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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Waiting for Admissions Letters and Getting In, Wait-listed, Rejected by Barbara Cameron

thorns and roses concept

 

 

Here’s another insightful, honest post from our friend Barbara Cameron. This time she writes about the thorny issue of waiting for admissions letters. Then, there’s the rose at the end of the journey…if things go well. We’re wishing all of you the very best of luck as you wait for letters and find out results!–Christina and Anne 

We wait for an online purchase to arrive. We wait in traffic. We wait for our Double Cappuccino extra froth at Starbucks (where I recently saw a woman flip out on the barista because she waited “three minutes and it was all wrong” when she received it). We wait for news from an oncologist about ourselves, or a loved one or a friend when all wrong takes on an entirely different meaning. We wait for our babies to be born.

And then, of course, we sometimes wait for acceptance letters from L.A. private schools to hear where our children will get their education. It is easy to say, “Keep it in perspective, it isn’t a life or death matter,” because it is not. However, seriously hard work, time and effort have gone into this process more times than not. Our children’s education matters a great deal. Expectations are high, and fear can creep in, so how do we handle it?

I had a friend who drove around her neighborhood trying to track down the mailman the day the letters were due to arrive, which some might judge extreme, but if you knew her, you would laugh. That is her. She laughs now. Getting a little crazy is okay if that’s what you do. The Los Angeles Times famously coined the term “Black Friday” to describe this day.

For each family dynamic, there is a valid answer to how do we wait for this news. My crazy, I tended to play the waiting down, quell the anxiety by telling myself whatever happens it happens the way it is meant to happen. Whatever works; it’s a trick of the mind. I created options so I could remain faithful to my mantra. Some families are clear about their few choices and bet on that. These days, parents frantically check their email or log onto sites which schools posts acceptances. Check your email’s junk mail folder too because I’ve heard that’s where some of these admissions emails end up.

I guess the one real thing to take away: in many ways, it is a crapshoot. It’s a roll of the dice no matter that you may have the odds in your favor. The best way to prepare yourself and your children, is to ready them to handle whatever happens, which means you as a parent must control it. Lead by example.

We waited before kindergarten, were accepted to The Willows, our first choice, wait-listed at PS1, got rejected from The Center for Early Education, and, well, case in point, I can’t even remember the rest now. Of course, I signed the contract for The Willows instantly. As for high school, we did as we were told because we needed financial aid; we threw our net wide. Seven schools, applications, interviews, tours! Seven letters to await. Crapshoot: one school we thought he had a good chance, a no-go. The school we thought was out of his league was a yes, and wait-listed at one he liked very much. Fairly last minute, my son did a shadow day at Arête and fell in love with it. They accepted him; two very different schools. I remember conversations with family and friends, what to do? On the last day to decide, driving to work, debating which would be best for him, after receiving generous financial aid from both, I just made a decision, knowing we can never, in the end, know the answer to that question. Arête, I still believe, was the best choice!

Maybe all of this means remembering that we are always in the process of waiting for something; waiting is hard. Traffic can make us late to an important meeting. If we crave and look forward to our morning caffeine, waiting for it might seem impossible if the line is long. Some news we think will change our lives, and some possibly will; some may not, although we feel (as the Cappuccino women felt) it will.

Maybe teach your kids, the degree of importance varies, but waiting is a part of life. It never stops. The outcome of hard work, whatever it may be, is a part of life. Whatever happens, we deal with it and move on. There is no other choice. How we handle what we receive after the wait is– and will– become a part of who we are.

Barbara Cameron is the 2012 winner of the American Literary Review nonfiction contest, judged by Alice Elliot Dark, and her winning essay, “Hawk Blood,” was published in the journal. It was republished in the Colorado Review as an editor’s pick. Her essay, “In Avalon, She Fell,” was a finalist in a 2017 literary contest, judged by Abigail Thomas. She has studied with Mary Gaitskill and with Tom Jenks, founder and co-editor of Narrative. Barbara is a graduate of Barnard College, a former restaurant server and now manager, a single mom by choice and a resident of Los Angeles. You can read Barbara’s most recent essay about Financial Aid on Beyond The Brochure and her creative nonfiction in Angels Flight Literary West.

Check out Beyond The Brochure’s previous posts about admissions letters, wait-lists and rejections and here on The Daily Truffle. 

Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook for all the latest news about L.A. private schools.

Good luck to everyone!

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