Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States
I'm the mom of a daughter (12th grade) and a son (9th grade) who attend Viewpoint School in Calabasas. I live in Coldwater Canyon with my family and a rescue pit bull, Piper. Contact me at email@example.com
We’ve written a lot about admissions letters over the years. Below is a list of our previous posts which cover acceptances, wait-lists and rejection letters. For most people, this is the most stressful part of the admissions journey. I have been through this process twice for both kids, receiving acceptance and wait-list letters. I know what it’s like to wonder where your child will be going to school, hoping that it works out the way you envision it, being caught off-guard when something goes wrong (like in our situation, applying to middle school without the support of your head of school…naming no names!). If you get good news acceptance letters, congratulations! If your child is wait-listed or you received rejection letters, check out the posts below or pick up a copy of our book. Or, you may have to choose between schools. This is a great situation to be in, but can also be challenging. Sometimes, families get into their second choice school, but are wait-listed at their first choice. It can get complicated. Please note that some schools notify families using email…please check your junk folder if you don’t see an email. Other schools use online systems like Ravenna. A few schools use the post office to send letters. We wish you all the best in your quest for a great school for your family. Good luck!–Christina and Anne Simon
A warm welcome to our new readers who subscribed to the blog, bought the book, followed on Facebook and Twitter or just stopped by. We appreciate you! And, of course our longtime readers are the absolute best!
Here are a few things that might interest you if you’re new here:
Beyond The Brochure, the award-winning blog and book are written by a stepmother/stepdaughter duo, Anne Simon and Christina Simon. Our co-author Porcha Dodson is no longer involved with Beyond The Brochure but her contributions were invaluable. We also appreciate our amazing guest authors.
We respond to all emails! Really, we do. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. We try to answer questions and offer resources. We take confidentiality seriously and reader correspondence is handled with the utmost discretion.
Beyond The Brochure is 10 years old! It has been featured in press articles in The Daily Beast, Town and Country,Los Angeles Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter and many more. But, we’ve never been in The Los Angeles Times. #BucketList
The blog has evolved over the years. We like to think it has aged like fine wine. It’s a bit less snarky perhaps, although that can always change. We write less frequently, but we still try to give our readers information they can’t find anyplace else. The blog’s archives are a great resource.
Our audience is YOU, parents looking for the best Los Angeles private schools for their kids. We have relationships with many of the L.A. private schools. However, while we respect them, we would never abandon a blog post because we might offend them. Private schools are powerful institutions and we want prospective parents to have all the information they need to successfully navigate the incredibly rigorous application process.
There are private school admissions directors and heads of schools who love us. There are private school admissions directors and heads of school who hate us. Same with preschool directors. Christina speaks at several preschools and is booked for speaking events at private venues.
Christina’s daughter, Ryann, is a freshman at Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism. Her son, Dylan, is a sophomore at Viewpoint School. They both attended The Willows School prior to Viewpoint. She is married to Barry Perlstein and they live in Coldwater Canyon.
Anne, who lives in Virginia, is also an educational consultant, taking a very limited number of clients each year. A retired private school headmaster, Anne loves spending time with her grandchildren, riding horses and volunteering. Christina is not a consultant, but has close working relationships with many of the best educational consultants in Los Angeles who she refers families to.
We will publish a new edition of the book when we think there is new information to add. It won’t happen this year. Maybe in 2021!
Christina is the senior nonfiction editor of a literary journal, Angels Flight Literary West. She also writes creative nonfiction essays. You can see her published nonfiction writing here. In her spare time, she is in a book club, two writers groups, and a volunteer at 826LA, where she helps students write their college essays and plays tennis.
That’s all for now! New post coming soon about the boards of directors at L.A. private schools. –Christina
Beyond The Brochure’s posts about thank you notes to admissions directors are consistently among our most popular. We recently got this reader question: “How many thank you notes is overkill or looking desperate? If an older student applicant sent a note, is it too much for the parents to also send a note reiterating what the student said?”
