Confronting Rejection: When Your All Isn’t Enough

Unfortunately, rejection can be a very real outcome of applying to private schools in L.A. The competition is fierce and you can emerge from the process without one single acceptance letter. After all that work, you still don’t have a private school where you can send your child.

The bottom line: too many applications for too few spots. Not enough private elementary schools. Those are the cold, hard facts about private elementary schools in L.A. 

That does little to comfort those parents who find themselves in this situation.  It’s impossible to know what really happened to cause your family to get rejection letters. Child too young? Too many boys? Too many siblings? We talk about the reasons behind rejection letters in Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. 

As you know, from our book and this blog, my co-authors and I believe there’s a great private elementary school out there for every family. It may not be the one you had your heart set on. It may not be this week, this month or even this year. But, if you think you want a private school education for your child, don’t give up.

·     Whatever you do, don’t let this temporary setback deter you from seeking the best education possible for your child, whether public or private. It’s out there. Waiting for your family.

In the April issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, there’s a wonderful article called, Feeling Good. One exercise called Optimism 101 is especially relevant to handling rejection letters.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Martin Seligman, PhD, the father of positive psychology, gave us a quick lesson on a classic optimism-boosting exercise—which he calls the ABCDEs. The goal, Seligman says, is to get you to stop thinking pessimistically, rather than teach you to start thinking optimistically (which rarely works). “This fix isn’t instantaneous,” he says. “But we’ve done studies on it involving thousands of subjects, and we know it’s effective.” So the next time you experience a setback—anything from a leaky faucet to a fight with a friend—walk yourself through these five steps:
A. Name the adversity, or problem.
(For example: “I didn’t get a call back after my job interview.”)
B. List your beliefs.
These are your initial reactions to the problem. (“The interviewer saw right through me. I don’t deserve that position. And he could probably tell I don’t believe in myself. I’m sure the other applicants are smarter, younger, and more qualified than I am.”)
C. Identify the consequences of your beliefs.
(“I’m going to quit my job search so I don’t have to suffer through this feeling of failure again.”)
D. Formulate a disputation of your beliefs.
Pessimistic reactions are often overreactions, so start by correcting distorted thoughts. (“I probably didn’t feel confident because that position wasn’t the best fit. It’s only a matter of time before I find an opportunity that’s right for me. And now that I’ve had practice, I will be better prepared to present my best self.”)
E. Describe how energized and empowered you feel now.
(“I’m more motivated to keep looking for a job that makes me happy. I won’t let fear stand in my way.”)
Practice this exercise as often as possible, and when you can, take time to write out the ABCDEs. Eventually, the sequence will become a habitual thought process. Seligman found that his subjects were still using the technique four years after he taught it to them.
For more tips from this series, visit O Magazine. 

Guest Blogger Jenny: Loitering On The Wait-List

I know, I know. You thought that once the private elementary school letters came out, you’d be off the hook. You’d know the score. You’d pick a school from those that accepted your child and write that fat check and that would be the end of it.

Until your child was wait-listed.

The wait-list feels a bit like private school purgatory. Your child hasn’t been accepted, yet. Perhaps there isn’t enough room at the school. Perhaps there’s some other, inexplicable reason for the wait-list status. You just don’t know. When my daughter was wait-listed at both the schools she applied to (Mirman and John Thomas Dye), I was confused. What did it mean? Was it all over? Should I just accept the fate of another year at public school and forget about the whole thing, regarding the admissions process as some bad dream now receding into memory?

My stepsister, who attended Archer and Windward, filled me in. “Wait-list is good,” she explained. “Many people just get rejected outright. The wait-list means they’re still interested.” It turns out that she was right. I got the call from Mirman in late June that there was a space, she took it, and the rest is history.

In the meanwhile, though, there were many awkward moments. After all, while you’re going through the surreal private school admissions process, you’re usually blabbing all about it. Your friends, family, acquaintances, mailmen, and the guy at the dry cleaner have all heard something, in excruciating detail. And now, it’s just limbo. There’s a feeling of inadequacy as you try to explain the situation, rationalizing it to anyone who will listen (this is an excellent time to have a shrink). Wait-listing implies second choice, second best, second rate, and you just know that’s not true about your child. You feel like, at any moment, you could be given a ticket for private school wait-list loitering.

