Part 01

How to make the most of a school’s open house

Tips and advice to help you navigate these informative events

One of the best ways to learn about a prospective private school is to attend its open house. These meet-and-greet events welcome parents and their kids and serve as your opportunity to get to know the school and its staff so you can determine whether the fit will be a good one for your family. But open houses can also be overwhelming, so how can you ensure it’s a productive experience for all involved? 

Do your homework 

Before the open house, research the school, its values, its curriculum and staff, its campus and the like. “It’s helpful if parents have a basic understanding of the Montessori philosophy prior to attending the open house or tour,” says Jacqueline Richman, director of advancement and community relations at Bannockburn School. “This allows parents to focus on learning about how Bannockburn embodies the [Montessori] philosophy and what makes us such a special place.” 

Ask questions and take notes

As you do your research, prepare a list of questions and then bring it along to the event. “We encourage [parents] to ask questions not necessarily related to the individual needs of their own child, but how the school will support and assist in the growth of all students,” says Marina Spalla, assistant director of enrolment management at TMS. You might ask teachers about their teaching style, their expectations of students or how they communicate with parents. Questions for administrators might revolve around school policies, its resources or the admissions process. 

Evaluate the facilities

“Student ambassadors take individual families on their own personal tour of the entire campus,” says David Fischer, director of admissions at St. Michael’s College School. “In addition to exploring the campus at an open house, families may also schedule their own personal tour with a member of the admissions team.” On a tour, take a good look at the school, the grounds, the classrooms and the facilities. How does the campus make you feel? Is it welcoming, clean and organized? Does it appear safe and well-maintained? Assessing these things will help you make an informed decision.

Meet other parents

Parents of current students are an invaluable resource—they’ve been in your shoes and can provide additional insight and advice—so, either during the open house or afterward, talk to them about their experiences. “We have an active Parent Association that engages with and supports our parent community,” says Susie Heinrich, director of enrolment management at The Sterling Hall School. “Programs like our SHS Buddies connect new parents with seasoned SHS parents, often forming meaningful relationships in the process.”

Make a good impression 

First impressions matter both ways at an open house, so arrive on time, dress smartly (business casual), smile and remember to turn off your phone so you don’t disrupt the event. Ideally, you should leave an open house with a favourable impression of the school, and the school should be left with a sense that you’d be a welcome addition to its community.