Preparing for elementary school tours and open house

Get the most out of your school tour or open house with these tips from education experts and parents

You’ll find a lot of private schools offering open houses and tours in October and November. Even though the school year just started, the admissions process for private and independent schools starts in the fall.

First, consider the differences between a school tour and open house.

A tour is typically held during a regular school day, and you can see the school and classrooms while they are in session. During your visit, you will get a personalized tour of the campus grounds and answers to all of your most pressing questions. Group tours may be offered on specific days of the week, or you can call the school to schedule a convenient time for a personal tour. Some private school tours have limited capacity. For example many schools limit the tour to two families per tour, and you need to book it ahead of time. If you want your child to see the school, ask if the tour is family friendly.

An open house is usually on a weekend or evening, not during a school day. You can see classrooms, facilities, take a self-guided tour of the campus and chat with staff and administration. Open Houses are typically family friendly and you are encouraged to bring your child and other family members. There are usually just a few open house dates each year. You may not have to RSVP or sign up for an open house in advance, but many schools have a simple way to sign up on their website or on ActivityHero.

As for what to look for or ask during the tour or open house, GreatSchools has a very helpful and comprehensive list of questions to ask during a school visit. If you are just beginning your school search, take a look at their top 10 questions to guide your thought process.

Other parents may also give you advice on what to look for. The Resourceful Parent suggests you consider whether the school’s motto fits with your family priorities and values in the article “Choosing a School: The Not So Obvious Questions You Need To Ask.”

To compare schools and get a better understanding of what’s a better fit for your family, visit more than one school. While private and independent schools offer more tours and open houses, some public schools may offer a tour for incoming families or allow you to attend their Open House in the spring.

If you’re collecting data points far in advance, you can also get to know the campus and some of the teachers by attending a summer program at the school. Most private schools allow all students to enroll in their summer camp or summer academic program.