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What is an independent school?

Private independent schools are distinct from other non-public schools in that they are independently governed by a board of trustees and they are funded primarily through tuition, charitable contributions, and endowment revenue. Independent schools have unique missions; each school’s mission is shared among trustees, students, parents, faculty, and administrators. PAIS member independent schools are accountable to a state-recognized accrediting association and are accredited in lieu of licensure. Through the accreditation process, schools hold themselves publicly accountable to all who seek assurance that they meet accepted standards of educational quality, operation, and staff competence.

Why should I consider an independent school?

Independent schools offer a strong curriculum, small classes, attention to individual student needs, dedicated teachers and advisors, parental involvement, a sense of community, and a wide range of extracurricular activities. Teachers are able to communicate consistent goals and work with students to achieve standards of excellence. The careful, personal guidance students and their families receive on secondary school and college placement is an added benefit. Families that value education should seriously consider independent schools.

How do I choose the right school for my child?

Finding a good match between student and school is an important goal for everyone. Each school is a unique community, and each student has different strengths, weaknesses, interests, and expectations. Your research should take into consideration such factors as the school’s philosophy, size, curriculum, student-teacher ratio, leadership, extracurricular opportunities, and guidance counseling. Families are encouraged to visit several schools and to talk to admissions directors.

Do independent schools provide a diverse community?

Parents are often surprised by the socio-economic, ethnic, religious, and geographic diversity found at independent schools. Independent schools seek a diverse population to provide the richness that a variety of backgrounds adds to the learning experience.

What is the purpose of accreditation?

Accreditation assures the public that the school meets published standards and local, state, and federal codes. See PAIS Accreditation for further information on accreditation and the standards used by PAIS in evaluating schools.

How much do independent schools cost?

There are many different types of private, independent schools – day, boarding, and special needs – serving students from preschool through grade 12. Tuition costs vary according to the type of school you choose and the grade the student is entering. Parents of independent school children regard the cost of an independent education as an investment in their child’s future.

Is financial aid available?

PAIS schools offer different types of grants, loans, and payment plans. Many schools offer need-based financial aid. When applying for financial aid, schools may ask for a copy of your most recently filed federal tax Form 1040 and/or may ask you to provide an assessment of your available resources completed by the School and Student Services for Financial Aid in Princeton, NJ. This information is kept confidential. An application for financial aid does not affect the admission decision, but the school may not be able to meet all of your financial need. Admissions directors will provide information about the individual school’s financial-aid policy and answers to your financial questions.

Is transportation available?

In most cases, yes. Some schools own their own buses; others hire an off-site bus company. Local school districts provide transportation to families who send their children to an independent school within 10 miles of the student’s nearest district border.

Can parents get involved in an independent school?

Absolutely. Parents are encouraged to participate in a wide array of activities designed to foster the sense of school community. Parents are also kept closely apprised of their child’s progress and enlisted as important members of the education “team.”

How do independent schools accommodate working parents?

Most schools offer a variety of conference and meeting times to accommodate parents’ full and varied schedules. Some schools also offer extended-day or before- and after-school programs to give working parents flexibility.

How do independent schools provide a well-rounded education?

Along with a strong curriculum in academics and the arts, independent schools provide opportunities in many areas outside the classroom. Activities such as athletics, community service, student government, and clubs are considered a vital part of their program.

How and when do I apply?

Undertake your search in the fall of the year prior to the date of your child’s enrollment. Review school profiles in this PAIS directory and consult reference books on private schools available in your public library. Call or write several schools for their literature. Most schools have a website which can be accessed directly or linked through the Directory of Schools. When you have determined which schools appear most appropriate for your child, contact the admissions office to arrange a tour of the campus or attendance at an open house. Most schools begin accepting applications in the fall preceding the September of the student’s admission and continue to do so well into the school year. Admission processes vary, but usually include:

  • a classroom visit and/or interview
  • standardized testing
  • receipt of transcripts
  • receipt of recommendations

See the Directory of Schools for key information such as location, grade levels, size, and accrediting body.

Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) • 37 East Germantown Pike, Suite 302 • Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
610-567-2960 • Fax 610-567-2963


PAIS is an equal opportunity employer. PAIS and its member schools comply with all applicable laws and regulations regarding discrimination in admissions and employment.
PAIS is recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to accredit private schools in the State of Pennsylvania.
PAIS is internationally recognized through the International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation (ICAISA) Commission on Accreditation.

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