3 Things to Consider When Building a School List

What should you consider when deciding on an education and school for your kiddo? EarlyBird is here to help break down the tough decisions to make.

Building a school list is not only the initial step in your school selection process, but it is also the very foundation of your entire admissions journey. We get it, this can feel like a lot of pressure– there are so many options and it can feel *totally* overwhelming. 

Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ll be giving you a sneak peek into an EarlyBird List Building Session. Our goal is to help you navigate this very important step with a bit more clarity and ease. 

Here are three questions to consider that we guarantee will help you generate your very own school list: 

1. Non-negotiables

We like to start with screener questions: “What are non-negotiables for you?” Some families stand firm on a K-8 school while others stand firm on K-12. Some families prefer single-sex, while others prefer coed. Some families require schools that are close by, while others remain indifferent to proximity. Simply identifying your non-negotiables helps you filter your options down tremendously.

K-8 vs K-12

K-8 naturally yields a stronger focus on early childhood education and a small, nurturing community feel for those early years. Children grow academically, socially and emotionally; when it comes time to apply to high school, parents can consider these insights as they set out to select where their child will continue their education.

With a K-12, you’re there for a long time. This can be seen as a positive or a negative depending on your goals. You’re able to build a long term community, and only have to endure the admissions process once. On the contrary, if you’re selecting a high school when your child is 4 years old, you may learn that your child’s learning needs may be better suited in a different learning environment later on – and that’s okay! 

Co-ed vs Single Sex

Both models offer a unique experience for their students. Consider if you are open to exploring both types of schools, or if you’re steadfast in your preference for one of them. While many feel that single-sex schools help break down gender stereotypes, others prefer the socialization children receive in a co-ed environment. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there are many other factors that play into this decision. Ultimately, there’s no right decision; there’s just the right decision for your child.


We alway ask families if they are comfortable with having their child ride a bus everyday, or if walking distance to their home is preferable. Additionally, think through the level of involvement you’re planning on partaking in; do you need to be close by to achieve this? Consider where your child’s peers may live; it’s always nice to have members of the school community nearby! 

2. Core Educational Values and Priorities 

We encourage our families to think about the type of community they want their child immersed in. From diversity, to curricula, to extracurriculars offered, we like to get granular with this question. 

Mission statements and core values can tell you a lot. They’re more than just buzz words – they actually permeate every aspect of the school. We urge parents to think about what is underscored at a particular school. Do your priorities align with the school’s priorities? Consider the school’s approach to learning. Are they inquiry-based, traditional, hands-on, or experiential? Do students learn in whole groups? Small groups? Consider the adjectives the school uses to describe the educational values of their community. Explore the school’s attitude towards extracurricular activities. Are they secondary to academic offerings? Are they highly encouraged? What do you want for your child?

3. Look, Feel, Sound

One of our favorite questions to ask families is, “if you close your eyes and envision your child’s future school: what does it look, feel and sound like?” Some questions to guide this exercise are: 

  • What are the class sizes? 
  • How are the facilities? What is being displayed on the bulletin boards in the hallways?
  • Are children in uniform?
  • Are students sitting in rows of desks or in groups? 
  • Do you hear students addressing their teachers by first or last name?
  • Are classrooms filled with chatter, or are they more quiet and traditional? 
  • Do you feel a sense of warmth, community, respect and school spirit?

These three buckets are a great launchpad, but know that there is much more on the horizon. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate this upcoming admissions season alone.

Looking for timely guidance and sound advice? EarlyBird is here for all of you early learning and admissions questions.


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