Our Preschool Director: Private School Admissions Is Part Of Her Job

If you’ve read Beyond The Brochure, you know that my daughter attended Montessori Shir-Hashirim, a wonderful preschool near the Hollywood Hills. One of the reasons I picked the school was because I knew that the director, Elena Cielak, had years of experience helping families get into top private elementary schools. When it came time to apply, she served as an enormous wealth of information, a calm presence during a stormy season and a guiding hand throughout our school application process. She has many of the top admissions directors on her speed dial and is well-respected across the city at top schools.

 

Here’s how she helped us from the beginning of our school search to the very end:
  • Suggested excellent schools for us to tour
  • Asked me what I thought of each school after I visited the school
  • Met with me for more than an hour to discuss our application strategy (where to apply, how to get started with the written application, what my daughter would need to know for visiting days, etc.)
  • Helped me narrow the list of schools where we’d apply (She felt strongly we should apply to one particular school, but I didn’t think it was right for us so we didn’t apply)
  • She did NOT review our written applications, but did tell me they were very important
  • Met with me after our terrible parent interview and agreed we should withdraw our application
  • Advised me when to call admissions directors to say “thank you” and also when to call one school to say it was our “first choice”
  • Believed strongly that our daughter would get into several good schools
  • Spoke to admissions directors about our daughter and advocated for her
  • Reassured me when I was panicked about the sheer number of applicants for so few spots
  • Helped us decide which school to pick (The Willows). How? She knew our family and our daughter extremely well. She told us our daughter would do well at The Willows and the specific reasons why.

 

Elena was doing her job, which is to help families at her school get into private elementary schools. She’s good at her job and loves doing it. She really sets the standard for how a preschool director can make a difference for a family’s application process. You can visit the school’s website at, http://www.montessorihollywood.org/

 

If you find your preschool director is trying too hard to “steer” you towards schools you don’t want to tour or is pushing you to choose a school from your options that isn’t your top choice, understand that she/he is running a business. The preschool director may have multiple families they are trying to place at the same schools and may be doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make sure every family at their preschool gets into a private school and that no family is wait-listed or declined. That said, it’s YOUR choice. Take the advice, but it’s your decision and you’ll have to be happy at your new school long after your child leaves preschool.

 

 

 

Book Giveaway! "Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In LA"

 

We are giving away3 FREE copies of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools in Los Angeles!

 

 

 

Enter to win a copy. It’s easy!

 

 

 

 

 

1. Just leave a comment telling us why you need this book. Or, why you want to give it to a friend or even your preschool director! Comments must be posted by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 30th.

 

2. You must leave your name and email address so we can contact the winners.

 

3. The winners will be selected randomly. Good luck!

 

Christina, Anne and Porcha

 

Q & A Interview With Sheila Becker, "A Perfect Path" Educational Consulting: Former Admissions Director, Educators Offer Full Service Consulting

Q. Sheila, you and your partners, Erin and Mary, at A Perfect Path, have extremely impressive professional experience! Your combined years of private school teaching, administration and tutoring is unique. How do you utilize this experience to benefit your clients who are seeking the right school for their child?

 

A. Our company, A Perfect Path, is very unique as we do have a wealth of experience among the three of us and we pass our knowledge in the areas of school placement and test preparation on to our clients. We work with clients looking for preschool through high school placement and we have placed 98% of our clients in their first choice schools every year.

 

Please read the testimonials on our website, www.aperfectpath.com to confirm our success. Because we have both teaching and administrative experience, we bring a very specialized set of skills to this process. Erin and Mary have their master degrees in education and years of teaching and tutoring experience. Sheila has taught for 14 years and has been an admission director at an independent day school for 7 years. We also have tutors for every grade level and we have a college counselor and academic advisor on our staff. We offer complete and comprehensive school placement services and we are very proud of our successes.

 

Q. A Perfect Path is based in Pacific Palisades. The Los Angeles Westside private elementary school admissions process can be extremely stressful for parents because it’s so competitive. Do you have methods you use in your practice to help your clients navigate the process while staying calm?

