One cannot attend an educational conference, read a trade publication or a school’s marketing materials without coming across the hot buzzwords “grit,” “zest” and “best fit.” These snazzy concepts are regarded as essential for student success. The child with grit perseveres, and a zesty student connotes images of active engagement in activities and classroom discussions. However, best fit is not as easily defined by a single word, concept or phrase. In fact, all the grit and zest in the world will not spell success if there is not a good fit between the child and school. Hence, it is no surprise that when meeting with families, the question that is always front and center for the consultant is “What is the best fit for the child?”
When considering schools, families tend to focus on metrics. Does my child have the grades to get into St. Grottlesex? And if admitted, will she be able to keep pace? As independent educational consultants, it’s our job to get to know the whole child – as a learner, a citizen, and an athlete. We often must shift the conversation with families beyond a singular target school. Would the child thrive in a progressive or more formal setting? Would the child feel better in a large school with many students and course offerings, or would a smaller, nurturing setting be more suitable? Are there academic support needs? What athletic and extracurricular options need to be in place for the student to feel fulfilled? Should a single sex setting be considered? As seasoned professionals, we understand that an academic match between a school and a student is only one piece of the puzzle. In fact, for a student to truly feel that he or she is in the right environment, a number of factors must align. Best fit encompasses academic, social, extracurricular and even geographic and stylistic realms.
Interestingly, when a student is unsuccessful at a given school, the child’s aptitude is often not the cause of the mismatch. In our role as educational consultants, families often arrive at our doorstep midway through an academic year that initially looked to be a promising match between student and school. Sometimes the root of the issue is purely academic, but more often than not, there are other factors that transcend the scope, pace and rigor of curriculum.
The most prestigious, geographically convenient, or a parent’s alma mater is not always a good match for the child. In fact, one size does not fit all in the world of independent schools. Fortunately, the private school landscape is rich with a variety of academic, extracurricular and cultural opportunities. One of the great rewards of our work as educational consultants is teaming with a family to consider their child’s unique strengths, interests and needs in an effort to explore the best fit, given an independent school landscape that is varied and rich in offerings.