Beginning the search for private schools can be daunting for families. First, make a list of all of the schools you want to research. Once you narrow down the list to a few select schools you are primarily interested in, it is time to schedule a Shadow Day, one of the most critical parts of the admission process.
Shadow Days work as a two-fold opportunity for a prospective family to gauge the overall fit of the school, or how well the student matches the mission of the school, and to ensure the school is the right place for your child to begin or continue their education. Students and parents should feel comfortable in asking questions and evaluating the school, as well. Most schools refer to a Shadow Day as a “true-to-life experience,” and highlights the school for prospective students and their families to encourage them to enroll.
So how do you make the best use of a Shadow Day?
For students, try to fully engage in the classroom and take advantage of opportunities that present themselves throughout the day. If you know an answer to a question in a class, do not be afraid to raise your hand. Students that engage with their peers and teachers stand out which could lead to a recommendation from an internal teacher and, in turn, help the student to receive a favorable admission decision.
Parents will also have an opportunity to engage with the school via a tour or conversation with an admission representative. Parents can take this time to ask questions that are important to them, which usually leads to a more meaningful conversation and the impression that the family has high interest in the school.
The most crucial part of a Shadow Day that often gets overlooked is the family debrief and discussion that evening. Parents may have questions prepared for their child about their experience, things that he or she saw or heard, how the student felt in the various settings of the school, etc. It is rare for a prospective student to have a negative experience, but not all Shadow Days go perfectly either. Having a plan on how to evaluate the experience as a family, while also comparing the experience to Shadow Days at other schools, is crucial to help determine the best fit school for your child.
Do not be surprised if you receive a follow-up call or email from a representative of the school you recently visited. If, as a family, you are really interested in a particular school, have your child send a thank you card or email to the school; it’s always a great touch. All in all, the Shadow Day process should be fun and should provide a great way to evaluate a school.