Anne Simon, Beyond The Brochure co-author, answered the question: “I think it is important that parents send a thank you – adult to adult, and I think it is very helpful for a student to send one also, especially a high schooler. I don’t think they should be coordinated necessarily. Each should offer their own perspective.”
Also, I think sending thank you notes after important steps in the admissions process is a great idea. For example, a thank you note after the tour. A thank you note after the parent interview or student interview if it’s high school. If you visit the school for a book fair or open house, that’s also a good opportunity to say thank you and convey your positive, even heartfelt, thoughts about the event. These notes are not only gracious, but they indicate interest in the school, especially if they highlight a specific aspect of the school you or your child really likes. Handwritten notes or email both work! –Christina
If you’re just getting started with thank you notes, its not too late! Here are previous posts on the topic.
One of the first things to do when you’re applying to L.A. private schools is to determine what type of school will be best for your child. But, when you tour so many schools it may be hard to tell from just a tour and an open house. Many schools in L.A. are a hybrid or mix of philosophies. But, there are certain characteristics that stand out and will help you recognize the type of school you’re considering. Generally, L.A. private schools fall into three categories: Traditional, Progressive and Developmental. Religious schools can be any of those school types, although most are traditional.
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know we’ve written about this issue previously because it’s so important to find the right kind of school for your kid. If you ask a school about their educational philosophy, they should be able to explain it clearly! The other day, I had lunch with a mom of four kids who told me she’d toured almost every private school in the city because her kids are very different from each other. My kids attended Willows, a progressive school, but moved to Viewpoint, a traditional school for 7-12th grades. One philosophy isn’t better than the other–just different. Kids from all types of school go on to great colleges. You’ll note that a few schools I listed are in overlapping categories because I consider them to be a mix of educational philosophies. And, my list is merely my own observation of various schools–discussions about this topic can be subjective. For example, some people might consider Brentwood Lower School to be purely traditional. But, when I went on the tour, they described the school curriculum as developmental. In my opinion, Brentwood has both traditional and developmental qualities. Also, traditional schools aren’t all “stale” or “dull” and progressive schools aren’t “cutting edge” or “hip”…you get the point! Maybe a school wants to emphasize its progressive qualities, but really it has a lot of traditional elements. Sometimes, when a school hires a new head of school, it can be a bring a change in educational philosophy. In the end, its about finding a school where your kid will thrive and where you, as a parent, will understand and embrace the way the school teaches, assigns homework, creates community among parents, disciplines, coaches and more. –Christina
Examples of Traditional Schools: Viewpoint, Harvard-Westlake, Polytechnic, Brentwood Upper School, Laurel Hall, Campbell Hall, St. Matthew’s, Wesley, Curtis, Carlthorp, John Thomas Dye.
Hallmarks of traditional schools:
Much like public schools many of us attended when we were kids
Teacher centered-not kid centered
Kids expected to meet academic milestones by certain time (reading by mid-year kindergarten, etc. )
Homework in elementary schools, multiple choice tests, quizzes, pop quizzes
Very few group projects
Teacher directed work, not kid directed
Classroom setup has teacher at front, desks facing front of room
Grades start in early elementary schools
Lots of memorization
Competitive sports teams, tryouts, not everyone places, A, B, C teams
AP and honors classes offered in high school
Developmental: Brentwood Lower School, Campbell Hall Lower School, Laurence School, Echo Horizon, Temple Israel of Hollywood and Westridge.
Kids learn at their own pace, eventually all arriving at the same place (reading). That is celebrated, not penalized
Kids can help each other learn, not just teacher directed learning
Teaching big concepts, not a ton of detail/memorization
Integrated curriculum…where what’s happening in science relates to language arts, which also relates to art class
Progressive: Oakwood, Children’s Community School, Westland, PS#1, Crossroads and Sequoyah.
