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How to Choose Between Private and Public Schools for Your Child

four children who chose private school over public

Choosing between private and public schools for your child can be challenging, so we’re exploring some top considerations.

Author: Martin Lundgren

Choosing the right school for your child is a complex decision, especially when they are gifted and need more challenging environments. It’s no wonder that the debate between private and public schooling is significant for many parents. Ultimately, your optimal decision varies depending on several factors, including your child’s social needs, academic demands, and future goals. 

Below, we’re taking a comprehensive look at what to consider when choosing between private and public schools.

The Challenge for Gifted Students

For many parents, deciding whether to send their child to public or private school is a common question, especially for those of gifted children. These students often find themselves under-stimulated in regular classroom settings — leading to disengagement and underachievement. Ensuring they are challenged enough is crucial for their intellectual and emotional development. 

Middle and High School Transitions

When deciding when to switch schools, the natural transition points are after elementary school (generally around 5th grade) or middle school. These times align with common educational shifts and can help ease the social and academic transitions.

For families considering public schools, some middle and high schools are known for their robust gifted programs. They often have honors or Advanced Placement (AP) courses that can provide the necessary academic rigor. However, (unless you are on the east side of Lake Washington) public high schools tend to be less impressive overall compared to private ones regarding resources and individualized attention.

Regarding public versus private high schools, private ones often offer smaller class sizes, personalized learning plans, and a curriculum designed to foster critical thinking and creativity. These environments can be particularly beneficial for gifted students who thrive on intellectual challenges.

The Social Factor: Making Friends and Keeping Them

Social dynamics and childhood friendships play a crucial role in a person’s development and overall well-being. If your child has a solid friend group in their current public school, it might be worth considering the impact of a school change on their social life. Older children often find it harder to make new friends, and disrupting a stable social environment can be challenging. 

Takeaway: If public school offers adequate academic challenges and your child is happy, supplementing their education with extracurricular activities or enrichment programs might be a better solution than switching schools.

Long-term Considerations: College Admissions and Beyond

Private schools often have a track record of better college admissions results (though working with an admissions consultant can also help). They can provide more tailored college counseling services and have established relationships with top universities. Additionally, the networks built in private schools can benefit students and parents, offering social and professional connections that last beyond graduation.

Potential Caveats

Switching to a private school, especially after students have been together since primary school, can be socially challenging. Not to mention, add stress to your household. Newcomers may feel like outsiders, and integrating into established social groups can be difficult. This is an important factor to weigh when considering a school change.

Types of Private Schools in Seattle, Washington

Private schools come in various forms, each with unique advantages:

Pros and Cons of Private Schooling

Making a list of pros and cons can help you choose between private and public schools for your child.

Reasons to Go the Private School Route:

  • Easier College Admissions: Often, private schools have higher rates of students accepted into prestigious universities.
  • Better Social Networks: Private schools can offer connections that benefit students and their families.
  • Optimized Learning Environments: Designed to minimize distractions and provide tailored education with specialized instruction from well-qualified instructors.

Why to Consider Public Schools Instead:

Making the Decision

Deciding between public and private schooling for your child requires careful consideration of academic needs, social factors, and long-term goals. Conduct thorough research into the specific schools you’re considering, including their educational programs, social environments, and success rates in college admissions. 

Whether opting for a rigorous private or well-supported public school, the key is ensuring your child is challenged and happy in their learning environment.

The choice to send your child to a private school can sound daunting, especially to your finances. However, working with a financial advisor can help integrate this expense into your long-term financial planning. As a parent in Seattle, Washington, facing this decision myself, I would love to help you weigh the pros and cons of choosing public versus private schools for your child — just reach out


Northern Lights Advisors provides financial planning and wealth management services as a fiduciary, fee-only, Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firm. The information in this article is not intended as tax, accounting, or legal advice. Read the full disclaimer here.