Open House at Private Schools

What is it and why should you attend?

Open House at Private School
Cheshire Academy

If you're applying to private school, you might notice that many of them offer something called an open house. What is it and why should you attend? In the most simple terms, a private school open house is a chance for you to visit the school. Some schools have a block of time where prospective families can come and go, meet the admissions team, and take a quick tour, while others offer full programs that require families to register in advance and arrive by a specific time.

Open houses may have limited space, so if it's not clear whether registration is required, it's always a good idea to check with the admissions office to be sure.  

Exactly what happens at an open house can vary from school to school, but typically you can expect to hear from the Head of School and/or the Director of Admission, as well as one or more of the following things during an open house. 

A Campus Tour

Nearly every private school open house will have an opportunity for prospective families to tour the campus. You might not be able to see the entire campus, especially if the school is set on hundreds of acres, but you'll likely get to see the main academic buildings, the dining hall, library, the student center (if the school has one), arts facilities, gymnasium and select athletics facilities, as well as a School Store. Often these are led by students, giving you a chance to ask questions about life from a student's perspective.

 If you're attending an open house at a boarding school, you might also get to see a dorm room or at least the inside of the dormitory and the common areas. If you have a special request for a tour, you will want to call the admission office in advance to see if they can accommodate you or if you'll need to schedule a separate appointment.


Panel Discussions and Question & Answer Session

Many private schools will host panel discussions where students, faculty, alumni and/or current parents will talk about their time at the school and answer questions from the audience. These discussions are a great way to get a general overview of life at the school and help you learn more. Usually, there will be limited time for questions and answers, so if your question doesn't get asked and answered, just ask to follow up with an admission representative later on. 

Class Visits

Attending a private school means going to class, so many schools will offer students and their parents to attend class so you can get an idea of what the classroom experience is like. You may not be able to attend the class of your choice, but attending any class, even if it's conducted in another language (private schools usually require students to study a foreign language), will give you an idea of the student-teacher dynamic, style of learning, and if you'll feel comfortable in class. Some schools will offer students the opportunity to shadow current students for an entire day, giving you the full experience, while others only provide the opportunity for visitors to attend one or two classes.



Food is an important part of a school, as you're going to each lunch here every day and if you're a boarding student, breakfast, and dinner, too. Many private school open houses include lunch so you can try the food and see what the dining hall (most private schools don't use the term cafeteria) is like.  

Club Fair

Schools will sometimes offer a club fair, where prospective students and families can learn about after-school sports, activities, clubs, and other things that happen on campus as part of student life. Each club or activity may have a table where you can ask questions and meet students who share the same interests as you. 


Some schools will offer a chance for prospective students to interview during the open house event, while others will require a second personal visit to conduct these.

If you're not sure if interviews are possible or if you're traveling from a distance and want an interview while you're there, ask if it's possible to schedule one before or after the event. 

Overnight Visit

This option is less common and is only found at select boarding schools, but occasionally prospective students are invited to spend the night in the dorm. These overnight visits are arranged in advance and are not available if you just show up at an open house unexpectedly. Parents will typically find lodging in town or nearby, while students stay with a host student. Visitors are expected to participate in whatever activities happen at night, including study halls, so be sure to bring a book to read or homework. Lights out rules are also expected to be followed, as are restrictions for when you are allowed to leave the dorm at night and in the morning. If you're doing an overnight, you may wish to bring your own shower shoes, towel, and toiletries, in addition to a change of clothes for the next day. Ask if you need to bring a sleeping bag and pillow, too. 

A common misconception about open house events is that attending means you're absolutely going to apply. Usually, it's quite the opposite. These massive gatherings of prospective families are designed to introduce you to the school and help you decide if you truly want to learn more and complete the application process

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Your Citation
Jagodowski, Stacy. "Open House at Private Schools." ThoughtCo, Dec. 4, 2017, Jagodowski, Stacy. (2017, December 4). Open House at Private Schools. Retrieved from Jagodowski, Stacy. "Open House at Private Schools." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 19, 2018).