There’s a certain sense of mystique surrounding private schools. The students who attend such schools often dress in formal uniforms rather than the jeans and T-shirts you’ll find at a typical public school. There’s often a long and distinguished list of alumni who attended the school and went on to do great things. It often seems like private school students get more scholarships to go to better colleges. When taken together, it can all sound pretty attractive.

There are some great reasons to send your child to a private school. But you should do it because it seems like the best thing for your child’s education and personal development. Remember that the reality of private schools is often different than how they’re portrayed in movies and TV. Go in with realistic expectations rather than unrealistic ones.

What Private School Will (and Won’t) Do For Your Child

Private school won’t guarantee your child success

Let’s be clear: private school may raise the odds that your child gets into a good school. Private schools have lower student-to-teacher ratios than most public schools, which can be tremendously helpful. The curriculum can be both more rigorous and more focused on each student’s individual needs. Those are all tremendous plusses. But don’t think that simply paying the tuition and sending your kid to a private school is going to guarantee him or her wealth and personal fulfillment.

A private school education doesn’t entitle your kid to a spot at Harvard, Yale, or any other Ivy League school. Competition for those spots is fiercer than ever, and your child may not make it. Your child may prefer to go to a competitive state school instead, and that’s perfectly fine. Even if your child does get into Harvard, he or she may not like it there. It’s not for everyone. You can be an incredibly ambitious person and still find the cutthroat environment of an Ivy League school to be too much. And even if you do get a diploma from an Ivy League school, it doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a wildly successful career that you love. What you do once you get to college matters just as much or more than where you go.

Private school won’t make your child share your faith

Religious faith is an intensely important thing to a lot of people. It’s also an intensely personal thing. Plenty of children grow up in a particular faith and maintain that faith for the rest of their lives. But others start questioning things, usually around the time they become teenagers. And it’s not a character flaw for them to do so. It doesn’t mean you raised them badly. It just means that different people experience religion in vastly different ways.

Catholic school is a great option for many families. It can be a way to get a great education while also building on the foundation taught at church each Sunday. But you shouldn’t send your child to any religious school as punishment for not believing in the exact same things that you do. You should talk to your child about his or her beliefs. Your child may be willing to continue going to a religious school even while questioning faith, or he or she may feel like doing so is disrespectful to the church’s true believers. The best thing you can do is open up a dialogue with your child about how you both feel. Ask your child to respect what you believe, and try to grant your child the same respect in return.