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As a longtime admissions director and division head at two of Westchester’s independent schools, William Porter has met with thousands of families and heard them offer every conceivable reason why they want their children to attend these schools. In recent years, in order to better understand and help meet their needs, he has kept track of the reasons parents enroll their children in Westchester’s independent schools.

Below are the top ten reasons parents send their children to The Harvey School in Katonah. Notes Porter: “I imagine that many of these reasons would be equally applicable, if not necessarily ranked in the same order, by admissions directors at other area independent schools.”

1. Smaller Classes: With classes that often average 10 to 16 students, independent school students receive a great deal of individual attention. They have frequent opportunities to participate in class on a daily basis, they work closely with faculty members who readily understand their individual learning styles, and they have immediate access to extra help from their teachers in all subject areas.

2. Sense of Community: In schools that are often smaller and generally more supportive, the students, teachers and parents are known to everyone else within the community. Caring teachers are encouraged to go the “extra mile” to connect with their students. In schools where faculty members wear many hats—where they teach, coach, advise, as well as supervise an activity—they get to know their students in a variety of different settings. 

3. Extracurricular Programming: In independent schools, every student is expected to participate in multiple areas of school life. The sports teams, arts programs, community service activities, and other offerings are not reserved for a hand-selected group of students who stay after school; they are an integral part of the school day and are readily available to all students.

4. Student Diversity: Not limited by geography to one particular town or district, independent schools draw students from across the region. Parents often speak about how surprising and refreshing it is to see students from so many different racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds (often including international students) in these small school environments.

5. Different Types of Schools: Independent schools can be coed or single-sex; they can be K to 8th grade, K to 12th grade, 6th grade to 8th grade, 9th grade to 12th grade, or some other configuration; there are Montessori schools, Waldorf schools, religious and non-sectarian schools, boarding and day schools, big and small schools—no two are alike!

6. High Standards without “Teaching to the Tests” While some independent schools are renowned for their competitive admission standards, others may focus on students with unique abilities or special needs. While many independent schools offer a traditional college preparatory curriculum, they are not obligated to offer state-mandated courses or required testing. Teachers in Independent schools have the independence to teach to their strengths, and their students are the beneficiaries.    

7. Advisory Program: At many independent schools, teachers also double as advisors, working with students outside the classroom to provide academic and social counseling. These advisors also serve as the primary conduit for communications with parents to keep them apprised of their children’s scholastic and personal development.  

8. College Counseling: In addition to their advisors, as students head toward senior year, they and their parents work in a one-on-one relationship with college counselors who will help that family assemble a list of appropriate colleges and then advocate for that student when he or she applies to college.

9. Leadership Opportunities: Because independent are typically smaller than their public school counterparts, there are frequent opportunities for participation and leadership. By graduation, many students have had the chance to be a president or captain or leading actor or coordinator of a program, often setting the stage for college pursuits and lifelong interests.

10.  Financial Aid: While many independent schools have daunting tuition fees, most offer need-based financial aid as a way of improving access for students from all socio-economic backgrounds.

Located on a wooded, 125-acre hilltop campus, Harvey is a coeducational independent school for students in grades 6 to 12. The school educates highly motivated, college-bound students in a warm, supportive setting. With an average class size of 10 students, teachers get to know their students’ individual learning styles well. Honors and advanced placement classes challenge our most capable students, while faculty members are readily available for those students who may require extra help. Harvey students come from geographically, socio-economically, and ethnically diverse backgrounds throughout the tri-state region; our international students come from four different overseas nations. In addition to a wide array of athletic, artistic, and community service activities, Harvey offers an optional five-day boarding program for high school students and an online learning program.

The Harvey School
260 Jay St


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