A Letter from the president
Selecting a school that best fits a child's needs is one of the most important decisions a parent can make. In the Mid-South, families have a wide variety of high-quality educational opportunities, both public and independent. The Memphis Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) represents 35 of the region's finest private schools, each of which is unique, and all of which share a commitment to educational excellence, meeting the needs of individual students, and building a stronger community.
What does "independent" mean? Each MAIS member school is guided by its own mission, selects its own curriculum, creates its own educational environment, and is governed by its own board. We are independent in our educational offerings and differ in whom we serve. Among our members, you will find schools designed for specific age groups, co-education, and single gender. Some are secular in their approach to education while others are religiously affiliated. Some are designed to address children with special needs; some are progressive, while others have a more traditional teaching and learning environment. All MAIS schools nurture intellectual curiosity, encourage critical thinking, and promote personal growth through hard work, leadership, personal responsibility, and good citizenship.
Bound by neither national nor state curricular standards, independent schools have the freedom to create their own distinctive curricula and extracurricular programs for their particular community of learners. Most importantly, they have the autonomy to meet individual needs within a community where student, teacher, and parent work together for each student's success. Students from all socioeconomic backgrounds attend independent schools, and many schools work with families to help meet the costs associated with an independent school education.
Most independent schools have low student-teacher ratios that encourage close connections between students and teachers and between the school and home. Because the classes tend to be small, teachers at independent schools develop an understanding of their students' learning and potential, inside and outside the classroom. They expect all students to succeed and encourage students to explore and value perseverance and achievement. Often, these relationships transcend the school day as teachers become life mentors for students.
All of our schools prepare students for the challenges they will face in life. Independent schools nurture not just students' intellectual ability and curiosity but also their personal and social growth and civic conscience. Opportunities extend well beyond the classroom for athletic competitions, artistic pursuits, and school leadership experiences. Students and teachers of independent schools are committed volunteers and engaged citizens throughout the Mid-South. Community service, whether required or voluntary, is a core component of MAIS schools.
When choosing a school, parents are wise to seek out a school whose mission, philosophy, values, and teaching approach are right for their family, to consider the culture, curriculum, and extracurriculars that answer the essential question, "Is this school a good fit for my child?"
The purpose of this publication is to provide you with information about the outstanding educational opportunities that exist at the 35 independent schools that comprise the Memphis Association of Independent Schools (MAIS). We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with Memphis Magazine in presenting this information. MAIS is proud to represent the thousands of area families who have chosen an independent school education for their children. For those who would like to learn more about our schools, I invite you to schedule visits and tour their campuses. We will welcome you!
Albert L. Throckmorton
Head of School
St. Mary’s Episcopal School
Applying to Independent Schools
Independent schools ask students to apply for admission, and the admission process typically begins almost a year before the student wants to enroll. In the fall, families investigate school websites, visit school open houses, and narrow down a list of the schools they'd like to apply to. Most applications are due in the winter, but deadlines vary from school to school. It's important to check the deadline for each school. Independent schools often require:
• A completed application form, available from the school website or by calling the admission office
• Your child's most up-to-date academic transcript with grades from his or her current school
• Teacher recommendations
• Results of a standardized admissions test and/or a school-administered entrance exam
A formal Interview with your child
Depending on your child's age, some schools may also ask for parent statements describing the child, student essays, and/or student artwork, writing, or portfolios. The admission office is also the best source of information about various options for paying for an independent school education. Many schools ask families to submit an application for financial aid at the same time as the admission application. Admission interviews with students and their families take place in the fall and winter. For very young children, schools often conduct group interviews or have the child visit a class to help gauge whether the school is the right fit for the student's needs. Each school works hard to assemble a student body that will benefit most from the type of education it offers. They also look for students whose strengths and personalities will complement those of other admitted students. Some schools weigh academic performance most heavily, but other schools look primarily at a student's potential. Overall, each school aims to admit students who are the right fit for the school, just as parents are looking for schools that are the right fit for their children and families. Independent schools typically send notification about admissions decisions in the spring, but some schools offer rolling admissions (offers of admission are made until the class fills up). For a student who's accepted into several schools, a new challenge emerges — how to choose which to attend. Many schools allow admitted students to visit on a special day or provide some opportunity for students to I visit the campus again. Sometimes, shadowing a current student can give the best sense of what it would be like to attend. For parents of prospective students, talking to current parents may help, too. Many schools provide contact information for parents who've agreed to speak about their experiences at the school. Reading the school's newsletters and following it on social media can also help you get a sense of the school's offerings and culture.*