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!


Willows School Volunteer Options For New Parents-What Would You Choose?

Here is the list of The Willows School volunteer activities any parent can sign up for. As you can see, there’s lots to do at my kids school and at most private elementary schools. This isn’t even all of the volunteer positions that need to be filled (committee co-chairs, room parent and other leadership positions are generally offered to parents who have volunteered in one or more of the positions below first).


Hint: When you are writing your applications, look at the school’s events and volunteer activities to see if your skills or interests match their needs. If so, mention it in your application!! I’ve worked on the Book Fair, Co-Chaired the Auction, Served as class captain for the annual giving campaign and more. Everything I’ve done has been based on my interests and skills.

Most popular: #5 (Book Fair), #7 (Gardening), #8 (Hot Lunch)

Least Popular: #10 Lost and Found, #3 Auction Solicitation

1. AUCTION: Assist the Auction Co-Chairs in planning, organizing, and publicizing the Annual Auction and Party. (This is the biggest parent-run fundraiser of the year, so please join in the fun, there’s lots to do.)

2. AUCTION CATALOGUE CREATION: Help with writing, designing and formatting the catalogue entries for silent and live auctions

3. AUCTION ITEM SOLICITATION: Join the team in procuring fabulous auction items and sponsorships.

4. AUCTION ITEM MANAGEMENT: Database input and management of auction items.

5. BOOK FAIR: Help plan and organize the Fall Book Fair Celebration.

6. CULTURAL PROGRAMS: Help committee to promote a greater understanding of the history and diversity of cultures and people.

7. GARDENING: Garden with your child’s grade (DK through 2nd) in the learning garden on a semi-regular basis

8. HOT LUNCH: Assist the Hot Lunch program Co-Chairs. Act as a “lead” hot lunch server. “Lead” servers are asked to commit to overseeing the serving of hot lunch one day, every other week throughout the school year. (Hours are from 11:30 am –1 pm).

9. LIBRARY: Work with the Librarian and the Library Co-Chairs to assist in maintenance of the school library, Birthday Book Program and special projects. (Must commit to involvement in Book Fair and end-of-year inventory.)

10. LOST & FOUND: Help keep lost and found organized. Sort and deliver items with names to classrooms. Volunteers are asked to commit approximately one hour every other week.

11. PACIFIC PARK PIER EVENT: Help plan and organize the spring family event.

12. POSTER/SIGNAGE COMMITTEE (A): Looking for Graphic Designers to create posters/signage and invitations for school events. Knowledge of Photoshop and other design programs required.

13. POSTER/SIGNAGE COMMITTEE (B): If you are not a graphic designer, you can volunteers to print posters/signage on our large format printer, and then mount for use at school and special events. We will train on printer. Some knowledge of Photoshop required.

14. SCHOOL PHOTO COORDINATION: Work with co-chair to coordinate activities between photographer, yearbook staff, teachers, administration and parents. Coordinate scheduling for portraits, all school photo and class photos. Organize parent volunteers for photo shoots.

15. T-Shirt Sales. Assist in the organization, sales and delivery of Willows T-shirts, both regular and event (Book Fair and Pier Party) throughout the year.

16. VIDEOGRAPHY: Video various school activities and daytime/evening events as coordinated by Willows staff. Supply Communication/Media with footage we will share on our website and use in school video productions. Responsible for downloading footage to our Willows Yearbook server. Willows will supply a digital camcorder that can be checked out for use at the school. Download is easy with a DV memory card. It’s important to have some computer knowledge for downloading to a Macintosh.

17. YEARBOOK: Assist in the planning, assembly and production of the annual Willows yearbook.