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


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.