Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an independent school?
- Are all independent schools the same?
- What's involved in applying to an independent school?
- What does parent involvement look like?
- What is the importance of class size?
- How diverse are independent schools?
- Do you have to have a low income to receive financial aid? Do schools have much financial aid to give out?
- Complaint Policy
- What does it mean to be accredited?
Independent schools are a particular kind of non-profit private school, distinguished by having a free-standing board of trustees that is solely responsible for the school and by being independently funded, primarily by tuition.
More than 2,000 independent private schools across the United States provide high-quality education to more than 700,000 students from pre-K through high school.
Within our membership there is an extraordinary range of schools, from small elementary schools to big boarding schools, and everything in between. While most schools are coed, a number are single-sex. Many schools have a particular religious affiliation or follow a particular educational philosophy. Some schools define themselves as traditional in their approach; other see themselves as progressive. There is much more variety within the world of independent schools than there is in public schools, because public schools must all follow the same standards and prepare for the same standardized tests.
There are a number of steps to follow, including doing your homework to pick the schools that will be a good match, visiting the schools, filling out an application, filling out financial aid forms, arranging for any required testing, and arranging to have your current school send records and evaluations. Remember that the admission professionals at our schools are there to help you every step of the way.
You will be treated as a full partner in the education of your child. That means regular communication via different media, early notification whenever there is a concern, face-to-face meetings with teachers and administrators as needed, and an acknowledgment that you know more about your child than anyone else. Independent schools want you to be active participants in the community, to actively engage in the life of the school. Every school will have a wealth of volunteer opportunities, from chaperoning to fund-raising to helping the school get greener. You will always be welcome at school.
Our member schools report an average of 18% students of color and an average of 25% of students receiving financial aid. Few suburban public schools could claim to be as racially and socio-economically diverse. So the independent school down the street may well be more reflective of the diversity of the "real world" than your public school.
"No" and "It depends." Financial aid is based on your need and many families with above-average family incomes are surprised to find that they do qualify for some support. The amount of available aid varies from school to school. The average AISNE school provides financial aid to 25% of its families and the average grant is about $20,000 (note that this includes boarding schools with higher costs). If you know that you will need financial aid, be sure to ask about it when you visit schools.
AISNE has a policy in place for handling complaints about its member schools and its accredited schools. AISNE asks individuals with complaints about a school to pursue those matters directly with appropriate school personnel. AISNE does not intervene on behalf of individual complainants and will not ordinarily interject itself in conflicts between a school and an individual. AISNE will, however, generally forward complaints, whether written or oral, that it receives about a school to the Head of that school. AISNE may also discuss complaints that AISNE believes may impact the school’s membership or accreditation status with the Head of the school and/or the President of the school’s Board of Trustees and may take additional steps to ensure compliance with AISNE standards. When pursuing these complaints, AISNE is not acting on behalf of the individual that filed the complaint, but rather, acting on its own behalf to ensure that the member or accredited school maintains compliance with AISNE standards.
An AISNE-accredited school has undergone a rigorous and thorough process that includes the creation of a self-study document that describes current practice and establishes a set of priorities for future action in all areas of the school, such as curriculum, staffing, admissions, finance, governance, health and safety. After completing the self-study, the school hosts a team of teachers and administrators from other independent schools who visit the school for three days and prepare a comprehensive report that includes both commendations and recommendations for future action. Schools are expected to address the recommendations over the next few years. There are interim reports and an interim visit scheduled during the ten-year cycle to monitor progress.