How many times have you heard a parent say that the moment they set foot into a school they knew it was the one for their child?
It is true, while the facts and figures do play a part in the decision making process, oftentimes, when parents have shortlisted their top 3 schools, the decision comes down to gut feelings and intuition.
So no amount of information you gather online or from brochures could aid you in your search for an international school like walking into a school and glimpsing what goes on behind those doors (learn more about "What to Look for in an International School Campus").
After all, you are not simply paying for a product but rather a service and the human element is really important so you have to make it a point to speak to the people who work at the school – the academic staff, the admissions team, CCA providers etc. – and get an impression of what the children who already attend the school are like and what a day in their life looks likes.
What better way to do that than at an open house?
An international school (find out "What is an International School") open house is when a school throws open its doors for a couple of hours to welcome any interested families scouting for schools, with the intention of providing all the information and access the families need to make the right pick for their children.
A typical open house format often includes the following:
- Introduction to the school from the principal, vice-principal or another academic head
- Explanation of the curriculum
- Overview of key offerings: curriculum, subjects, languages, co-curricular activities, learning support programmes etc.
- Question & Answer session
- Campus tour and a chance to see what goes on in the classes
- Chance to get council from academic team and admissions team
What to do to prepare for an open house?
To get the most out of an open house visit, prepare ahead of time and set clear intentions for what you want to look out for. If you are struggling with this, take a step back and think about whether you have a concrete idea of what an ideal school for your child would look like or visit this page to get help with that!
If the programme flow of the open house does not sufficiently address your objectives, make additional requests ahead of time. For instance, if there is somebody specific you would like to meet such as the Head of Learning Support or the school counsellor, or if you are particularly interested in visiting a facility that you are not sure will be covered in the tour or need a private consultation with the admissions team.
It also helps to write down all the questions you have that you cannot find information about on the school website or brochures. Some broad categories to think about are curriculum, languages, learning support, co-curricular activities, admissions requirements, operational matters such as bus routes.
Should you bring your child to an open house?
It is definitely a good idea to bring your children along to open houses regardless of age. Let them roam the campus during the tours, let them ask their questions and observe what their peers are doing. On your part, watch out for verbal and non-verbal cues from them on how they feel about being in the space. If your children are old enough, ask them to share their honest feedback on what they liked, disliked and what are some concerns they have.
Most schools are prepared to host children during open houses and have age-specific activities planned to keep them well-engaged so you will not have to worry too much about the kids being in the way of your agenda.
What happens if I cannot attend an open house?
Schools are usually open to receiving interested families on other days and providing personalised campus tours (Do you know what to look out for in an international school campus?). This could be an alternative to visiting a school during an open house. While you might not have the perks of meeting a variety of academic staff, admissions staff, CCA providers etc. in the same room at the same time, or learning new information through the enquiry and questions, you might not have thought about, raised by other parents, it will still be a great opportunity for you to get an impression of the school before you make your decision.