This from Kim Hamer of

I hear this all the time when I ask a parent what they are looking for: “We’re looking for a school where my child can continue to be excited about learning,” or, “A place where my child’s learning style will be honored,” or, “We want a place where my child will be academically challenged.”

Those are sincere statements but they are vague. They’re not detailed enough and don’t describe the kind of school that will accomplish your goals. It’s like saying, “If you need anything, let me know.” It’s not helpful because, what is “anything”? The more specific you are about what you’re looking for, the more likely you are to find it and, with schools, the more likely you are to get in.

Before you start touring, there are two questions to ask yourself. These questions are important because one, they give you the ability to get narrow your focus, and two, they give you the ability to articulate what you are looking for beyond the statements above.

To Do #1: Identify What Values You Want Your Child To Have As An Adult.
You want to spend some time figuring out what values you want your child to have as an adult. This will help clarify everything about the process – touring, application writing, interviewing and, when you finally start the school, feeling like you are at home there.

When you say, “a school where my child’s learning style will be honored,” continue your thought to include what values the school practices. What values do they instill in your child so that they feel honored? Get specific.

To Do #2: Make a list of skills you want your child to possess when they leave school.
Again, it’s about getting specific. Write a list of skills, including academic ones, that you want your child to possess when he or she leaves school – beyond learning to read. Look at your life now. What skills do you posses that you wish you had learned in school? What skills do you posses that you did learn in school? It’s really important to be thorough, because we often forget important life skills such as negotiating (vital in today’s world market), thinking critically, or being able to empathize. Do you want your child to be able to develop a theory and then prove it wrong? (Proving your own theory right is pretty easy.)

For each of my children, my skills list was different. For my daughter, I wanted her to get good at speaking in front of peers and adults. She’s in 6th grade now, and while she does not love public speaking, she knows how to and does it well. Check! Now, I will look for a private middle school that will continue to nurture that skill.

There you have it – two things to do before you start touring that will keep you focused. If you do these two things, I can guarantee that you will have one of those, “OMG this is the school!” moments and the best part is, you will know exactly why it’s the school.

If you want to learn more about effective school tours, check out Finding the Perfect Private School: A Step-by-Step Guide to An Effective Private Elementary School Tour.

Kim Hamer, The Private School Admissions Expert, is founder of the 7 Steps to Acceptance System™, the proven step-by-step program that shows you exactly how to get your child into private elementary, private middle or private high school. To get your F.R.E.E. 7 Steps to Getting Into Private School by e-mail and receive Kim's weekly admissions secrets articles on getting the private education you want for your child, visit