Although students are traditionally the ones cramming in May, many parents are feeling the pressure, too. With charter application deadlines looming and some schools already wait-listing prospective students, it’s go-time if you’re considering enrolling your child in an alternative school. So why might you?

Every family’s needs are different, but here are three reasons charters have become popular options for some parents.

1. Choice 

If the neighborhood school doesn’t meet your standards, writing a hefty check to a private academy is no longer your only option. “As a parent, I want a choice—every parent wants a choice,” says Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an advocacy and research organization. “Charters offer options and access to high-quality schools regardless of zip code. For some families, they’re really a lifeline, the first step in breaking a cycle of poverty.”

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2. Innovative curriculums 

As independently operated public schools, charters are low on red tape, opening up possibilities in the classroom and beyond. Philadelphia charter schools—which offer concentrations in everything from STEM to folk arts to maritime careers—design their own academic programs, select their own textbooks, determine the length of school days and create their own extracurricular offerings. “In general, charter schools have less bureaucracy and more autonomy,” says Cynthia Millinger, a former educator and founder of consulting services Charter School Essentials and Charter School Startup.  “They can be more innovative and tend to have fewer restrictions in terms of how they’re organized and who they can hire—there’s a lot of potential.”

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3. College preparation

With college degrees becoming more and more necessary to enter the workforce, many charter schools aren’t simply focused on getting their students into universities—they’re designing programs to keep them there once the courses get tough. “Many charter schools have started tracking not just college acceptance rates, but ‘through rates,’” says Millinger. “They’re looking at how to prepare kids for the day-to-day demands of college and how to access all of the resources a college offers that first-generation students may not be aware of.”