A colleague of mine recently returned to the office after visiting 5 NYC private schools in one day with a family moving to Manhattan. In addition to exhaustion, the consultant was most struck by two very different experiences she had overall during her visits. All 5 schools were excellent institutions, that could offer the world to any child of a fee paying parent. But the way in which the schools approached the visiting families really had on impact on the consultant’s impression of the school. Out of the 5 schools, only 3 asked the prospective parents questions about their children; the other two threw out a heavy handed sales pitch for their school rather than focus the interview on the child to see if it is the right fit. This leads me to wonder, are the interactions of the admissions staff with potential families a true indicator of the quality of education that the school can offer? It usually is for me.
I find that there are particular schools that I love that I have never visited based on the impression that I get from the admissions directors. This is true for public schools as well. When you meet with a principal or guidance counselor to discuss the needs of the child, even before the child is a student, you can be so much more confident that your child will be able to succeed in that environment. I’ve seen it happen before my eyes as a wave of reassurment washes away the anxiety of new parents in a new situation. Obviously there are more factors to consider when judging the quality of a school, most importantly what goes on in the classroom, first impressions can certainly turn you off before you’ve had a chance to even want to puncture the surface.