What You Can (and can’t!) Control During The Admissions Process by Sanjay Nambiar

Control BTB Nambiar

 

We’re thrilled to welcome guest contributor Sanjay Nambiar of Nambiar Advising back to Beyond The Brochure with a piece about making sure you don’t overlook the things that you can control during the admissions process. Often, it’s the details that make a difference! –Christina

Applying to Private School in L.A. is About Control

We understand on a very intimate level the stress involved in applying to private schools in Los Angeles. The process can be maddening, and sometimes parents can feel that the future hopes of the family (fairly or unfairly) lie in the balance.

But, there are perspectives to help you manage the craziness and maintain sanity.

One factor we focus on with our clients is control– i.e., what you can’t and can control during the application process. Understanding the nuances here can help reduce stress significantly. Because ultimately, once we realize some things are simply beyond our ability to impact them, it’s easier to let the pressure around them go. We then can focus our energy on the things that indeed are within our purview.

What You Cannot Control:

School-specific needs for that particular year

It’s random, and perhaps unfair, but some years are just more difficult than other years. Admissions officers must balance a myriad of factors when putting together an incoming class. With that, many factors can impact the applicant pool. These include:

  • Legacy families
  • Faculty applicants
  • Siblings
  • Boy/girl ratios

With such factors, not getting in often has nothing to do with the student or parents. Rather, it can be a matter of limited space and unfavorable timing. Sometimes, knowing these truths can put a rejection into a more understandable, and less personal, context.

Recommendations

A teacher or administrator recommendation is the product of several months, and sometimes years, of history with your child and family. At that point, there’s not much parents can do to influence what is written. The recommenders typically are pros and have written numerous recommendations over the years. We have to trust that they’ll put forth the best representation possible, while remaining truthful. We can’t control this part of the process.

Transcripts

Similar to recommendations, transcripts are a result of your child’s history. If there is a blip in a specific course or year, we can’t do much about this historical outcome. If there is a significant anomaly in a grade for a specific reason, however, that often can be addressed in the application essays.

What You Can Control: 

Interviews

Finally, something under your control! Interviews are the most important in-person aspect of the application. This is your chance to connect, shine, and learn more about the school (for both students and parents). Exercise control here by preparing prior to the interview. Read your application again to remember specific anecdotes. Review the school’s website and talk about specific programs and classes. Research extracurricular opportunities. Also, mock interviews, sample questions, and a few practice sessions can help your child (and you) become more confident and polished.

School visits

Every time you visit a school, from interviews to open houses to tours, you have an opportunity to learn more about the community. These visits also let admissions officers and administrators learn more about you. Always be polite and courteous to everyone. We’ve heard many horror stories where parents or kids were rude to administrative or custodial staff, and as a result were not admitted.

Essays

This is perhaps the element which you can control the most. Take your time with the essays – start early and revise often (and always bear in mind the stated word/character count on the application). Read them out loud to catch typos. Send them to one or two trusted friends for feedback. You are in charge of how you describe your child and family, so it’s worth the effort to make it as strong as possible.

ISEE exams

This topic is controversial for many reasons. While many educators are not in favor of tutors or prep courses, there’s also an argument to how preparation can make a student more confident and relaxed. Whether you use a tutor or take practice exams on your own, studying for this standardized test can help not only improve scores, but also alleviate stress. Try to present a calm attitude – remind your child that the test is not a reflection of who they are or their potential. Also, remember that you can sign up to take the exam twice, just in case.

Submitting the application early

This is easy and under your control: submit your application as early as possible. Submitting early has multiple benefits: the season is new and admissions officers are fresher as they review the application; once you submit you can focus on regular life; students can focus on normal school and not application materials; and you eliminate the inherent stress of procrastination.

Keep It in Perspective

Yes, applying to private schools in Los Angeles is about crafting a strong narrative and doing everything you can to help admissions officers make a favorable decision. But, it is also about managing stress and not letting the details drive you and your child crazy. This is an opportunity to be authentic to your family as well as the admissions officers. And perhaps most importantly, the process is about finding the right match for your child, because happy kids are more likely to be successful kids!

As you understand what you can’tcontrol, you can more easily devote your energy and focus to the application elements you indeed cancontrol. Ultimately, that can help you keep your sanity as you go through the application process.

 

Priya and Sanjay Nambiar run Nambiar Advising, a consulting practice that shepherds families through the private school admissions process, from helping clients find the best-fit schools for children to application support, essay editing, interview preparation, and more. Priya has spent more than 20 years in education and was the Associate Director of Admissions at the Brentwood School in Los Angeles. She earned a B.A. in Education from Brown University and an M.Ed. from Harvard University. Sanjay is an entrepreneur and professional writer who has written several award-winning children’s books. He earned a B.A. in Economics and Neurobiology from U.C. Berkeley and an M.B.A. from UCLA. To learn more, please visit www.nambiaradvising.com.

