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Interviewing the Institution: it can't hurt to ask (family edition)

One question can make all the difference for your student and your family. Here is a series of questions to ask the school if you are a prospective, incoming, or returning family.

Things to Consider:

  • Treat this as a behavioral interview and make sure school administrators identify specific events and actions.

  • Beforehand, review your family values, goals, and finances in order to stay grounded during the discussion.

  • If you do not hear anything specific about processes, policies, or practices, then consider the responses performative, insincere, or duplicitous.

  • To get the answers you want and need, do not hold back when asking questions.

  • If possible, attend several recruitment events, open-houses, and applicant evenings in order to check if the messaging is consistent and transparent regardless of the messenger or the audience.

Potential Questions to Ask:

VOICE & VISIBILITY: What are some specific ways in which the school requests and honors feedback from families?

  1. Variations:

    1. How do you know families feel supported, seen, and heard?

    2. How often does the school administration call and participate in listening sessions with families?

    3. What are the steps to scheduling a meeting with the leadership team?

    4. How has the school's parent-teacher association (PTA) been involved on campus?

    5. What has the school done to celebrate and recognize families, not just the rich ones who frequently donate?

EQUITY & INCLUSION: What have equity and inclusion looked like on campus?

  1. Variations:

    1. How has your faculty ensured the physical and socioemotional safety, belonging, and well-being of my student?

    2. What supports are there in place for the historically underrepresented and the historically marginalized?

    3. How does the school make information available and accessible to multilingual families? (i.e., in print, in person, online)

OPEN TO GROWTH: What are some strengths and areas of growth for your faculty, your leadership team, and families, respectively?

  1. Variations:

    1. What is the last tradition or policy that your school revised, added, or did away with in the spirit and practice of equity and inclusion?

    2. How are faculty and staff held accountable for any malpractice, misconduct, or mistreatment of any community member who comes on campus?

RECRUITMENT & RETENTION: What have been some concrete steps or actions taken to recruit, support, and retain students and families from underrepresented and or under-served backgrounds?

  1. Variations:

    1. What are the demographics of the student body? Sports teams? Performing Arts department?

    2. What would keep my family here for the long-term?

    3. What would cause my family to leave your school in the short-term?

    4. What did the last 3 student body presidents look like? Explain.

    5. What concrete or specific steps have been taken to support affinity groups on campus?

    6. What is the last action the school took to prioritize student mental health?

    7. During admissions events, what do you say to White families that may be different than the messages given to families of color? Explain.

EXTRACURRICULAR EXPECTATIONS: Besides loving and supporting my student, what is expected of my family?

  1. Variations:

    1. How many on-campus hours of service are families expected to give?

    2. How are PTA meetings made available and accessible to families with various living and work arrangements?

FINANCIAL AID: How does the school assess and meet the financial needs of families?

  1. Variations:

    1. How can my family qualify for full or partial scholarships?

    2. How does my financial aid change if our financial situation changes?

    3. If my student transfers or leaves the school mid-year, are families expected to continue to pay tuition?

    4. Will my student be expected to complete work-study hours that may cut into their study time?

      1. Is it equitable to have my student working on campus while other students who are more financially well-off get to use their free time for studying, socializing, or taking mental health breaks?

Note: Feel free to bring these questions with you or email them directly to members of the school leadership team. Use discretion and best judgment.


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