3 Things I (Unexpectedly) Found Challenging About L.A. Kindergarten Admissions


Photo: Emran Kassin, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Emran Kassin, Flickr Creative Commons


If you talked to me the summer before we applied to kindergarten for my daughter, I would have told you certain things I was predicting would go smoothly and other things I was worried about. (I use “we” because schools are evaluating both your kid and your family.)


As with so many things in life, I got it only partially right. The stuff that was easy (in retrospect) wasn’t the stuff I thought would cause me to stumble. The things that I expected to go smoothly didn’t for one reason or another.


The private school admissions process in L.A. is very unpredictable. We all know that, but until you have the admissions letters in your hand, or an email in your inbox, you just don’t know how erratic it can be.


My kids have been accepted, wait-listed and in one case, we withdrew our application because the parent interview went so badly we knew the school would never admit our family (I write about this in the book). We were so appalled at they way the admissions director handled the interview we lost interest in the school.


Here are 3 things I (unexpectedly) found challenging:


  1. Getting to the school on time at the correct location. Actually, I went to the wrong location at one school, completely stressing me out and leaving me a frazzled wreck. The school has two separate campuses and I went to the high school, not the elementary school. With L.A. traffic, the drive time is so unpredictable, it’s not even slightly humorous to discuss what it feels like to be running late to a school interview. Just leave even earlier than you think is super-early.


  1. Sitting in a room with prospective parents while our kids were being tested for kindergarten. Listening to the conversations happening around me made me want to exit the room through a secret back door, if only one existed. “Kate is hosting Board Member X at her Aspen house and we’ll be there in a few weeks so I’m not worried,” says one mom to another.” “Alex tested off the charts gifted so Mirman is always an option for us,” says the other mom. “Ava’s soccer coach says he’s never seen a kid with so much talent.” “Ben’s writing his first book. So adorbable!” And so on and on and on and ON AND ON. BLAH BLAH BLAH. Bring a book or a magazine or a Kindle or something so you can block out all this chatter.


  1. Realizing that the mom giving the tour isn’t always the best reflection of the school. Yes, she may be an ambassador for the school since she’s holding a very visible volunteer position. But, if her behavior is rude, disinterested or cluelessly uninformed, it doesn’t always mean the school is all of those things. Parents can be selected to lead tours for various reasons ($$$ donations) and now I know these volunteers are just one out of many parents at the school. Unfortunately, they just happen to be showing you around that day. Instead of focusing on her, here’s what you should be looking for.


Beyond The Brochure, the book and the blog contains all the information I wish I’d had before we applied to Los Angeles private elementary schools. It’s the issues, big and small, I’d tell you about if we were having coffee, just the two of us.


Coming Soon: Things I Thought Would Be Difficult, But Were Not So Bad


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Reader Question: What If My Child Has A Complete Meltdown During Visiting Day At L.A. Private Elementary Schools?

Here’s a question that was posted in the “comments” section from one of our readers:

Question: Hello: It’s been great reading your blog in preparation for three parent interviews and three school “playdates” in the coming week. As I try not to obsess, I do have a real concern: although my daughter is joyfully happy at her preschool and no longer has ANY problems separating from us, she is STILL a very cautious (or sometimes called SHY) in new situations and the mere mention of visiting a school has her yelling “no!” 

I am sure these schools are used to some kids acclimating quicker than others, but what if your child simply refuses to separate? Or has a complete meltdown in the process? My preschool will attest to what a great kid she is to have at their school, and how it’s not an issue any more, but what if they don’t see that at the visit? Do schools really judge your child on this ONE day?

Sincerely, Anonymous and Nerve-wracked and hoping to get through the week without a stroke, (and thankful for any words of wisdom).

Answer: Hi Anon, thanks for reading the blog! In my experience taking my daughter on visiting days or “playdates,” I found that all of the schools were very skilled in helping kidsseparate from their parents. My co-author, Porcha Dodson, did admissions testing at CurtisSchool and often tells parents that the people working with the kids on these “playdates” areteachers and administrators who are very used to dealing patiently and kindly with youngkids in a new environment. If your daughter is hesitant, they will most likely gently encourage her and make it fun for her. If she truly refuses to separate from you, the schoolmay offer you another chance to come back on a different day. Overall, I think the schools do a wonderful job making the kids feel as comfortable as possible. Hopefully, your daughter will be excited about the opportunity to see a K class and potential new classmates and fun things to do! I told my daughter (who was very shy) that she’d be going to see real K classes and teachers and do a bunch of K projects. She loved it and had no trouble on these “playdates.”

Anne Simon, Beyond The Brochure co-author, advises that you talk to your daughter and reassure her that she will be fine during the “playdate.” And, you may need to stay close if the school tries to separate you from your daughter for the observation i.e. right outside the door, etc. Anne adds, “I would tell her to use her judgement about talking with the Admissions Director about separation. If she thinks she can avoid a total meltdown by staying close, she may want to say something to the Admissions Director.” Hope that helps! 

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Your Child’s Visiting and Testing Day

If you’re nervous about your kid’s “playdate” or “visiting day” at the schools where you’ve applied, you’re probably not alone. Who wouldn’t be nervous taking their child to a new school to “play” with a mock class of 20 or so other kids they don’t know? As I’ve said before, this part of the process was the most disconcerting aspect of the entire admissions process for me. I found it VERY stressful. It’s like a ridiculously bad dream that you’re unable to avoid. But, we got through it. And, so did thousands of other parents and their kids all over Los Angeles that year. And every year.

You really have very little control over what happens during the “playdate” or visiting day. Your child may be excited and enthusiastic or not. They may be hesitant or reluctant. Most schools know everyone will be nervous. Admissions directors do try to make the environment as relaxed as possible. They know you may be tense and your child will be picking up on your demeanor. Trust the school to make the day as low-key and stress-free as possible. That’s part of their job!

My advice? Try not to over-think the day before (or after) it happens. 

Oh, and whatever you do, don’t send your nanny to take your child to visiting day. 

We discuss visiting days extensively in Beyond The Brochure. I’ve also written these posts about my daughter’s visiting days. Guest blogger Jenny Heitz has also shared her visiting day stories too.

We hope this helps!