 

Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook for the latest Los Angeles private school news and events! You can get a copy of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles on Amazon.

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Academic Achievers presents “Demystifying the Private School Application Process” with Lisa Marfisi

To RSVP for this free event, click here

 

Academic Achievers :Lisa Marfisi

 

 

To RSVP for this free event, click here

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    Here's a list of excellent resources to help you with your kid's admissions process:   Test Preparation (in alphabetical order) Academic Achievers: KinderPrep, ISEE, SAT, ACT and academic tutors Compass Education Group: ISEE, HSPT, SAT, ACT and academic tutors Hayutin & Associates: ISEE, SAT, ACT, academic tutoring, educational therapy and independent study Kinder Ready &…
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Lisa Marfisi: From L.A. Admissions Director To Educational Consultant

This morning, I had a lovely coffee meeting with Lisa Marfisi in West Hollywood. I first met Lisa when she was the admissions director at Echo Horizon School. We hit it off right away and it turns out we have several “small world” connections. Lisa just started working as an educational consultant, helping families find the right elementary or secondary school in Los Angeles. With her years of experience at some of L.A.’s top schools, her knowledge will be an asset to any family looking for the right school. Lisa was the person who made the decisions about who got in! For more information, visit Academic Achievers. Congratulations, Lisa!

 

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Stay up-to-date on all the latest L.A. private school news. Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook.

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Upcoming Event: “Elementary School, Here I Come” with Betsy Brown Braun

Boy on climbing frame

Many of you who read this blog know I’m a big fan of Betsy Brown Braun. I’ve taken her parenting classes and read her books and she has always provided me with excellent practical and timely advice (just when I really needed it!). Here’s her annual private schools event, which I’m sure will be extremely useful.

 

Betsy Brown Braun- ELEMENTARY SCHOOL,  HERE I COME!                      

Wednesday,. January 29, 2014,  7:30 to 9:30  p.m. A framework for observing, assessing, and choosing an elementary school will be presented at this seminar. Private and public schools in the City and the Valley will be discussed along with the application process, school visits, interviews, and a timeline for applications. www.betsybrownbraun.com

 

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Finding The “Best” School by Sandy Eiges, LA School Scout

Centro Infantil Municipal in El Chaparral, Granada, Spain. Photo: Timbuktu Magazine
Kindergarten. Centro Infantil Municipal in El Chaparral, Granada, Spain. Photo: Timbuktu Magazine

I know, we’ve talked about this before, and I am constantly being asked which school I consider to be “the best.” It can be frustrating for parents to figure out what is “the best” school for their child, be it preschool, elementary, middle or high – or even college. But the reality is that there is no unilateral “best.” Beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.

 

For those of you who need a definitive answer (all of us!) I know this can be maddening. For those of you who have high-performing children, who would tear their hair out with boredom if in an undemanding environment where the norm falls far below their abilities and there is little or no differentiation for high ability kids, well, your path is clear. Your child will be happy in an academically demanding, highly structured environment.

 

If you are not that parent, but you have that child, well, good luck there. Not every school is a perfect fit for the whole family. If you go with your preference, your high ability kid may start acting out in ways that make it look like they are struggling. They are struggling – and might need a classroom where that same energy is being used to master more demanding material. Their brains are hungry for that finely ordered style of learning.

 

There are some less structured, more child-driven educational environments that have the same level of high expectations as the more structured classroom – but you might not see them that way. What they’re doing in the classroom is hands-on, no one is memorizing a thing, parents seem to love the school but you have no idea what your child is actually doing day-to-day – this might be a fit for your child but it might not be a school for you.

 

Whatever your choice is in schools, you really do need to “drink the Kool-Aid”™ or the whole experience will not be a match for you.

 

If you have a task-driven child, it goes without saying that you want to give them those tasks. If you have a deep or original thinker, or a “creative kid,” the mundane tasks of learning – repetition, memorization, detail – may hold no interest whatsoever. If they are in a school environment that is less structured, they might thrive. For some, though, they will need to “do the detail” in order to keep their lofty ideas grounded. Figuring out what might be the right match is not as easy as it seems.

 

So that notion of “best”? It’s really a moving target, based on too many inconsistent factors.

 

The key here is to make sure that you’re offering your child the school that fits who they are, not just who you are. Sometimes that’s an easy guess; sometimes not. Take a look at the variety of schools out there, and make your best choice. That’s all that any parent can do.

 

If you need help with any part of this process, that’s why I’m here. Trying to decide between “progressive” and “traditional”? Considering a move from public to private? Are you concerned that your child might have some learning issues which did not surface until they started school? We can help you with all of your school-related questions.

 

Sandy Eiges is the founder of LA School Scout, one of LA’s premier educational consulting firms.

Sandy Eiges
Sandy Eiges, M.S.W.
L.A. School Scout
877.877.6240
310.926.0050
www.LAschoolscout.com

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