinds of library resources are available to students?
- How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
- How do the arts fit into the curriculum? Is there a school choir, band or orchestra? A school play? Art classes?
- What extracurricular opportunities (sports, clubs, community service, competitions) are available for students?
- How do students get to school? Is free school busing available?
- How does this school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties?
- What strategies are used to teach students who are not fluent in English?
- What professional development opportunities do teachers have? In what ways do teachers collaborate?
- What are some of the school's greatest accomplishments? What are some of the biggest challenges this school faces?
Things to look for
- Do classrooms look cheerful? Is student work displayed, and does it seem appropriate for the grade level?
- Do teachers seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable, asking questions that stimulate students and keep them engaged?
- Does the principal seem confident and interested in interacting with students, teachers and parents?
- How do students behave as they move from class to class or play outside?
- How well are the facilities maintained? Are bathrooms clean and well supplied, and do the grounds look safe and inviting?