How to Talk to Your Parents About Wanting to Switch Schools

Jul 30 2019

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At some point in their education many middle school and high school students find themselves wondering whether or not they should switch schools. Perhaps they want to pursue more challenging academics, explore their individuality, or simply find a community that prioritizes their ideals, switching schools has the potential to bring about a number of positive changes.

All too often, that’s where it ends: With the wondering. Unsure of how to talk to their parents about wanting to switch schools, many students simply avoid bringing up the conversation.

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While it makes sense that you might want to avoid having an awkward conversation with your parents, or you’re worried that they will simply say “no,” there are steps that you can take to facilitate a more productive conversation with your parents about switching schools. 

Below are a number of tips and strategies that you can use to have a more fruitful conversation with your parents about wanting to switch schools.

Tips for Talking To Your Parents About Making a Switch

1. Choose the right time for the conversation.

Deciding to switch schools is a big decision, and one that deserves both your and your parents’ full attention. It’s not something that should be rushed or hurried into. That’s why it’s important that you pick the right time to broach the subject of switching schools with your parents.

While it can be difficult to find the “perfect” time to have any discussion, as a rule of thumb it can be helpful to:

  • Pick the right day: Don’t try to begin this conversation on a day that is already busy, hectic, or otherwise stressful. Plan the conversation around both your own and your parents’ schedules by choosing a day that you know you can devote enough time to the conversation. For many families, weekends are an ideal time.
  • Pick the right time: Similarly, make sure that you choose the right time of day to have this talk. Weekday mornings when everyone is rushing to get ready for school and work probably aren’t a great time for a deep, meaningful conversation. Neither is right before bedtime, when thoughts turn to the next day. Dinnertime, or the time after it, could be ideal.
  • Keep external factors in mind: If you are preoccupied with studying for a big test or preparing for a project or presentation, or your parents are similarly preoccupied with pressing work or family obligations, consider waiting until a less stressful time before bringing up the idea of switching schools.

2. Come equipped with research.

The more research you can do on your own, the better. In addition to helping you understand your options and feel more at ease during the conversation with your parents, doing your own research will show your parents that you’re serious about wanting to switch schools, and that you’re willing to put in the work to make it happen.

While you might have your heart set on attending a particular school, we recommend that you create a shortlist of three to five schools. Using that list, pull together all of the information that you and your parents will need to make an informed decision. This should include information about:

  • Application requirements, deadlines, and decision dates
  • Tuition and financial aid
  • The facilities
  • Class size and student-to-teacher ratio
  • Logistics, including how you would get to and from the school
  • The academic programs, classes, and extracurricular activities that excite you most about the school

Beyond showing your parents that you’re serious about switching schools, this will also simply make the application process easier. 

And don’t be afraid to practice your main talking points. Doing so can help put you at ease and figure out the best way to communicate your ideas with your parents. Working through a “mock conversation” with your parents can also help you to preemptively identify the questions that they’re likely to ask.

3. Understand that financial aid is likely available. 

One of the biggest reasons that students (and their parents) put off having a discussion about switching from public to independent school is that they are concerned about the cost of tuition. Namely, they’re concerned that their family will not be able to afford to send them to a private or independent school.

While there’s no doubt that a private school education can be more expensive than a public school education, it’s important to remember that most schools offer financial aid to families that need it most. This financial aid can lessen the burden of tuition, sometimes dramatically so.

Because financial aid is typically dispersed to applicants on a first come, first served basis, it’s important that you get your application in as early as possible—especially if you think that you will need to rely on financial aid to attend.

4. Practice clear, calm, and open communication.

When you bring up the topic of switching schools, your parents are naturally going to have a number of questions. They’re going to ask you why you want to transfer. They’re going to ask you if something has happened that they should be aware of. They’re going to ask you about your relationship with your teachers and friends.

You might find yourself annoyed by all of these questions. But your parents are simply trying to understand what has caused this shift. Do your best to keep your emotions in check and answer their questions calmly, clearly, and honestly. 

This last point is especially important. If you are being bullied, if you’re struggling in your classes, if you’re finding yourself bored or unchallenged or disengaged—your parents need to know. 

5. Listen to what they have to say.

Part of having an adult conversation with your parents is making sure that you listen to them, answer their questions, and acknowledge their concerns. 

If during your conversation with your parents they push back at all, raise any objections, or ask you questions, do your best to listen to what they have to say. Also remember that you may not necessarily get an answer right away. It’s normal for these kinds of conversations to take place over the course of a number of days or even weeks.

Remember, It’s a Conversation

While it’s easy and understandable that you might feel awkward or vulnerable bringing up such a personal subject with your parents, it’s important to remember that this is just a conversation like any other conversation. There’s no need to be nervous. Remember: In their heart, every parent wants what is best for their child. 

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