 

A. Yes, we have specialized methods of leading our clients through the school placement process, many of which are unique to our company. We structure individual meetings with the client to learn about the family and the student. Because we have taught in both public and private schools and we have been in the admissions office as the admissions director, we know what each of the schools is looking for. We carefully guide the client through the process as if may differ from school to school. Our clients feel secure and they tell us they area calm and reassured as they navigate the placement process.

 

We offer services to assist with the questions on the admission applications, and we carefully guide our clients on a daily basis if necessary, until all avenues for the process have been completed. Our clients comment on the commitment we make to ensure their success.

 

Q. How are your fees structured?

 

A. Our fees are structured as a first time consultation fee and an hourly rate thereafter for all services provided. Email Sheila for a fee schedule by clicking on link: sbecker@aperfectpath.com

 

Q. Many parents seem to want their children to attend the same few schools that are the most popular “trophy” schools. Do you encourage your clients to look at a broad range of schools even if they have their mind set on just one school?

 

A. Yes, we offer a broad range of school choices. As we meet with the client, we assess which schools would be appropriate for the family and student. We look at the culture of the school the family desires, the academic aptitude of the student where applicable, and the tuition considerations for the family. We ask them to apply to at least 3 schools.

 

Q. Are there ways you help families distinguish themselves from the crowd and make a memorable impression? For example, using the written application, the parent interview, a thank-you note, etc.

 

A. Absolutely. This is where we specialize and because of our skill base and our extensive contacts, we are known for a high success rate in first choice acceptances for all our clients.

 

We offer a complete range of tutoring for all grade levels, Kindergarten assessments, ISEE and HSPT preparation courses and private test preparation sessions. We are unique in this area because of our expertise.

 

Q. Can you tell us a few schools your clients have been accepted at?

 

A. Elementary, Middle and High School: Brentwood, Crossroads, Carlthorp, John Thomas Dye, Mirman, PS1, Seven Arrows, Village School in the Palisades, Westside Neighborhood School, St. Matthews, Harvard-Westlake, Marlborough, Marymount, Loyola, Wildwood, Willows, Windward, Waldorf Schools and many other NCIS and CAIS accredited schools.

 

Q. Any predictions for the 2011 private elementary school season?

 

A. We are not certain about the 2011 landscape for private elementary applications, but we do know that in the last few years, the applications at all the schools seem to have been healthy and we have been successful with placement for all of our clients.

 

Please visit A Perfect Path’s website to learn more about their services at www.aperfectpath.com or you can email Sheila Becker by clicking on link: sbecker@aperfectpath.com

Luxury Vacations and Staying Connected During Summers Off From LA Private Elementary Schools

Summer’s here and vacations are underway by families at private elementary schools around LA. Those of you who know me know that I really don’t like to travel. Yes, I willtravel (my family recently went to Palm Springs and New York City), but I love LA and I’m a true homebody.

 

So, when I hear private school families discussing their summer plans, I’m sometimes amazed. These are STATEMENT vacations. There’s nothing budget-friendly about these trips. It’s all about adventure, luxury and fabulous get-aways for weeks or even months at a time in private homes or high-end hotels. South Africa to watch the World Cup, Cabo San Lucas, Costa Rica, Deer Valley, White Water River Rafting, Hawaii, The Bahamas, Europe, The Hamptons, Maine, Martha’s Vineyard, other far-away destinations. Do the kids go too? Usually. And the nannies too? Definitely. Oh, and I suppose these trips are made easier if one has a private plane (or access to one). The airports these days are not very family-friendly.

 

That’s not to say that everyone at private schools take extravagant vacations. Those who don’t often take mini get-aways (my favorite kind of trip!) to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Palm Springs. Or, even our local beaches!

 

We’re going to La Costa near San Diego for two days in August. That’s plenty of travel for me!

 

In the meantime, helping my kids stay in touch with their friends has been one of my priorities. My son is at Iverbe Sports Camp (The Willows Summer Camp) with his friends and he’ll do UCLA Sports Camps with a few friends too. My daughter is at Marlborough Summer Camp with three of her Willows School friends, which is great. Staying connected with other families over the summer in LA is always important to me. Especially since I’m not an enthusiastic traveler.



