I interviewed Howard Greene, the President and Founder of Howard Greene and Associates, an educational consulting firm that has been advising students and their families about independent school, college, and graduate school choices for over forty years. Here’s what he had to say about choosing the right private school and how an educational consultant can help:
Question: How can parents find the school that's the best fit for their child?
Howard Greene: The goal is to have the child be well educated, socially and emotionally stable, and to think about where the child will go to college. My mantra is that a student is going to do well if he or she is in the top one-third of the class. In other words, the child can handle well working hard, is taking an enriched curriculum, and is involved in extra-curriculars.
Question: What is the role of an educational consultant in finding the right school?
Howard Greene: The number one rule is that the counseling client is the kid--not the parent or school. The consultant works for the student. How do you get parents to understand what's the right place for their child? It's like buying stock or real estate. You can rely on a person who's been out there and knows the institutions. It's not leverage I offer-it's knowledge of the institutions. I work with the child and get to know the kid. The match-up between the kid and the school is the bottom line. We deal with students from all over the country. We see kids in schools and know who works well in a school. We also see where they go to college, so we can counsel them for college.
Question: What advice to you provide to parents about the school interview?
Howard Greene: Give your kid a sense of confidence. This is at the heart of our work. It's the student who is going to be interviewed. Private schools, particularly boarding schools, can separate the child's readiness to attend the school from the parents' aspirations. We don't program the student. Instead, we get him comfortable talking about himself, his hobbies, and practicing the kinds of questions that interviewers are likely to ask. We work on correcting grunt answers or apologetic answers. If your son or daughter wants this, trust them and get out of their way.
Question: What are some common mistakes you see parents making in the admissions process?
Howard Greene: Often parents don't think about boarding schools, but they should consider them. The biggest mistake is that parents are all looking at the same "big-ten" boarding schools. The schools shouldn't all be lumped together. We help parents refine the culture at each school. Again, parents should follow the "one-thirder concept." Your child should be in the top one-third at his school. The parents' mistake is often focusing only on brand-names. Also, never listen to your best friend about a school. Talk to more people. We are not beholden to a school. Instead, we work with the family in an objective way.