Frequently Asked Questions
How are independent schools unique?
Independent schools are different in the following ways
- Their existence depends entirely on their ability to deliver on their mission and to satisfy parents and students that they are academically, socially, and ethically worthwhile.
- Students at independent schools generally, do more homework, read more, and are involved in more extracurricular activities than their friends in public schools.
- Independent school communities admire academic excellence, hard work, fair play, and doing one’s best.
- Teachers in independent schools know their students, interact with them– as individuals–in the classroom, and serve as role models on the athletic field and in extra-curricular activities.
- Students in independent schools are expected to be well-mannered, civil, and disciplined.
- Parents of independent school students are valued, and schools communicate with them on a regular basis.
- Students at independent schools are taught to value their community and to give back to the broader community as a part of a life of service and achievement.
The boards of trustees of independent schools are committed to providing the highest quality education for the lowest price possible. The boards of trustees are directly accountable to the students and the parents they serve. In addition, the schools they direct are regularly and formally reviewed by the state and regional associations of the National Association of Independent Schools. In Pennsylvania the accrediting agency is the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools. Our schools are accredited by the Middle States Association of Independent Schools and Colleges or by the Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools.
While all the PCIS schools share the traits and characteristics mentioned above, each one is different. Each has a distinctive curriculum, a different approach, and a unique culture. You will sense these differences when you go to each school’s web site, when you receive materials in the mail in response to filling out the PCIS Inquiry Form, and when you go to the campus for a tour and a conversation with an admission officer and students and faculty members. Before making your final decision as to which school your child should attend, make sure to assess your child’s educational and social needs and aspirations. Ask yourself: “does your child perform better in structured or unstructured settings?; would he or she be more comfortable in a single sex or a coeducational school?, boarding or day?” Then compare your child’s needs to what a particular school offers to meet those needs. Next, consider your own preferences and aspirations. How do you respond to the fact that a school has a dress code, insists on manners, and has a disciplinary code? How well do you think a particular school will prepare your child for the next level of education? How does a particular school involve parents in its activities? Do its policies for communication and involvement mesh with yours? And remember to ask your child what he/she thinks, and discuss the pros and cons of the independent school experience thoroughly before making a decision.
First, families need to understand that the primary responsibility for paying for their child’s education rests with them. Independent schools, like colleges, do not have extensive financial aid budgets. They must spread their tuition revenue widely: to support their first-class faculties, maintain their fine facilities, and to ensure that your child is exposed to the best curriculum, and supported by the state-of-the-art technology. Some independent schools do, however, commit a portion of their budgets to financial aid, and are intent on ensuring access to students from every segment of society. Second, parents need to find out whether their financial circumstances would merit financial aid from a particular school. Make an appointment with the school’s financial aid officer, and ask for an estimated grant award. Make sure you also ask about the loan programs and tuition payment plans that are available at the school, and procure applications if appropriate. Remember to comply with all the deadlines for these loans and plans.
Independent schools believe that their relationships with their students and families should last a lifetime, and that the full benefit of their educational approach is realized over the course of a student’s life. School is just the beginning of a lifetime commitment to community involvement and to global citizenship. School is where you learn the skills, the critical thinking, and the ethical values that you apply throughout your life. This is why so many independent school students today volunteer their time in hospitals, homeless shelters, rehabilitation projects, and in mentoring programs, and will continue their community involvement and leadership throughout their lives.
You find an exciting range of educators at independent schools, all of whom share a commitment to students and to the pursuit of academic excellence. Our teachers provide individual attention to our students and work closely with them to ensure they reach their full potential. Furthermore, independent school teachers are frequently engaged in coaching and other supervisory positions in the school, so students come to know them in multiple roles and appreciate their qualities of mind and spirit. Some of the friendships formed between teachers and students last well beyond the elementary or middle school, or high school years.
The students at independent school come from all sectors of the community, and in some cases, the world. PCIS schools and others like them do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, disability, or national origin. Rather, independent schools emphasize the importance of diversity in understanding our pluralistic democracy and our global society. Different perspectives and traditions are respected. The importance of tolerance and understanding alternative ways of looking at the world are emphasized. The potential of learning from one another is high. At the same time students at independent schools are not all that different from students everywhere. As one of them said recently: “we are no different from students anywhere, it is just that we like to study AND we like to have fun.”