The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) sought to understand how independent school graduates fare as college freshmen in comparison to their public school, private school, and homeschool peers on perceptions of academic preparedness, major areas of strength, and expectations for college activities. In 2015, NAIS partnered with the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) to create a report using data from a national longitudinal study of higher education in the U.S., the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP). College freshmen responded to a variety of questions related to demographics, financial aid, secondary school achievement and activities, educational and career plans, and values and beliefs.
In general, independent school graduates report coming into postsecondary institutions with:
- higher scores on their SATs and ACTs,
- more years of study of biological and physical science and foreign language, and
- more experience with activities such as asking questions in class and supporting opinions with logical arguments.
In contrast to their counterparts from public, other private, and home schools, independent school graduates are more likely to:
- have experienced close relationships with teachers in high school, including asking a teacher for advice after class and being a guest in a teacher’s home
- have been engaged in high school activities such as studying with other students, voting in a student election, discussing politics, and doing community service as part of a class.
Consistent with high engagement in secondary settings, independent school graduates expect to:
- be engaged with professors and students after class,
- succeed academically, and
- be involved with nonacademic activities such as study abroad programs.
They also report being interested in:
- starting their own businesses,
- becoming community leaders, and
- improving their understanding of other places and people.
Academic areas of strength identified by independent school graduates include:
- critical thinking skills,
- problem-solving skills,
- time management skills,
- foreign language skills,
- interpersonal skills, and
- knowledge of people from different races/cultures.