When you move abroad with your family, one of the most difficult challenges you and your children have to overcome is choosing the right school they will go to.
If you have recently moved to the UAE, for example, and you want to enroll your children in one of the best schools in Dubai, here are five mistakes you have to avoid to be sure you are making the right decision:
1. Starting your search and your kids’ application process too late
Settling in a new country, especially with your family, can be hard.
Unpacking, cleaning and preparing your new home for habitation, and familiarizing yourself with the new environment will take up a lot of your time.
But no matter how busy you are with all of these, you have to start researching about the possible schools for your children way before the time of your international move. And even if you have sufficient lead time to do your school research once you have moved overseas, you need to do it right away.
Many prestigious schools have waiting lists. When you delay getting in touch with or visiting these schools, you will reduce your kids’ chances of being interviewed or admitted into these institutions.
It is, therefore, important that once you arrive in Dubai, for example, to go online and read up on the schools here. You can also ask other expats about other educational institutions that are highly regarded in the UAE.
2. Choosing a school based only on its location
When you have just moved to a new city, knowing the lay of the land will take up a lot of time. Whether you will be driving or taking public transportation, it will take you several times of going out before you can become familiar with the different routes.
Your fear of getting lost or traveling too far, though, should not hinder you from visiting and considering schools that are not near your home. Even if there is a school in or near your neighborhood, you should not enroll your kids immediately in this institution and stop looking into other excellent alternatives.
Take the time to read up on and visit both nearby and schools a little farther out. But if a school near your home has a good reputation and your children are interested in studying there, you can then consider this school for your kids.
3. Applying to too many schools
Most private schools charge application and assessment fees. As such, if you will bring your kids to five or more schools to be assessed, you will end up spending a fortune on this process alone.
Additionally, many educational institutions have strict admission procedures where applicants have to go through an assessment. If you let your kids go through all this at five or more schools, you will also be putting more stress and pressure on them.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to apply your kids to only two or three schools. To narrow down your list, get your children’s opinions or input. Next, think about how they will fit in at their potential school.
4. Visiting a school only once
Although visiting a potential school may take up a lot of your time (especially if it is far from your home), you can’t make the decision to add or remove this institution from your list based only on your first visit.
Visiting a school only once means running the risk of basing your decision on too little information. If you simply talked to the headmaster or the admissions officer and did not even go around the campus, you will never have enough details to make a smart decision.
Because of this, it is important that you visit each school more than once. Take a tour around the campus, visit the classrooms, gym, music room, etc. Bring your kids when you visit the school so that they can form their own ideas about their preferred school.
5. Focusing too much on academics
Without a doubt, you want your kids to go to a school where they can learn a lot and achieve academic excellence. However, academics aren’t everything. It is important that your children also have fun, make new friends, and learn other skills that they can use outside the classroom.
For instance, if you are looking for FS1, choose one that gives students opportunities to develop their social skills. If your teenager is entering Year 12, find an academic institution that helps students identify their strengths and passions.
The bottom line is to choose a school based on the richness of the experience it provides students.
There is nothing easy about choosing a new school for your kids, especially when moving overseas. But by avoiding the mistakes above, your chances of picking the right one for them will be higher.
Sybil AbouRahal-Jones is the Marketing & Communications Manager at The English College, Dubai. She has a work experience of 20 years working in graphic design, branding and re-branding, marketing including digital marketing, and internal and external communications.