Q & A Interview With Educational Consultant Betsy Brown Braun (Name A School, She’s Sent A Client There!)

1. First, let me say ‘congratulations’ on the success of your new book, You’re Not The Boss Of Me, which is #5 on the Los Angeles Times best seller list!

Can you give us some information about your educational consulting practice? What services would a potential client receive?


Thanks, Christina. It is incredibly gratifying to see my book zoom up on the list. I love that parents everywhere are finding it useful. That is, after all, the point! I see parents privately all week long for individual consultations. I speak with parents of kids pretty much 1 year through high school age. But my real area of strength, I believe, is the elementary school years. I deal with topics and areas that run the gamut, but seem to be within the realm of typical. Most parents think they are the only ones. But let me reassure you, there is nothing new on the planet. I also run on-going parenting groups, arranged by the age of the child, and I offer one time, single topic seminars. They’re all listed on my website. www.betsybrownbraun.com


2. You’re the mom of triplets and you have many years experience as an educator and consultant. Does it matter whether a parent sends their child to a private elementary school which serves as a “feeder” to Harvard-Westlake if their goal is ultimately Harvard-Westlake?

This is a tricky question. More important than the elementary school (or preschool!) the child attends, is the child himself. Schools are looking for a balanced class, kids from public and private, all different kinds of kids, but kids who will be successful in that particular school environment. But a school needs to be a good match for the child and the family. It is true that some schools do seem to “feed” to the next level. But that is likely more because of it being a philosophical match than it being a true feeder. Children who have gone to Waldorf for elementary school are not likely to be well matched, for example, for Harvard-Westlake, though it certainly can happen. A big difference between public and private school in terms of the next step is the degree to which that school will go to bat for the child. As you know, public schools are not able to step up to the plate in promoting a child in his applications the way private schools can. That is a big difference. But it is not a deal breaker.


3. In general, how are your fees/services structured?

I am paid per session. A session is 50 minutes. I have different fees for different kinds of consultations. It’s pretty standard. I do some pro bono work with families who really need me and they really need food. I am connected to a particular public school whose population is far less privileged than others. That’s an easy adjustment for me to make in those cases.

Often a family sees me only a few times, even only once. If a family needs me more than that, it is likely that something else is going on. There are times when I refer a family out for a different kind of help than I am able to offer. But I like to get them in, help them, and move them out!


4. Why do you think so many wonderful families get wait-listed or declined admission from top private elementary schools?

Boy, if I knew this answer to this one, I’d be, well, really popular! The reality is that there just aren’t enough schools for all the wonderful kids and families who are applying. Every child deserves to go to the best school his parents can afford. Actually, I take that back. Every child deserves to go to the best school for him! Sometimes a family just isn’t in the position to afford it, and that’s too bad. That’s when we have to make lemonade. You play with the cards you are dealt. You know my three kids-triplets-went too three different public schools, starting in 7th grade. They had good, solid educations. Could each have had better? Absolutely. But each of my kids did really well and ended up at top notch schools, all the ones you’ve heard of and grad schools too. You know, Christina, I sincerely believe that it is as much about what goes on at home as it is about what goes on at school…if not more. So, why are they declined? I suppose if we are being realistic here, some kids get in for the right reasons and some get in for other reasons. Let’s leave it at that. How I wish the schools were able to do all the research to get to really know their applicants…beyond the applications and the interviews. There’s so much more there.


5. What are some of the schools your clients have attended?

My clients attend ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL the schools. You name the school, I have sent a client there.


For more information about Betsy, visit www.betsybrownbraun.com

Blog Posts Coming Soon…


Hi Everyone!

Summer’s here! Thought I’d share a picture of my son, who just finished 1st grade at The Willows getting a basketball trophy. And, a pic of my darling daughter who just finished 3rd grade. I’m so proud of them!
We’re constantly thinking of topics we think will interest you. Over the summer, here’s a sampling of what we’ll be writing about and working on:
  • How your preschool director can help guide you through admissions process
  • More Q&A interviews with top educational consultants
  • What moms who read our book have to say about it
  • How to figure out if you will fit in at a school and how to get a real sense of what the families at the school are like
  • Assessing a K-12 school for a 5 year old
  • What life is like at private elementary schools, trends, activities, etc.
  • Private elementary school buzz
  • More about “feeder” schools (a very popular topic)
  • In September, we’ll jump into the admissions frenzy with you

Additionally, we are considering touring a select group of top schools this fall and writing about our tour experiences. This will not be a “review” of each school, but rather a snapshot of what we saw on the tour. As you know from reading our blog, we like to keep our perspective positive, but straightforward and honest.

