L.A. Admissions Directors: Waiting For Admissions Letters by Janis Adams

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Here’s a piece with great insight from a few of L.A.’s top admissions directors, interviewed by Janis Adams of Academic Achievers.

 

After months of researching, preparing, applying, testing, and interviewing, there is nothing left to do now but wait.

We want to give families some behind-the-scenes insight about what is going on as final decisions are being made. Despite this being crunch time for the admissions directors, several top ADs and experts took the time to talk with us about the admissions process.

Laurel Baker Tew, Director of Admissions at Viewpoint School, reminds us that “the student isn’t the only part of the admissions decision. The family as well has to fit into the school community.”

“I used to be in college admissions,” adds Tew, “and admissions to an independent school is very different from admissions to college. In college we’re looking to admit a student; in independent school, we are looking to admit a family.”

Independent schools agree that the family has to be supportive of the school and its philosophies. Viewpoint likes parents who take the time to do the research and can articulate what it is they are looking for in their families. “Make sure the school is a good fit before going in for the interview,” suggests Laurel Baker Tew. Be sure to have specific examples and questions that align with the mission and values of the school.

Dr. Amy Horton, a prominent clinical psychologist who works with many families from independent schools, cautions, “Don’t go into the school admission process holding back relevant information about your child. It’s not necessary for them to have that perfect ISEE score. Admissions directors are looking at the whole child.” Her advice is, “The best school fit for a child is where they will thrive and feel supported even on their worst day.”

Jeanette Woo Chitjian, Director of Enrollment Management at Marlborough School, reminds us of the reality of the numbers for seats available for every applicant. “There are approximately 3-4 applicants for every one spot in 7th grade, and 10-12 applicants for every spot in 9th grade.”

Jeannette is quick to add, “We are looking for different things in different grades. In 7th grade we are looking to put a class together. In 9th grade, we are looking to add to an established class.”

Of course, each situation would have a different need. When you are putting a class together you want to have students who will balance the group as a whole. Neither an entire group of introverts nor an entire group of extroverts would make for a well-rounded class. Jeanette Woo Chitjian puts it into perspective, “Remember, it isn’t just about what the student can contribute to the class, it is also about what the student will gain from the experience.”

Like other top schools, Marlborough wants to see the academic record (grades, ISEE, ERB scores) and also importantly, the comments from the teachers. “Our girls are much more than numbers to us. We take a great deal of time in reviewing each girl’s application. We encourage parents to send additional information about the child if they feel it will help us to make a more informed decision,” says Jeannette Woo Chijian.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but especially during the stressful waiting period, it is important to remember that regardless of where your child goes to school, they will still bloom.

To this point, Admissions Consultant Rob Stone had this to say: “One thing families can do during that terrible limbo of waiting for the decision is to embrace the premise that everything is going to be okay. The biggest trap is thinking that a child’s whole future hinges on getting into a certain school. The second-biggest trap is allowing the stakes of the admissions decision to create so much pressure in the home that it begins to trickle down to the child. The worst case scenario is that a child feels like a complete failure if they don’t get in.”

You have no control whether the orchestra does or does not need a double-bass player at this time. You give it your best shot but you have no ultimate power over which candidate is accepted. Being a top contender is what matters most.

Stone adds, “It is about positivity and perspective. Getting into a school does not make, or break, the success of a kid.”

The application process is part of a bigger picture in the investment of your child’s education. The skills they develop during this preparation will serve them for a lifetime.

 

Janis Adams is the Founder/CEO of Academic Achievers, a full-services educational agency headquartered in Santa Monica. Academic Achievers provides customized ISEE, SAT, and ACT prep, application assistance and consulting. KinderPrep: Learning to Love Learning, KinderPrep Camp, as well as elementary and high school remediation and enrichment. www.academicachievers.com

 

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Guest Blogger Janis: Straight Talk From Admissions Directors At L.A. Private Elementary Schools (re-post)


“Every kindergarten applicant is adorable,” I heard over and over as I interviewed over a dozen admission directors from the top Los Angeles private elementary schools.

 

“But what are they looking for?” I heard over and over as I spoke to nearly as many kindergarten applicant parents.

 

The answers, as you might have guessed, are simple…and complicated.

 

We all know there are only so many seats in each class. And most schools allot priority spaces for siblings, alumni, and children of faculty. However, even the most selective schools must fill at least half of the class with families not previously affiliated with their school. Families who are diverse, interesting, committed, and nice. Families who hold the same values and philosophies that the school does.

 

Here’s a roundup of advice for applicant parents from admissions directors from some of the best private elementary schools in LA (in alphabetical order by school name):

 

“At Brawerman we take in an entire family, not just the child. We seek families who are eager to join a school community. We have a very involved parent body. Jewish values also play an important role. We encourage families who embrace the teaching of Jewish and human values as much as the academic content.” Gillian Feldman, Director of Admissions, Brawerman Elementary School of Wilshire Blvd. Temple.

 

“Brentwood School is eager to embrace new families. This year’s class came from 33 different preschools and we even had one child who never attended preschool.” Mary Beth Barry, Director of Admissions, Brentwood School.

 

“We look for families who believe in our 4-Fold Plan of Education. Our curriculum places equal emphasis on academics, arts, athletics, and a strong moral foundation. We have a more traditional structure than is typically associated with schools, such as ours, that strongly emphasize the arts and creativity.” Corrine Baker, Buckley School.

 

“We want parents who want to get involved in the school and who embrace our policies like student uniforms. We have an ‘open door’ policy where parents are welcome any time on our campus or in the classroom.” Alice Fleming, Admissions Director, Campbell Hall.

