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The Lifelong Benefits of Independent Schools

As a parent, one of the most important things you can do is to help your child get a high quality education. Independent schools (private, nonprofit schools that are governed by boards of trustees) are one option among the panoply of school choices. With independent schools, you have the opportunity to choose a school with a mission—a school’s philosophy, values, and approach to teaching—that is the right for your child.

Recent research highlights the success of independent school graduates, who outperform graduates from all other types of schools in a whole host of categories, reflecting exceptional preparation for academic and civic life.

Although nearly all independent school graduates go on to attend college, The Freshman Survey Trends Report, a study conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute, found that 85 percent of students who attended independent schools that belong to the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) went on to attend “very high” or “highly selective” colleges and universities.

NAIS school graduates were also more engaged with their communities than students from other types of schools. Forty-one percent of NAIS graduates said they expected to participate in volunteer or community activities in college, compared to just 24 percent of the whole group. NAIS graduates were also far more inclined to consider “keeping up-to-date with political affairs” essential (46 percent NAIS, 31 percent all).

Another study, the National Educational Longitudinal Study (conducted by the US Department of Education) tracked students from public schools, parochial schools, NAIS independent schools, and other private schools from the time they were eighth graders in 1988 until the year 2000. Nearly all of the NAIS students in the NELS study had pursued postsecondary education by their mid-20s. More than three quarters had graduated from a college or university, including 8 percent who completed master’s degrees, and 1.5 percent who achieved a Ph.D. or professional degree (e.g., M.D. or LL.B.) by their mid-20s.

Perhaps the most significant factor that distinguished NAIS graduates from graduates of other types of schools was the strength of their commitment to community service and active civic participation. While slightly more than one out of five survey participants reported volunteering for civic events, nearly one third of NAIS school graduates said that they regularly participated in voluntary activities in their communities. NAIS students were also nearly twice as likely to volunteer to work for political campaigns and political causes. And NAIS students were committed to exercising their civic duty as voters. Whereas slightly more than half of all NELS participants voted in the presidential election before the study, more than three-quarters of NAIS school graduates registered their voices.

Searching for the best school for your child is a challenging process, but finding a school that matches your child’s needs and challenges him or her intellectually will result in an education that pays dividends for a lifetime.

For information about finding the best school for your child, admission timelines, and financing an independent school education, please visit

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