Choosing a High School that’s Right for Your Teen


May 6, 2015


There are loads of articles that will list the best high schools. This is not one of them.

Adolescence can be a trying time. Teenagers are often moody, trying to assert their emotional and intellectual maturity, while still being very much dependent on parents. These growing pains may be a natural part of life on both sides, but they can be exacerbated by a host of outside factors. One of the biggest is your child’s high school. Consider: This is the place your child will be socializing and learning for the majority of each day; for four years, being a high school student is her job. You wouldn’t haphazardly apply for a job, without understanding what it entails, and similarly, you should not choose high school for superficial reasons or at random. Parents should discuss, agree on, and prioritize a set of criteria together to find a high school best suited to their child.

Because the best high schools may not actually be best for your teen.

What to look for in a high school

Parameters to consider when choosing a high school:

Academic Track

Some high schools are structured around a specific track, while others offer holistic education and development. Consider whether your child would thrive most in an academic-, sports-, or arts-focused school, or in a more balanced learning environment.

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School Size

For some children, the size of the school and the student-to-teacher ratio is key. A small school may allow your child to get close, individualized attention from peers and teachers. But a large school can expose her to a wide variety of students and faculty. When choosing a high school, consider which environment your child flourishes in and choose that.

Location and Proximity

The school should probably be no more than three kilometres from your home in order to save your child from an exhausting daily commute. But do consider the surroundings: A school within walking distance may seem ideal on paper, but if, for example, it has poor infrastructure, or is located along a loud, busy road, a slightly longer journey may be wiser.

Management and Values

The school’s management should be open-minded and progressive. The team should have a clear vision, mission, and core values that are consistently communicated through initiatives and programs both at school and in the education community. Be wary of schools that rely primarily on commercials for this communication, as it can indicate a focus on style over substance. Finally, when choosing a high school, look for a management team that is hands-on and actively involved in creating child-friendly and success-driven strategies.

School Culture

Become familiar with the school’s culture, and think about whether it conforms with your parenting style—some parents prefer a more free and casual atmosphere, while other prefer more structure and rigidity for their children. Look at the awards displayed around the school to understand what achievements are valued and celebrated. Finally, school culture isn’t only about the atmosphere for students, but also about the atmosphere for parents. Look for bulletin boards for a glimpse into how the school will interact and communicate with you.

Stream of Board and Fee Structure

Preferences regarding fee structure are very subjective and therefore must suit your financial needs. Similarly, most of the parents have preferences for stream of boards. If not, then parents should seek out experts to learn about the strengths and outcomes of each stream of boards.

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are instrumental to the holistic development of a child. Research what clubs, sports, and general interest activities are available and who leads them; specialized extracurricular activities, such as football, archery, ballet, or Western or Indian music should be facilitated by trained faculty (not just the school’s teachers).

Counselling Services

A school should have a counselor on staff who is responsible for the children’s emotional security.  While most teachers try to be attentive, only a professional counselor will be able to identify if a child is dealing with a sensitive issue and know how to address it properly.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Inspect the hygiene of the canteens, pantry, and washrooms at the school. This is important for obvious health reasons, but also because it speaks volumes about the school’s culture and the values it will be communicating to your child.

School Environment

Look for a school that nurtures a joyful and harmonious environment. Parents can gauge this by observing student-teacher and student-student interactions.

Social Backgrounds

Select a high school whose student culture is diverse, yet familiar to your child. The high school years are key years in building social skills for the world at large, and it’s good for you child to be challenged by people different than himself. However, plunging a teenager into a completely new and strange environment isn’t the best idea. For instance, if you’re considering a boarding school, also consider whether your child has ever attended a similar institution, lived away from home, and would be comfortable there.


The faculty should be well-qualified, experienced, and should pursue continuous training on the latest educational methods and programs.

Tracking and Grading System

The tracking and grading system should be fair and egalitarian, but also reward the individual efforts of its students. The tracking and grading system should be both academic- and talent-oriented.


The school’s alumni board is direct evidence of the school’s accomplishments. Talking to alumni can help you understand the evolution of the school’s management, programs, and faculty over the years, as well as any challenges it is currently facing.




Written By Prriety Gosalia

Prriety Gosalia has over two decades of experience in education. In her current role as CEO & Chief of Academics of Leapbridge Schools, she has led Leapbridge Early Childhood Learning Centre to become a preferred pre-school in Pune and Mumbai. Ms. Gosalia is changing pre-primary education by introducing new learning strategies and engaging, age-appropriate, and structured curricula. Ms. Gosalia serves as a regular contributor to various education forums, and has authored content which the Government of Kenya has approved and follows in most of its schools.


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