Even the perfect house won’t make a perfect home unless it’s located near great schools for the kids. Finding a neighborhood with good schools can be a tricky proposition, especially if you’re conducting your research long distance. Fortunately, you can glide through the process with the help of a few reputable rating services and a checklist designed to help you target what aspects of a school and school system are most important to you.
What constitutes a good school to someone like your real estate agent may be completely different than what you want for your own family. Asking people who live in the area isn’t likely to provide a reliable overview, either. Every school and school district has individual strengths and weaknesses, and most are dealing with at least some degree of administrative controversy and funding squabbles.
Before you even begin shopping for a home, figure out what aspects of your children’s educational experience are most important to you. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Are you looking for public or private schools? Is the type of school you want available within a reasonable distance?
- How will your children get to school? Do you want a school within safe walking distance? Are school buses available?
- Are you looking for a large campus with plenty of classes and activities to choose from, or would you prefer a smaller, more personal atmosphere?
- Would you prefer a student body of predominately well-off, high-achieving students? Is diversity important to you?
- Are you looking for a basic, well-rounded education or a school that emphasizes advanced academics, the arts, sciences or business?
- Does your child need special education programs?
- Do you have a talented child in need of elite-level athletic, music, or other special programs? Is your child interested in participating in more casual programs?
Once you’ve narrowed down the specific points that are important to you, you’re ready to look for highly rated schools that offer what you want.
Compare and contrast ratings from these top school rating sites.
- GreatSchools: This site is probably the most popular standard for school ratings and reviews.
- Neighborhood Scout: Although you’ll need a subscription to mine the best content Neighborhood Scout has to offer, this service offers some unique ways to drill down on school data.
- School Digger: It’s always smart to double check and verify your facts, and School Digger offers solid statistics that will prove useful in your school search.
Once you have all the hard data you need, it’s time for the soft touch. Talk to families you see in the neighborhoods you’re considering. If your schedule permits, drop in at a PTA meeting to see what sort of projects and challenges they’re tackling.
Finally, if you find yourself on the fence about a one particular school, call and ask if you can get a school tour. Look at how well the facility is maintained and what sort of amenities and resources the school offers its students. A visit to the school is also the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the school’s day-to-day atmosphere.
What factors do you look for in a school for your children? How do you decide if a school will be a good fit for your family?