How to Choose a Secondary School for Your Child?

Transitioning from primary to secondary school is a significant step in your child’s educational journey. Finding the right secondary school can feel overwhelming, with numerous factors to consider.

Therefore, this guide explores various aspects to consider when navigating how to choose a secondary school for your child. It will cover academic programmes, school environments, co-curricular activities, and support services, which can help you make an informed choice tailored to your child’s individual needs and aspirations.

Let’s get started!

Step #1: Start Early and Think Long Term

Choosing a secondary school is a big decision. While applications often happen in upper elementary, starting early with considerations allows a smooth transition and an informed choice. Choosing a secondary school involves understanding your child’s strengths, interests, and learning style.

That’s why you should think long-term. Secondary school should equip your child for their future. As a result, parents should research academic programmes and college preparation resources to ensure a smooth transition to higher education. By starting early and focusing on the long term, you can find the perfect secondary school for your child’s success.

Step #2: Understanding the Unique Needs and Interests of Your Child

Choosing a secondary school involves understanding your child’s strengths and aspirations. Academic performance is not the only aspect of this. Here are some insightful questions to get you started:

Understanding the Unique Needs and Interests of Your Child
  • What are your child’s strengths and weaknesses in school? Do they excel in any subject like biology or history? Identifying these areas can help you find a school that offers targeted support or advanced programmes to nurture their talents.
  • What is your child interested in most? Are there sports or other extracurricular activities which they enjoy? Schools with a diverse range of clubs and activities can provide a well-rounded educational experience that fosters students’ passions.
  • How does your child learn best? Are they a hands-on learner who thrives in interactive environments with practical activities and projects? Or do they prefer a more traditional, lecture-based approach with clear explanations and structured learning?

Step #3: Identify the Critical Factors That Matter Most for Your Child’s Education

Choosing a secondary school shouldn’t simply be about the school itself but also how it aligns with your child’s educational needs. Here are some areas you might want to delve into:

Identify the Critical Factors That Matter Most for Your Child’s Education
  • What size school environment would best suit your child? Would they flourish in a smaller, close-knit community where teachers can provide more personalised attention?
  • Which academic focus do you prefer? Is this school focused on maths and English as core subjects for traditional pathways to further education or does it rather focus on vocational or specialised curricula that prepare students specifically for careers?
  • What kind of support services are important? Does the school offer dedicated support for students with special educational needs? The availability of appropriate support systems can significantly impact your child’s success and well-being at school.

Step #4: Develop a Comprehensive List of Potential Schools That Could Meet Your Child’s Educational Needs

Now you have more information about what your child requires and your own preferences, it’s time to create a shortlist of potential schools. To determine how to choose a secondary school, you must consider different options.

Develop a Comprehensive List of Potential Schools That Could Meet Your Child's Educational Needs
  • To what extent does the culture within the school match your beliefs as a family unit? These may include aspects such as religious affiliation, disciplinary practices, and overall school culture. Does the environment promote respect, inclusivity, and a strong sense of community that aligns with your family’s values?
  • What clubs are available for children out of lessons? A diverse range of activities can help them develop new skills, make friends with shared interests, and discover hidden talents.
  • In what way does the school approach pastoral care? You should look for schools with dedicated counsellors, mentoring programmes, and anti-bullying initiatives that create a safe and supportive learning environment for your child.
  • What is the size of a class and student/teacher ratio? Smaller class sizes can allow for more personalised attention and interaction between teachers and students. Students who need more assistance or who do better in an interactive learning environment may find this to be especially helpful.
  • Does the school encourage community service? It’s advisable to look for schools with established partnerships with local organisations or opportunities for students to design their service projects.

Step #5: Consider Cost and Convenience

While the ideal school prioritises your child’s needs you also need to think about whether it is affordable or if he/she will spend too much time commuting. Here are some insightful questions to consider:

Consider Cost and Convenience
  • Does the school offer any financial support programmes or scholarships? Depending on the school type (state-funded or private), there might be financial aid options available.
  • Are there additional costs associated with extracurricular activities or school trips? Parents should factor in uniform costs, lunches, and transportation for these activities. You may also consider if these additional costs align with your budget and discuss them with your child to ensure they understand any limitations.
  • How long is the commute from your home to the school? You should consider travel time and available transportation options, especially if your child is independent or relies on public transport. A long commute can eat into study time and extracurricular activities, so finding a balance is crucial.
  • Are there any before- and after-school care services that the institution may provide? This could be relevant for working parents who need childcare outside normal school hours. You should find out whether these services are offered, how much they cost, and whether they suit your family’s needs.