 

However, since touring schools and writing about it will be time consuming, we need to hear from you! Do you think this would be helpful information for your school search? Leave us a comment (can be anonymous) or email Christina at csimon2007@gmail.com

On this blog, we’re all about sharing information and we’d be happy to visit schools, but only if you’re interested in reading about our views on each school (probably about 10 schools). Note: we’ve seen most of the top private elementary schools in LA, so this would be for you to find out more about a school you might not have considered or to get a “second opinion” about a school you’ve visited. As you may know, the schools would prefer we not do this, but we think you have the right to have as much information as possible about specific schools and the entire admissions process.



Westside Feeder Schools: From Preschool To The Ivy League: A Well-Traveled Path

Each year, most top Los Angeles private elementary schools send several of their graduates to excellent secondary schools. But, we know you really want specifics. Which schools are “feeders” to specific secondary schools? Obviously, each year this changes. But, there are some well-trodden paths, from preschool to elementary school and then on to secondary schools and from their to certain colleges. According to a friend of ours who works at Harvard-Westlake, the Westside feeder school path goes like this:

 
Sunshine Preschool and Circle of Friends Preschool* send graduates to Brentwood, John Thomas Dye, The Center For Early Education,Curtis School and Carlthorp, which in turn, send their graduates to Harvard-Westlake and Marlborough, which then send their graduates to Harvard College, Yale, Princeton and Stanford (and the other Ivy League Schools).
 
Obviously, these are not the only ways for a child to get into Harvard-Westlake or Marlborough. But, it’s a common path, familiar to the well-connected and well-to-do families on the Westside of LA. From the schools’ perspective, according to our source at Harvard-Westlake, it’s about test scores, ensuring that the kids who follow the “feeder” school paths will hit the test scores the schools desire at every level.
 
Another well-traveled “feeder” school path:
Temple Isaiah Preschool, Wagon Wheel Preschool and Crestwood Hills Co-Op Nursery School send scores of kids to The Willows Community School, which is a feeder school to Crossroads and Windward (the head of the Willows Lower School has a child at Crossroads High School and Lisa Rosenstein, head of school at The Willows, used to run Temple Isaiah Preschool before founding The Willows School)
 
Note: Crossroads, Oakwood, Brentwood, Campbell Hall and Wildwood are K-12 schools so naturally their own students continue from their lower schools through secondary school.
 
* According to the book, Coping With Preschool Panic, “Circle of Friends Preschool in Santa Monica has a reputation of being a bit like a much-sought after private-club–very hard to gain admittance. There are those who call it “Circle of Celebrities’ Children”. (P. 67)
 
We discuss the issue of “feeder” schools in more detail in Beyond The Brochure.
 
 
 

Summer Sizzle? Summer Fizzle?

Great news! Your new private elementary school has a summer camp. To enroll or not to enroll? That’s the question.
 

After preschool ended and I was trying to decide what my daughter would do during the summer before kindergarten, I contemplated enrolling her in the Willows School’s Summer Camp (called Iverbe). Several private elementary schools have summer camps so this is something you may be considering.

 
There would be benefits, for sure.

1. My daughter, who was already 5 years old, was ready to move on from preschool
2. She would get to know her new school and some of her new classmates and teachers
3. The schedule offered fun, enriching activities
 
There were also drawbacks. My daughter, as I’ve mentioned before, was shy and needed time to get to know new places and people. I worried about her “jumping right in” to a boisterous summer camp, filled with kids she didn’t know. Maybe “worried” was an understatement.
 
