Choosing a private middle school requires careful thought and consideration. The 12 tips cited below will help you choose the right private school for your middle schoolerand put your mind at ease as you navigate the world of private schools before making a final decision.


private middle school

As you have probably already found, middle schools in the U.S. vary widely, so it is very important to think through your preferences to choose a good private middle school for your child. There are all sorts of schools out there to choose from, including: junior high public schools, traditional private middle schools, junior boarding schools, and even military middle schools

As you review the twelve tips below to choose private schools, we recommend jotting down questions to maximize communications with admission offices. 

  • Day or Boarding – If you are looking for a middle school nearby, you will probably enroll your middle schooler in a day school. However, if you are open to your middle schooler living away from home, a junior boarding school outside of your city or even regional area could be a possibility. Bear in mind that most boarding schools offer both day and boarding options. At some boarding schools, students often begin as day students in middle school and then enroll as a boarding school student in high school. 
  • Location – Location is often a critical factor in choosing a private school for a number of reasons. However, if you are open to a junior boarding school, then think regionally or even nationally. But even if your child will be a day student, think outside your city limits. While some middle schools do provide transportation, most parents transport their children to school on their way to work. 

For example, if you live in San Diego county, there are many private schools in surrounding communities. If you commute heading north, you might choose a north county coastal independent middle school in La Jolla, Carlsbad, Oceanside, Encinitas, or Cardiff. If you are commuting to Los Angeles or Orange County on a daily basis, then consider close freeway access. 

  • Mission, Values, Philosophy – Every private middle school should have a core mission, set of values, and educational philosophy. Make sure you check the school websites for this type of information and ask questions on tour. This kind of information is frequently located under the “about us” section of school websites. When making a school choice, it is important for both you and your middle schooler to feel aligned with the values and overarching mission and philosophy of the school. Explore what the school heads or presidents have to say about their schools. 
  • School Type – Private middle schools in the U.S. are very diverse and each school offers a unique set of differentiators. You will have choices for K-8 schools or a combination middle school and high school. You can even choose a specialized middle school geared for all boys, all girls, gifted and talented, or a school for special needs. If you think your middle schooler could benefit from a structured school focused on leadership and character development, there are a number of college prep military middle schools in the United States with a focus on life skills, character, and leadership training. 
  • Academic Approach – Private middle schools adopt various methods and approaches based on their educational philosophy. Online and in conversations, you might see or hear terms like these mentioned:college prep, single gender (geared for boys or girls), socratic, behavioristic, social learning, cognitive, experiential, humanist, classical, project-based, interdisciplinary, and research-based. There is a tremendous amount of research on educational approaches, so don’t get overwhelmed by labels. Speak with the private school admission office about their school’s approach and methods to determine if it is a good fit for your middle schooler. 
  • Academic Support Systems – If your middle schooler will benefit from specific types of supports, make sure to ask about the followings support services: tutoring services, after school tutorial period with teachers, and learning strategies programs for students with ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and other learning differences. If your middle schooler is an international student seeking a prep school with English as a Second Language (ESL) or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), some private middle schools, in particular boarding schools, do offer ESL or ESOL programs and classes. 
  • College Prep and Planning Services – If you think your middle schooler might want to take advanced placement (AP) or honors classes in high school (aka “upper school”), then you might want to ensure the prep school offers AP and honors classes. Also, if you think your child will attend through high school, ask about college prep planning services, college matriculation, and career oriented electives (e.g. aviation, computer science, business, entrepreneurship). 
  • School Size – While some private schools are intentionally very small and may even be considered “microschools”, some private day schools have enrollments into the thousands. By contrast, boarding schools are typically much smaller and tend to be in the 300-400 student body range. On Niche, a review website, you can filter by types of schools, grade level, religion, boarding, coed status, specialty, academic program, and other filters. 
  • Average Class Size – According to the National Association for Educational Statistics (NCES), the average class size at private schools (secondary departmentalized) is trending at 17.7. Keep in mind that class size is often determined by enrollment in the respective class or elective. Every subject could potentially have a different number of students in the subject area or middle school students may be in pods or cohorts of some sort. 
  • Extracurriculars – Check school websites for sports, clubs, trips, excursions, and weekend activities. Extracurricular activities are essential to emotional and social development during the middle school years. Ask about team sports, fitness programs, types of clubs, and school trips. 
  • Campus Life – The school campus is important, so check out school facilities. While on tour, ask about the campus culture, safety, health, and dining services. Many independent middle schools are quite similar to small college campuses and include full facilities such as: student enrichment centers, state-of-the-art athletic facilities, science labs, counseling centers, recreation halls, health centers, bookstores, and more. 
  • Denominational or Non-Denominational – This is an important consideration as the values and focus of the private school should ideally be aligned with your family’s values and beliefs. If you have a religious preference for your child’s middle school education, then choosing a denominational school could be important to you. However, keep in mind that some non-denominational schools have specific character development programs to instill and inspire values and principles. 

Choosing a private middle school should now be simpler for you. Hopefully, you now have a better handle on how to research private schools, as well as specific criteria to consider when choosing a private middle school. 

Remember to have an open discussion with your middle schooler as teens today like to participate in their educational choices. If your teen is engaged in the process, the likelihood of success is far greater in middle school and high school. 

Questions? Feel free to contact us. Our admission staff are very familiar with the private school sector and we’re standing by to help you out. If our middle school is not the right fit, we can refer you to other public, charter, private schools as well as provide resources. In particular, given our location in California, we are very familiar with Carlsbad middle schools, San Diego private schools, military middle schools, and west coast junior boarding schools.