Child-centered learning, kid-initiated projects, learn through playing
Concepts like sharing, creating, caring are emphasized in the curriculum
Engaging kids in learning about world around them…kids are part of a global community
Rejection of memorizing big amounts of information
A whole child approach-social, emotional and academic
Lots of group projects, discussion and debate among kids
Classroom may be set up with kids at big tables facing each and the teacher may not be in front of the class
Very little homework in elementary school
No grades until late elementary or even middle school
Lots of expository writing
High school may not offer AP Classes (AP equivalent offered at Crossroads)
Integrated curriculum where what’s happening in science relates to language arts which also relates to art class
1.How do admissions directors try to figure out if a family will be high-maintenance or difficult? There are many signs of a high maintenance parent! Since I spent six years of my admissions career at Archer and held every role in the office beginning with Admissions Assistant to Interim Director of Admissions, I have seen how each person in an Admissions Office experiences the high maintenance parent and that each member of the team’s impressions can impact a family’s chance of admission.The Admissions Assistant is typically the first line of defense and they bear the brunt of both the parent who is extremely rude and entitled and they also field phone calls from parents who call constantly asking many questions that can be answered online!
On the other hand, Admissions Directors and their Assistant Directors typically interview most parents and it is their job to assess whether a family would be a good fit for the school community. In the interview setting an Admissions Director often will learn if a parent has unrealistic expectations of their child and/or a school. For example, the parent may believe that their child is an ideal fit for a highly academic and traditional school but their child and his interview/assessment and supporting recommendations may present a much different story. These mismatched expectations tend to follow when a family enrolls in a school and create a lot of work for teachers and administrators. Finally, when parents blame their teacher or school for every issue that can indicate difficult and high maintenance.
2. For kindergarten, the preschool director can help…how? Preschool Directors can absolutely play an important role in the kindergarten admissions process. The level of involvement depends on the individual preschool. If a preschool sends the majority of their students to private elementary schools, that usually means the preschool director has experience and contacts with the elementary school which they can use during the process to help families get in.
These relationships can be especially helpful is if a child has a challenging visit during a school assessment. In that case, the admission director can call the preschool director and candidly inquire further about the child. It may have just been an off day for the preschooler or there may be more to the story but this relationship allows for the admission director to be able to pick up the phone and call the preschool director. This might lead to an observation at the child’s preschool which might give a better sense of who the child is in a more comfortable environment.
3. Qualities of a bad parent interview? The worst parent interviews are typically when a parent knows nothing about a school or comes across as disinterested. Some examples: confusing one school for another,unrealistic view of their child or confusing what is best for their child with their own needs, twitching their leg constantly or checking the clock every five minutes. Finally, a personal pet peeve of mine is when a parent would show up to the interview in dressed in workout clothes, I think it’s important to show you to take the process seriously!
4. Elements of a great written application? The best applications I have read give the reader a very clear sense of who the applicant and family are. While a middle or high school applicant’s supplement should illustrate what specifically they love about their current school, how are they involved in their community and what they are passionate about, an application stands out is when it goes beyond the surface. For example, it’s great to learn that a student plays volleyball and is on student council but when you read that he used to be extremely shy, terrified of public speaking, and that having to stand up in front of his classmates to give his student council speech was one of the most challenging experiences that ultimately gave him confidence which has helped him in school and volleyball. This gives the reader greater insight into who the student really is.
Gaby has over a decade of experience working in independent school admissions at Archer, Crossroads, Marymount and Westside Neighborhood School (WNS). As a native of Los Angeles, an independent school graduate, and an independent school parent, Gaby understands admissions from every perspective. Gaby began her career in admissions at The Archer School for Girls. During her six years at Archer, she served as Assistant Director of Admissions and as a 6th grade advisor. She then worked at at Marymount High School as the Associate Director of Admission. She worked as the Assistant Director of Admissions at the Westside Neighborhood School (WNS) a PS through 8th grade private school in Playa Vista. Finally, for two years, Gaby supported the Crossroads School admissions office as an interviewer before moving into her role as an independent educational consultant. Gaby understands the many educational models given her wide array of experience working in K-12, PS-8, 6-12, and 9-12 schools and in both co-ed and single sex school environments. Gaby volunteers annually with the Gabriella Foundation Charter School preparing students for independent school admissions interviews. Gaby holds an MA in Educational Studies from Loyola Marymount University and a BS in Psychology from Union College, NY. www.gabyfogelson.com