Other potential drawbacks included:
1. My daughter would dislike the summer camp and think her new school would be the same, which in fact is not true (but, try explaining that to a 5 year old!)
2. Things could go so badly we’d have to pull her out of camp and therefore make a terrible impression on the “powers that be” at the school. My mind kept going. They’d retract my daughter’s offer, deciding she wasn’t ready for kindergarten. She’d had her chance and it hadn’t worked out. “Find another school”, they’d say. Of course, this doesn’t happen in real life! If the camp experience isn’t right, that really has no relationship to the school experience.
3. Too much stress. Why not just enroll her someplace we already know she’ll do just fine?
 
So, what did we do? We opted to skip the Willows Summer Camp before my daughter started kindergarten. When I’ve talked to other parents about this issue, it’s a mixed response. Some parents enroll their kids in the summer camp of their new school and their kids love it. Others enroll their kids at the camp for a short time i.e. a week or two to test the waters. Sometimes, things go badly and they go for a few days and leave. It really depends on the type of child you have.
 
After kindergarten, my daughter (and my son) have attended the school’s summer camp every year and they love it.
 
I write this because it was something on my mind the summer before kindergarten maybe its something you’re thinking about too.
 
 

How My Preschool Director Helped Us Get Into Schools & Select The Right School

If you’ve read Beyond The Brochure, you know that my daughter attended Montessori Shir-Hashirim, a wonderful preschool near the Hollywood Hills. One of the reasons I picked the school was because I knew that the director, Elena, had years of experience helping families get into top private elementary schools. I was right. She was an enormous wealth of information, a calm presence during a stormy season and a guiding hand throughout our school application process. She has many of the top admissions directors on her speed dial.

 

Here’s how she helped us from the beginning of our school search to the very end:
  • Suggested schools for us to tour
  • Asked me what I thought of each school after I visited the school
  • Met with me for more than an hour to discuss our application strategy (where to apply, how to get started with the written application, what my daughter would need to know for visiting days, etc.)
  • Helped me narrow the list of schools where we’d apply (She felt strongly we should apply to The Center For Early Education, but I didn’t think it was right for us so we didn’t apply)
  • She did NOT review our written applications, but did tell me they were important
  • Met with me after our terrible parent interview and agreed we should withdraw our application
  • Advised me when to call admissions directors to say “thank you” and also when to call one school to say it was our “first choice”
  • Believed strongly that our daughter would get into several good schools
  • Spoke to admissions directors about our daughter and advocated for her
  • Reassured me when I was panicked about the sheer number of applicants for so few spots
  • Helped us decide which school to pick (The Willows). How? She knew our family and our daughter extremely well. She told us our daughter would do well at The Willows and the specific reasons why.

 

Elena was doing her job, which is to help families at her school get into private elementary schools. She’s good at her job and loves doing it. She really sets the standard for how a preschool director can make a difference in a family’s application process. You can visit the school’s website at, http://www.montessorihollywood.org/

 

If you find your preschool director is trying too hard to “steer” you towards schools you don’t want to tour or is pushing you to choose a school from your options that isn’t your top choice, understand that she/he is running a business. The preschool director may have multiple families they are trying to place at the same schools and may be doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make sure every family at their preschool gets into a private school and that no family is wait-listed or declined. That said, it’s YOUR choice. Take the advice, but it’s your decision.

 

More Private Elementary School Buzz

Marlborough School has 100 feeder schools: “As you can imagine, having good relationships with our feeder school principals is essential to our success in promoting Marlborough School’s reputation throughout the Los Angeles community,” Director of Admissions Jeanette Woo Chitjian said. Although the student body comes from roughly a hundred feeder schools, the Admissions Office would like to increase that number, Woo Chitjian said. (source: Marlborough School New Ultraviolet Newletter, 2009). 

- One top Westside preschool director is so concerned that parents at her preschool are only applying to the same very difficult-to-get-into three schools (John Thomas Dye, Brentwood, Carlthorp) and not getting in, that she has begun inviting other schools to visit her preschool in an effort to encourage parents to apply to a broader range of private elementary schools.

- Marcia Capparela, Asst. Head of School at Wildwood and longtime friend of Beyond The Brochure Co-Author, Anne Simon, will be leaving her position to join Westland School on Mulholland. Good luck in your new position, Marcia!