Of course, a parent whose child does get in everywhere faces some unfair scrutiny, too. I know someone whose daughter was accepted everywhere she applied. She’s a wonderful student and a great kid. Someone had the nerve to imply it was because she was black. Pretty nasty and spiteful, isn’t it?  Hint: she writes this blog. Maybe there’s no winning here.

Anyway, some advice to those who have been wait-listed. Don’t stop contact with the schools. Call them every month or so, just to check in and remind them you’re still interested. If there’s a function, you might want to attend it, again to display your willingness to participate and be a good sport. Besides, even if your child doesn’t get in off the wait-list, if you love the school, you might want to reapply next year. If that’s the case, you definitely want to keep a good relationship going. You certainly don’t want to burn any bridges.

In any case, pay no mind to the doubters and insulters. Those people are not your real friends (like you needed me to tell you that). Be a proud loiterer! Hang in there, and you might get a surprise phone call, too. And if you do get that phone call, CALL THEM BACK IMMEDIATELY. Because it’s called a “list” for a reason, and there’s more kids on it. Swipe up the space on the spot and don’t think too hard about it. If you’ve worked this hard and come this far to get your child into the right school, the decision should be a done deal. Then, take a deep breath, sit back, and enjoy the moment.

Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.

"L" Is For Letters: We’re Talking About Admissions Letters

Letters: A Roll Of The Dice?
The “L” word. 
Letters. Private school admissions letters. Perhaps a unique kind of love letter for your family. You hope. 
There are basically three kinds of letters: Awesome Letters (Accept), Wishy-Washy Letters (Wait-List), Harsh Letters (Rejection)
“L” is for letters.  
“L” also stands for a bunch of other words, depending on what your private school admissions letters say:
Love. Your kid got in? I LOVE you, admission directors!
Letdown. Wait-listed or declined admission? Total letdown. Could turn into a total meltdown. Who can blame you? This sucks.
Liberty. Got in. Glad it’s over. Free at last!
Lucky. Whew. Got into one school. That’ll do just fine, thank you.
Lame. Got into your last-choice school. What the hell happened? Good thing we applied there. Liking it more and more each minute.
Lingering.  Wait-listed everywhere you applied? Sort of wishy-washy. Do they want us or not? The process will linger. Not over yet. Keep hope alive!
Loitering. It’s temping to loiter around the admissions director’s office pleading with her to let your kid in. Could be misinterpreted as stalking. Never mind. Move to Plan B.
Laugh. Your kid got in.  But, you’ve decided to send him/her to public school. Laughing at the private schools all the way to the bank.
Liquor. Lots of it. The process was too stressful for words.  Good news? Hit your favorite bar to celebrate. Bad news? drink away the shock and horror. Martini anyone? Shot(s) of Patron? Hit rock bottom? Head over to Bristol Farms a liquor store for the Malt Liquor. It’s cheap and made to get you stumblin’ drunk.
If it’s all bad news, the “L” word could quickly morph into the “F” word. 
What do you do if your letters arrive and it’s not the news you wanted, expected, hoped for prayed for? What if the best laid plans are foiled by bad luck and a trash heap of rejection letters? 
What if it’s the best news and the worst news you’ve received all in one day? Is that even possible? Ohhhh yes.
What if your child is wait-listed? Then, it’s time to get your second act together. Long sigh. The process isn’t over if your child is on a wait-list at a school you like. In fact, the process will continue.
We write about all these topics extensively in Beyond The Brochure. 

Good luck to everyone! Please let us know what happened! Leave us a comment (can be anonymous). Questions? Leave a question in the comment section and we’ll answer it (can also be anonymous, of course).


Confessions Of A Mommy Playgroup Reject By Jenny Heitz on Sane Moms

It’s been almost ten years since my daughter was born, and a lot has happened. But, one of the things that still stands out for me from the early days of motherhood is my first experience with a playgroup.
Motherhood did not come easily to me. I was 33 when Anna was born (the first of my friends to have a baby), and I ended up with some bad post partum depression. I didn’t really emerge from my hopeless depressive fog until about six months had passed. At that point, Anna was a very cute, tiny, and crabby baby who seemed to need a lot of stimuli. So, I took her to one of those Mommy and Me type classes in West Hollywood. 
To continue reading, click on Sane Moms:

Guest Blogger Jenny: Sleep Away Camp And Summer Separation Anxiety

It’s hard to believe, but summer is just around the corner. And, like every other private elementary school parent in Los Angeles, I’m already grappling with the question of just what to do with my soon-to-be-ten year old daughter for the summer months. 

