There are many things to consider when selecting a school for the student in your life. Here's a six-step guide to help you get started:
1. Know your timeline. It's never too soon to start the process of finding the right school. Some schools require you to apply nearly a full year before the start of the school year. This is the case with all of the School District's citywide and selective admissions schools. Some schools also have a more extensive admissions process. See our timelines for elementary/middle school and for high school.
2. Identify your needs. What is most important to your student? Identify his or her strengths, weaknesses and special interests. Use the GPS Student Needs Worksheets for elementary/middle schools and for high schools (right) to begin this process.
3. Decide what you want in a school. Once you have thought about what you and your student want and need in a school, it's time to identify the kind of school environment that will best meet those needs. In addition to good academics and a safe learning environment, decide the other qualities you want in a school.
Once you have written down the qualities you are looking for, rank them in order of importance.
4. Research your options. Now that you have a firm idea of the kind of school environment you're looking for, you can begin to research individual schools. There are over 400 schools in Philadelphia, but don't let that overwhelm you - GreatPhillySchools is designed to help you navigate this complex system to find the best school for you and your child. You can start by reading a school's profile on GreatPhillySchools and reviewing the data that are indicators of the school's quality - including academics, safety, student attendance and - for high schools - what percent of students go on to college. Remember, it's important that schools not only be high-quality but also match the specific priorities you've just identified.
5. Visit the schools. While work schedules can make it hard to find time for visits, there's no better way to know if a school is right for you and your student. You want to see an atmosphere that is welcoming and adults who clearly care about the students-but who also clearly expect students to achieve and behave. Using the information in our profiles, contact the school(s) to schedule a visit. Visiting during school hours will give you the chance to observe classrooms and speak to the principal. You can also attend an open house (see our list of upcoming events here). Regardless of when or how you visit, you can use our Visiting a School guide to ask the right questions.
6. Apply. Visit these articles to find more details about applying to elementary and middle schools as well as applying to high schools. If you haven't heard anything back from a school after two weeks or so, follow up to make sure it has your application and any other required materials or information.