Step #6: Visit Each School on Your List to Gain a Better Insight

Finally, it is essential to go and visit the schools physically rather than relying on their websites or brochures. The following are questions that you should keep in mind when visiting them:

Visit Each School on Your List to Gain a Better Insight
  • How do the students seem in general? Observe the atmosphere and interactions between students and teachers. Are the students engaged and enthusiastic? Does the environment feel positive and supportive?
  • Are the facilities well-maintained and appropriate for the curriculum? You can look at classrooms, science labs, libraries, and sports grounds. Are the facilities modern and well-equipped to support a variety of learning styles and subjects offered by the school?
  • Does the school have clear values and mission statements? Speak with teachers, staff, or other parents currently using the school as this will give insight into what they believe in.
  • Does the school offer any unique learning programmes or resources? Ask if the school offers advanced placement programmes, vocational training, or a strong focus on the arts.

Step #7: Ask Around for Feedback

Beyond official sources, talking to people with firsthand experience can provide valuable insights. Here are some questions to ask parents, teachers, or even alumni:

Ask Around for Feedback
  • What are the school’s strengths and weaknesses in your experience? Different people can help answer this question. Parents know about their community members and student life while teachers understand more about academic workload/structure and support system in place. Also, alumni can share how their experience at the school prepared them for further education or careers.
  • Does the school cater to students with diverse learning styles and needs? Does the school have programmes or resources for students with learning difficulties or those who are gifted and talented?
  • How would you describe the school community and its overall atmosphere? Is the school diverse and inclusive? Is there a strong sense of community spirit and belonging?
  • Were your expectations met during your time at the school (or your child’s)? Personal experiences from parents, teachers, or graduates can be revealing. Did the institution meet what it promised to do in its brochures? What surprised them the most about the school?

Step #8: Choose The Schools Based on How Well They Align with Your Preferences and Priorities

After careful research and consideration, it’s time to make an informed decision. Here are some questions to guide your final selection:

Choose The Schools Based on How Well They Align with Your Preferences and Priorities
  • Which school environment feels like the best fit for your child’s personality and learning style? Would they develop better in small nurturing environments, or larger more competitive ones? Does the school offer a variety of teaching methods for this?
  • How well do the schools’ academic programmes align with your child’s strengths and interests? Does the school offer a strong foundation in core subjects while also allowing your child to explore their passions through electives or specialised programmes?
  • Does the overall culture of the school resonate with your family’s values? How hard is coursework here? Are they allowed to take part in any other activities besides academic work offered by the school regularly?
  • Rank your shortlisted schools based on these factors. This will help you create a clear preference list and make the final decision with confidence.

Find the perfect tutor with UNIS Hanoi

Finding the right educational environment sets the foundation for your child’s success, and UNIS Hanoi is here to support you every step of the way.

Our curriculum is world-class, tailored to nurture young minds and cultivate a lifelong passion for learning. Our dedicated team of educators also provides exceptional guidance and personalised support to ensure your child thrives.

Find the perfect tutor with UNIS Hanoi

Whether you are looking for an internationally renowned curriculum or a solid foundation for further studies, UNIS Hanoi is the perfect place for your child.

  • IB Programmes: The International Baccalaureate is renowned for encouraging critical thinking, creative problem-solving, and producing all-rounded individuals. In this regard, UNIS Hanoi offers all three IB programmes; Primary Years Programme (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP), and Diploma Programme (DP). The MYP curriculum provides a strong foundation for the rigorous IB Diploma Programme (DP), offered to students in grades 11 and 12. If you’re considering how to choose a secondary school, a secondary school with a strong IB programme can equip your child with the academic rigour and transferable skills highly sought after by universities worldwide.
  • Secondary School Programmes: Beyond the IB DP, UNIS Hanoi offers other secondary school programmes for students in grades 6-10. Our secondary school programme begins with the Middle Years Programme (MYP) which comprises an extensive curriculum that fosters a love of learning. Critical thinking, communication and collaboration are some of the skills within this curriculum, which help students grow into well-rounded individuals with strong personal and social capabilities.

UNIS Hanoi – The Perfect Fit for Your Child’s Future

Ultimately, it is most ideal to select a high school based on all the information you have gathered and balancing them against your child’s unique needs and goals. Choosing a secondary school is a journey that is highly subjective and there is no single right way to do it.

UNIS Hanoi - The Perfect Fit for Your Child's Future

However, if you want an extraordinary education experience that promotes excellence in academics, global citizenship as well as self-knowledge, then UNIS Hanoi should be on your list. You can find more about UNIS Hanoi from our website site where you can also get to know how this unique environment will help your child develop their talents.

Visit our website or contact our admissions team to schedule a tour and experience the UNIS Hanoi difference firsthand!

Reference source:

  • Haringey. (2021). A Step by Step Guide to Choosing the Right Secondary School for Children with SEND. Retrieved from

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UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Communication Team
UNIS Hanoi is ever-evolving, but one thing that remains is our passion to nurture and equip students to be agents of change for a better world.
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