I’m speaking, of course, of the choice between day camp and sleep away camp. Camps, at least in L.A., are sort of a given. There’s just no benefit to having your child lying about the house all summer long, especially since today’s parenting demands that you not only confine your child to the property (just in case some pervert wants to snatch them off the street. An unlikely event if there ever was one), you must entertain them as well. Los Angeles has no shortage of day camps, from Tumbleweed to Tom Sawyer and a plethora of temple day camps.

But, sooner or later, your kid will get sick of day camp. Or, you’ll get sick of either hauling them to bus stops every morning or chauffeuring them to various sports, arts, and science camps every week. This changeable summer schedule can be even worse than the school year schedule, turning the summer months into months spent mostly in an air conditioned automobile. My daughter hit the day camp limit years ago, and that’s when sleep away camp became an option. Since starting private school, I’ve learned that sleep away camps are popular among many private elementary school families.

Anna was actually lobbying for sleep away camp at age seven, but there was no way I was going to send her that young. She couldn’t even wash and brush her own hair properly, and I had visions of having to use a chisel to remove the dirt from her nostrils upon her return. Plus, I knew that three weeks (the average sleep away camp duration) is a long time for a kid. I managed to put it off until age eight, and then away she went, off to a camp I attended, my sister attended, and my step-sister attended as well.

At such a young age, the camp was a mixed bag for Anna. She was one of the youngest kids, which she resented. There was the obligatory mean girl in the cabin, who offended Anna’s sense of justice. I received a few plaintive letters describing homesickness, yet the camp director informed me that she was fine.

Game for another round, she returned to the same camp the following year. It was definitely more successful, but she still had to deal with girl terror. Still, when she came down the escalator at LAX upon her return three weeks later, she was chatting kids up and hugging them.

This year, she initially refused sleep away camp, saying that she couldn’t deal with the kids. I offered to find her a different camp, with different kids (not that it matters; there’s always a creep in every cabin). After many refusals, she’s suddenly gotten it into her head that she wants to go to Maine (!) for a four week session on some lake somewhere (honestly, is there anyplace in Maine that doesn’t have a lake?).

So, why the change of heart and the interest in cross-country exploration? Although Anna was the first of her circle to sleep away, now the other kids are starting to go, too. And, given the vast number of east coast transplants here in Los Angeles, the parents have decided that an east coast camp experience is in order. Some of these camps run as long as seven weeks, which probably is totally appropriate if you live in NYC or Brooklyn, but makes a bit less sense coming from California. Add to that the cost of east coast camps, up to six grand for a month. And you thought private school was expensive.

Although Anna has had a turbulent time the last two years of sleep away camp, I applaud her willingness to go back time and time again. I went to sleep away camp and had a way harder time (partially because I was a great big nerd with glasses and bad hair), but I still consider it to be a good and character building experience. I’m even Facebook friends with one of my camp buddies from all those years ago; we went on a memorably filthy backpacking trip together at age fourteen.

Because of my willingness to send Anna away at a young age, I’ve received some rather obnoxious comments from freaked out parents. One of them even asked me what the molestation rate was at her last camp (a totally neurotic and completely offensive comment if there ever was one; I still don’t know if he was kidding or not). I think this sort of attitude says more about the parent’s level of anxiety than the kid’s. After all, it’s our job as parents to teach our children how to operate independently, and camp gives them an early chance to do it in a controlled environment. It also gives parents a chance to take a guilt free vacation, sleep in, wander the house naked and stay out until all hours. See? Summer camp for adults really does exist!

I still don’t know if I have the fortitude or the budget to send Anna off to Maine, but I do know she’ll be heading off somewhere for a session.* If nothing else, the rigors of camp, including having to share a cabin with many noisy people, participate in group activities, eat food that’s occasionally gross, and sleep outdoors, really makes these coddled kids appreciate home. When Anna returned from camp last year, it took at least three days to complain about anything. And that’s money and time well spent.

* Update: Anna will be heading to Maine for summer camp. 
Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.