If your 8th grader is considering multiple private high schools, you definitely should be planning for your child to spend a day taking the equivalent of a test drive by shadowing these schools.

So, how do you make sure that your child gets the most out of such visits? What should your child see and do during his or her day at each school? Here are the five top tips that experienced admissions professionals recommend that can make choosing the right private high school easier:

1. Let the school choose the host.

You might be tempted to choose a sibling, a neighbor, or someone else who your child already knows very well at that school to be the shadow host. And, while this might have some benefits, don’t miss out on the opportunity to get a totally fresh perspective. Consider having the school choose your host, but also be sure to share your child’s academic abilities and favorite subjects as well as clubs, activities, and/or athletic interests. Whichever approach you choose, the match between your child and host is very important!

2. Make a day of it.

Most schools will prefer this, and for good reason. Spending the entire day gives your child the most realistic look at a typical day while also ensuring that he or she does not miss any classes of interest. If your son or daughter leaves early, he or she might miss that favorite subject or that legendary teacher. Also, eating lunch and enjoying any flex time or resource periods allows your child to interact socially with potential future peers.

3. Take the grand tour.

Hopefully your child’s host will offer a tour of campus during the day during lunch or a flex/resource/study period. If not, your child should ask for a tour and should let his or her host know areas of particular interest. Seeing the theater, the ceramics classroom, the robotics lab, the weight room, and/or other spaces might help make your child’s enrollment decision a bit easier.

4. Talk to teachers.

Most of your child’s visit will be spent in classrooms, but he or she might not actually have a lot of time to talk directly to teachers individually. Make time for this, though. Between classes, during lunch, and/or at other times, your student should make an effort to engage teachers to get a feel for how much they enjoy their school and teaching young people!

5. Be social!

Many students make their enrollment decision based upon that “gut feeling” about private high schools. The best way to get a feel for a school is to interact with students. Make sure your student joins in conversations at lunch. Have him or her ask other students why they like their school. Find out how welcoming the school is, and have your child figure out whether or not he or she could see himself or herself there for four years.

Finally, if you do all of the above and still have questions about a school, call their admissions office and ask those questions. Admissions officers are happy to answer them!

Want to know more? Want more suggestions? Feel free to contact Duane Emery, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Cathedral.