Every family is different, but they all seem to align on one thing: the priority to have “great schools” for their kids. The challenge? Each family defines “great schools” differently. Suburban Jungle works closely with each client to find the community with the best fit.
“When we work with city families, we always try to determine what they mean by ‘great schools,’” says Suburban Jungle Strategist Robin Hoberman. “Some want big, some want small, some want specific types of classes or sports. But it always goes beyond just rankings and SAT scores.”
To determine the right types of schools for your family, Suburban Jungle suggests asking yourself a few key questions. Together, these details will help frame how your family defines “great schools” and, from there, better inform your suburban search.
#1. Do we want a BIG school or a SMALL school?
For some families, the idea of a big high school with tons of electives, sports, activities and competition is the definition of a “great school.” For others, a smaller school with more individualized attention is absolutely the way to go—their kids can get the specific guidance and ongoing support they need to excel on their terms.
Ultimately, it’s up to you—great schools come in all shapes and sizes. Choose what makes sense for your kids’ learning styles and passion points and you’ll be that much closer to finding your family’s perfect school.
#2. Are there any specialized subjects or programs we’re looking for?
Some parents want to ensure their kids have a well-rounded K-12 experience, packed with everything from arts to algebra, coding to creative writing. Others have areas they know they want emphasized—a specific language immersion, for example, arts capstone or STEAM intensive, let’s say.
No matter how minor they seem, these considerations are critical when comparing districts and schools apples to apples.
“Decide what’s most important, whether it’s language immersion or specific extracurriculars, then we can help you strategize districts that offer what you’re looking for,” says Suburban Jungle Strategist Alli Levine. “We’ve done the research, we have local resources in the communities and we have tons of insights on the educational offerings in each town.”
#3. What about AP or IB?
More and more, parents are looking for advanced academic opportunities for their kids—and, often, that means schools with extensive Advanced Placement—AP—or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. Both offer top students the opportunity to take rigorous classes with the potential for college credit based on performance.
Beyond that, consider other academic enrichment programs offered, from after school options to online learning to student-led groups that can help your kids define their own unique paths to academic and real-world success.
#4. What other activities and opportunities do we want?
Looking for a super competitive sports program—or, maybe, a specific team like crew, gymnastics, sailing or rugby? Or maybe you’ve got a flourishing performer and theater, show choir and improv are musts. Or maybe it’s photography? Student government? Model UN? Community service? Something else?
Exploring sports and other activities can be tricky, especially if your kids are young. Our advice: look at what your kids seem to be gravitating towards—or what you could see your crew getting behind—then look for schools that sync.
If your family is a big football family, for example, maybe finding a high school with a serious Friday night gridiron scene is important. Or maybe your family is particularly musical or artistic—start with that, for now, and see where it leads.
#5. What kind of “vibe” are we looking for?
Some schools are hard core pressure cookers, with kids being bused off to enrichment programs, high-priced tutors and test prep classes as soon as the bell rings. Other schools are more low-key with tons of opportunities to learn, grow and thrive but without the constant competition. Depending on your child, one could be a better fit.
“Some kids need that competitive vibe to excel,” Alli says, “while others exce a more relaxed environment where they can sink in and power forward. Don’t assume the pressure cooker school is better just because it’s higher-pressure. Decide what’s right for your kids and your family.”
Ultimately, the choice is yours—you know your kids, your family’s educational goals and how the pieces best fit together. And that’s critical to choosing a “great school.”
Armed with those answers, you’ll be better equipped to find schools that align with your family’s long-term learning goals. And don’t worry—Suburban Jungle can help. Get in touch and start exploring the suburbs based on your family’s personal priorities—not just which schools have the highest ACT scores.