When considering a high school for ourselves or our kids, we don’t just think of it as a place of academic excellence. We think of a place that is also safe, both physically and emotionally and fit to raise emotionally stable teenagers.
A place or environment – be that school, work, relationship, etc. can make or break someone. And the teenage years are one of the most vulnerable times that a person can go through. Schools should offer not only academic knowledge but also mental and emotional support, resources for development on personal or professional levels, or similar offerings that contribute to a person’s development as a whole.
So let’s see what are the 5 main things that we should look out for when considering a new high school:
- Academics Programme and Flexibility
- Extracurricular Activities and Opportunities
- Wellbeing Initiatives
- Word of Mouth / Feedback
Academics Programme and Flexibility
We all have a common goal in mind when going to high school: to learn and gain valuable knowledge and experience that will later on help us be part of society and function in life. So usually, everyone keeps in mind to search for a good Academic Programme for the school they will enrol in.
We should be on the lookout for schools that offer classes relevant to our future goals – for example, if we want to work in the IT field, most public high schools might not have this as a course in their curriculum. That would mean looking into private schools or even college prep classes if we were to enrol in a prestigious university later on.
For some students, flexibility might be even more important than the academics offer. For sports people, who want to learn but also want to follow their passion, a flexible teaching schedule is a must. Regular schools with a schedule starting at 8 and ending at 2 or 3 in the afternoon might limit sports people to attend certain sports events or have time for a balanced schedule that includes both school and training.
Extracurricular Activities and Opportunities
Beyond Academics, for a successful University Enrolment process, most prestigious universities also need some proof that the students did more than just go through school.
Engaged students are also proven to be more successful from an academic perspective (one example here), and opportunities like internships or participation in clubs & societies are both chances for students to develop leadership skills as well as opportunities to network with professionals and gain valuable experience.
Some schools offer lots of extracurricular activities and opportunities to get involved as a student, while other schools might not.
If you are looking for a high school experience that involves socializing with other students and going through school while having fun, you should definitely consider schools that offer such opportunities as clubs and societies, student councils, exchange programs, etc.
Wellbeing initiatives are one of the aspects that can be easily overlooked when looking into potential high schools, but they are nevertheless very important to take into consideration. Teenagers need to feel safe in order to want to go to school, and this safety does not stop at a physical level.
Studies show that lots of schools deal with bullying, for example. Research done by the University of the People shows that “More than one out of five students report being bullied in their life”. Before getting into stopping bullying, schools should also try to build their environments in such a way to promote inclusivity and wellbeing, so that students do not feel the need to bully.
However, wellbeing goes further than that – wellbeing initiatives can be anything like student-led activities, getting students involved in decision-making, planning team-building activities within the class activities, or offering them a voice to speak their minds.
Anything and everything that nurtures the souls of students and their mental & emotional wellbeing is considered a plus, and if a high school offers that, you should place that high school higher on your list – believe me, it makes a difference.
A thriving high school needs teachers who are actively trying to make a difference in their students’ academic journey, and staff that supports and displays the school’s values and spirit.
You can always take a look at the high school’s website and look around to see what faculty they have on board, as well as who is the Head of the School and what kind of values they promote.
Oftentimes, by looking at the Head of School or Founder, we can get a sense of what kind of environment they are trying to create and how that matches our expectations.
Another thing to take into consideration is the student-to-teacher ratio. A school that has a 30-student/teacher ratio will most likely not exceed in creating personal relationships between the students and their teachers. Schools that try to offer a fair teacher-to-student ratio tend to focus more on creating a private and safe environment where students can feel seen and are not afraid to speak their minds or be themselves.
Word of Mouth / Feedback
Last but not least, try and get honest feedback from students who are enrolled or have been enrolled in the school you’re targeting. While some schools might have shiny brochures and very good-looking websites, their values might not align with yours or their practices might not be totally transparent from what’s shown in the media.
Don’t be shy to connect with new people and ask around!
Other things to take into consideration
While the list presented takes into account the aspects that we consider important, there are also some other things that might affect your decision-making process.
Such things include, for example:
- The location of the high school. If you do not want to commute, you should be looking at local or online high schools that accommodate your needs.
- Costs – depending on the budget, there are lots of high schools with great offerings, but if you want to really find the right one, you should focus as mentioned, on the skills you want to gain and the things you want to learn.
- Resources and Support might also be an important thing to consider, as a high school that offers University Prep, for example, might be an advantage for students preparing for University enrolment.
Final Words of Advice
If you are looking for a fun, meaningful high school experience, that is tailored around your needs, Spark is the place for you. When looking for that high school that seems like the best fit, don’t forget that the most important thing is to feel that it matches exactly what you planned for your future.
Spark School is aiming to create future-ready experiences for students who want flexibility and innovation, beyond classroom rules. We try to not only educate students but also guide them through a personal development path where they can discover who they want to be and what resources they need in order to accomplish their goals. And we want to be the ones to help them in doing that!
That being said, in your quest to find the best fitting high school, don’t forget to keep these 5 things in mind and last but not least, to put yourself and your dreams first.