No matter where you go to school, many of the same principles still apply. You go to a school and sit in class for the majority of the day and then have homework at night. However, there are some major differences between private and public high schools. As someone who has spent two years at a private school (Lake Forest Academy) and two years at a public high school (Libertyville High School), I have first-hand experience with this difference.
A Day in the Life at Private School:
One of the first major differences between a private school and a public school is dress code. Many private institutions in the area, including Lake Forest Academy, Carmel Catholic, and Loyola Academy, all require a dress code. At Lake Forest Academy (LFA), boys must wear collared shirts and ties, while girls cannot wear leggings, jeans or shorts and their shirts must cover their shoulders. At Carmel Catholic and Loyola Academy, all students must wear khaki pants and a collared shirt.
Another difference is overall class size. LFA has roughly 110-125 students per grade level, where the student-to-teacher ratio is 12-1. A public school like Libertyville High School is much bigger than a private institution, meaning that the teacher-to-student ratio is bigger. The small student-to-teacher ratio is beneficial for learning because it leads to more one-on-one interaction with the teacher.
While I think a smaller school improves academics, it hurts the social aspect of school. There are way less people to talk to and interact with on a day-to-day basis. With more people in a classroom, there are more people to collaborate with. More people can lead to a spread of more ideas. I liked having more time to talk to teachers individually at LFA, but I also enjoy the big classrooms at LHS, where there are more people to talk to and work with.
Scheduling at some private schools is different. At LFA, they have a block schedule with seven different days (A-G). Block scheduling allows for a class to be a double period on one day, then the next day you don’t have that class at all. I liked this because if I had a double math period on Wednesday, I usually would not have math on Thursday, so I would have two days to complete my homework. I liked having a different schedule each day because it helped get out of the boring routine that many face at public school. I enjoyed coming to school every day knowing it would be a different schedule. It got me out of my routine. Even something little like having Spanish first period one day then last period the next helped changed the flow of things.
Scheduling at religious schools is sometimes different than public schools and non-religious private schools. At Loyola Academy, four credits of theology based classes are required to graduate, while at Carmel, four credits of religious studies are required to graduate. This is obviously much different from public school, where preaching a specific doctrine is not allowed.
Benefits of a public school:
One of the best things is that the education is free. The Carmel Catholic tuition for the 2017-18 school year was roughly $11,000. Loyola costs around $16,000 and LFA was approximately $43,000. Financial aid is offered for all three, but either way, it costs more to go to one of these schools than a public school. At LHS, the education is still great and it only costs some minor registration fees, plus the cost of living in the town.
Another great thing about public schools, and specifically LHS, is the school spirit. At LFA, I never went to a single football game because with less people at the school, the event is not as big and not many people attend. But at LHS, a ton of students pack the stands on Friday nights to show support for their school’s football team.
It is not just football that gets support. Students attend many other sports and events like musicals and concerts. I was awestruck at the support LHS students show their peers when I first came to LHS. An event I will never forget was my first homecoming assembly. At LFA, we had events where everyone would gather into the auditorium, but no spirit events of any sort were held. Seeing everyone at LHS dressed in their individual class colors who were yelling and cheering was unforgettable. That kind of thing is something you can really only get at a big public school where people buy into the culture and spirit of the school.
Overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences at both LFA and LHS. Each of them has provided me with many amazing opportunities that I could only experience at those specific schools. Both private schools and public schools have unique benefits to them and are both good options for education.