 

“Carlthorp School looks for families who understand and appreciate our Code of Conduct, which emphasizes integrity, courtesy, and respect. We are also looking for families who are seeking a more understated social experience for their children. At Carlthorp, we try to keep activities simple and age appropriate for our students, not always easy to do in Los Angeles.” Lynn Wagmeister, Admissions Chair, Carlthorp School.

 

“Crossroads has a big commitment to diversity. We want a community of different ethnicities, different socio-economic groups and different family types. We also look for families who agree with our philosophy of educating the whole child though rich programs in academics, the arts, athletics, human development and outdoor education.” Celia Lee, Admissions Director, Crossroads School.

 

“Our school is looking for nice kids from good families. Family is very important for us as it forms the school’s community.” Josie Bahedry, Asst. Head of School/Lower School Director, John Thomas Dye.

 

“At Mirman, we do not offer priority spaces for sibling families, alumni, or children of faculty. We consider students who have a passion for learning, who need us the most, and will thrive in our school community.” Becky Riley Fisher, Director of Admissions, Mirman School.

 

“We look for families who uphold our philosophy of pluralism, diversity and inter-connectedness. We want families who will build a community that embraces diversity that is consciously inclusive.” Andrea Roth, former Director of Admissions, PS#1 Pluralistic School.

 

“St. Matthew’s encourages families who want a school with strong academics, a sense of community, and a focus on moral values and character development.” Jane Young, Principal PS-4, St. Matthew’s School, Pacific Palisades.

 

“At St. James we look for families who desire a solid educational foundation for their children in a warm, caring, and diverse community. We are a community where children, parents and staff demonstrate respect for oneself and others. Our strong and experienced teachers exemplify the joy of learning as a life long process. In sum, one of St James’ Core Beliefs says it all: Everything we teach and do is the curriculum.” Adriane Rothstein, former Director Lower Elementary, St. James Episcopal School.

 

“Wildwood is a community of collaboration. We want students and parents who will interact well with each other, who will take ownership in the learning process. Learning, like motivation, is a process.” Chantelle Pierre, former Admissions Director, Wildwood School.

 

Assuming you, too, have a nice family, and are polite and respectful, what exactly is the admissions committee looking for when they evaluate your child?

 

Across the board admissions directors talked about evaluating small and large motor skills, auditory and visual acuity, sociability, emotional readiness, ability to focus, ability to transition from task to task, and that all illusive term, “a good fit.” A good fit seems to vary a bit from school to school.

 

Josie Bahedry at John Thomas Dye says they limit the applicants to the first 70 boys and the first 70 girls. They are looking for kids who can transition easily, who have a mastery of some basic pre-school skills and who show their ability to learn something new. They have a group of 6-8 students meet one-on-one with all of their 6 K teachers and do a little work at each station. They also prefer the boys to be a little older.

 

At Viewpoint, Laurel Baker Tew, Director of Admissions, said they do a group interview of up to 10 students at a time and are evaluating, among other things, each child’s ability to play together, focus, and have phonemic awareness, math awareness, and spatial awareness.

 

Nora Malone, Head of School at Village School, keeps the enrollment open until the deadline. “We don’t want to miss anybody.” She mentioned that the kindergarteners are evaluated on their social adaptability as well as their developmental ability. They should be able to relate to peers, adults, and make a friend. They must be “ready to engage.”

 

Curtis School caps their applications at 200 for combined DK and K. Mimi Petrie, Director of Admissions, also looks for children who are ready to learn. They want students who will be able to “embody Curtis School’s balance of academics, art, and athletics.”

 

PS#1’s Andrea Roth said they are not looking for any particular skill set in their applicants. They have had entering kindergartners who were on beginning phonics and some reading chapter books. They look for an ability to focus.

 

Mary Beth Barry, Brentwood School, stressed the importance of looking at the class as a whole and trying to balance the different personalities. They want a variety of personalities who will work well together. “After all, the class will be together for thirteen years,” she said.

 

Crossroads looks at students with a broad range of cognitive skills, but they especially look for children with a strong emotional core. “Crossroads has a lively enriched atmosphere,” says Celia Lee, Director of Admissions. “We look for applicants who are flexible and can think outside the box. We want a certain level of ability, but also children who are active and joyful.”

 

Gillian Feldman tells us that Brawerman is looking for children who are developmentally ready to begin the work of a kindergartener. This includes the academics as well as the social, emotional, and problem solving components.

 

Carlthorp is looking for Kindergarteners with an “ability and eagerness to learn.” Lynn Wagmeister, Director of Admissions, admits their school is looking for above average to highly gifted students, however, she was quick to add, they should be happy, fun loving, and kind as well. We’re looking for children who can work hard and play hard, who also have a twinkle in their eye!”

 

Wildwood School really tries to get a sense of who the child is. They use an internal assessment with basic letter and number recognition, but mostly they look at applicants who engage, rebound, and “are resilient,” says Chantelle Pierre.

 

Each of LA’s top private elementary schools has its own unique personality, with excellent websites to peruse. Prospective families should spend time on campus, see a play, go to a book fair or event, see a concert, get a feel for the campus, the current parents and kids. Timing can work for you so apply early.

 

Finally, it’s important to know that even if your child is not accepted to your top choice school, don’t give up. If your child is wait-listed, stay in touch, say the admissions directors. As many of the schools told me, “Things change.”

 

Janis Adams has raised and educated 3 children who have attended some of the top schools in the country, including Village School, Harvard-Westlake, Loyola High School, Harvard University, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Harvard Kennedy School and University San Diego Law School. She is on the docent council at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the owner of Academic Achievers Tutoring and the popular KinderPrep: Learning To Love Learning. www.academic-achievers.com. You can contact her with questions at janis@academic-achievers.com

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