Education: Choose Your Path Forward

Amanda Harper


Selecting the “right” school for your child – or even yourself – can feel like an impossible task. With so many options, how do you know you’re making the best possible choice? Pave a path bold foward with more confidence using these tips. 


Early Child Care

Why Your Choice Matters

In your child’s first years, having reliable childcare is essential for most parents. Even if you don’t plan on having your child in daycare regularly, establishing a trusting relationship with a childcare provider can set your mind at ease when you need their service.

Get Started Early

Waiting lists for early childhood care and schooling can be lengthy – often months or years. Putting off your search can back you into a corner in terms of your available choices. The process can also take longer than you’d think between tours, references and research.

Do Your Research

From licenses to safety procedures, there are many aspects of childcare on which you will want firm, clear answers. Do online digging, ask lots of questions and find references to talk to. Also, check your gut feeling about the facility and caregivers: your intuition can tell you a lot!


Young Childhood Education

Why Your Choice Matters

Early childhood is a crucial time in your child’s development. Your child’s first school experiences will set the tone for how they approach the world.

Good Questions to Ask:

1.) How do you support each students’ unique learning needs?

2.) What is your typical classroom size? What is your average student-teacher ratio?

3.) What is the environment like for students of my child’s age?

Public Schooling

Most children attend the public schools within the district in which their primary residence falls. You can put in an out-of-area request if you wish your child to attend a different public school. However, the criteria for these requests are limited due to capacity concerns.

Public schools are generally larger and can provide children with a more robust social experience, including a wider variety of extracurricular activities. You also know the qualifications of all teachers and upper administration. All public schools are required by federal law to provide appropriate education for students with disabilities and special needs.

Private Schooling

Many parents elect to send their children to private schools. Classes tend to be smaller and offer more focused curricula than public schools. There is generally less bureaucracy with more direct parental involvement. Most private school institutions lay out specific goals for student learning, including a set of values. Many adhere to one particular teaching method, such as Montessori; this can significantly impact your child’s learning experience. Some private schools offer education from pre-K through high school, which provides a remarkable continuity and sense of community for students and parents alike. 

For parents of students with special needs, it’s important to know that not all private schools offer education for students with disabilities as they’re not required to do so. On the flip side, some private schools have specialized programs specifically for these students, which may be more tailored to your kiddo’s needs.


High School

Why Your Choice Matters

Which school your teen attends can impact their future in big ways. Selecting a high school that aligns with your child’s future goals can set them up for success. 

Know What’s Offered

The differences between high schools can be staggering. Know what sets this school apart from others in terms of courses offered, support services, facilities, safety and extracurricular activities. These offerings will greatly alter the experience your teen has for the next four years.

Know Your #1 Priority

Each student has their own goals, which will shape your choice. A budding sports star should look at the sports program and coaching staff of a prospective school. College-bound students should look at the school’s college prep support as well as Advanced Placement and honors programs. Students with a future in STEM should consider high schools that cater to this field of learning. Determine your top priority early in your vetting process, and the choice may be easier than you expected!

Help Them Choose

Your teen should be a partner in determining their future. Empowering them to choose their path at this point will help them gain confidence for what comes next. While you should help steer their choice and guide their research, working together to choose a high school will set them up for a brighter tomorrow.


Higher Education

Why Your Choice Matters

Whether you’re debating this choice on behalf of yourself or your child, post-secondary education often comes down to one issue: a future career. It’s important to understand the accreditations your prospective schools hold, as well as what’s required of you to attain the role you eventually hope to achieve.


For those looking to develop certain skills quickly, certificate programs can be a flexible means of advancing their careers. These can be earned at community colleges, technical/vocational colleges, or online.

Associate’s Degree

Many two-year institutions offer the Associate of Arts or Associate of Science degree. Often, these schools are branded as community colleges because they have close links with local high schools and universities. Generally, students commute to the campus. These schools have flexible admissions processes and lower tuition. These schools can help students adjust to the higher-ed lifestyle while offering them qualifications that can lead to better-paying careers. Some students take the “2+2” track wherein they attend a community college for two years, then attend a nearby college or university for two additional years to earn a Bachelor’s Degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

Most colleges and universities offer this degree type, a basic requirement for many jobs nowadays. Most students finish their degree within four years, though some programs may take longer. The most critical factor in selecting a college is whether it offers a course of study in your chosen field; some schools have prestigious programs in select areas of study, which may make them more appealing than other institutions. After that, cost is generally the biggest factor for many students.

Master’s/Graduate Degree

Attending a Master’s program provides a more narrow field of study. These degrees generally take around two years to obtain. You should select a school that offers the Master’s program you’re seeking. Know whether a Master’s Degree will be a benefit – or even requirement – of your chosen career. Some college graduates immediately go on to a Master’s program, while others take a break or decide to pursue this degree years down the road.

Professional/Doctoral Degrees

These degrees are often required to work in specific professions, such as law or medicine. Students generally finish their degree within three years, but can vary by institution and degree. It’s essential to choose a school which offers your field of focus. If possible, select one that is renowned for its doctoral program and which offers a lot of support helping you become established in your career. •