Months ago when I was touring schools, I sent a Facebook message to some college students who participated in a youth program I coordinated in Oakland a few years ago. They were amazing youth leaders, critical thinkers and great students. They all went to some great colleges (including some ivy leagues) and attended a mix of public and private/parochial schools for their K-12 education. I asked them for advice on what they think I should do about choosing schools for my daughter. Here were my questions: “With your diverse experiences in public and private schools, what do you think are the benefits and disadvantages of each? How did going to a private school influence your self-identity being that y'all are people of color, generally working class/middle class, and, sometimes, from immigrant families? Do you think we should prioritize sending our daughter to private or public school? How has private school helped or hindered your experiences in college? What else? What do you think I should know about choosing schools? How did y'all become such awesome high schoolers?"
Here are some excerpts of their responses. I’ve been thinking about their advice a lot this past week and thought they might be helpful to others:
o “I can't deny that I learned a lot in private school and there were a lot more opportunities but something must be said for the fact that I do feel that it made me a little socially awkward. I can't really explain it but public school immerses you more in reality.” – Attended public school for K-8 and then a Catholic high school
o “I would maybe send her to public school for Kindergarten through elementary and then private school in middle school or even a really good charter school but definitely private school for high school. Private school definitely provided me with more attention and a better understanding of the college process. But it is really expensive I was able to get a large scholarship every year so that helped some. I feel my high school helped with my confidence and allowed me to ask and answer questions with little intimidation, which are good things to have once at college. But not all private schools are the same. Check class size, curriculum and diversity of student body. Do students and faculty at school look like me? At many private universities, diversity is a problem, but some schools are better than others so try to find those schools.” – Student who attended public school until she went to a prestigious independent high school on full scholarship
o "I went to a diverse private school from K-8 (i.e. almost all the students were low income and on financial aid). I went to mid-level private high school. As far as K-12, I can only speak to Catholic private education. In short, it was well worth it. Going to the same K-8 school built a strong sense of community among me and my peers—especially the people I had known since Kindergarten. It’s really hard to hate on or make fun of someone you’ve known since you were 4! In both K-8 and high school, the populations were both really diverse; however, I found that the Catholic education foundation and belief among me and my peers served as a phenomenal shared background. The mandatory retreats and reflections, something you don’t really get in public school, encourage introspection and self-discovery—something that helped me to define my values and goals. Naysayers will say that private school at a young age leaves you sheltered—but to be honest, I think I turned out well adjusted because of it! I found K-8 to be incredibly nurturing, which really allowed me to be MYSELF in a safe and supportive environment. That’s how I ended up so confident, flamboyant, and extroverted in Catholic school—even despite being low income and of color." - Student who attended Catholic school from K-12