Grateful, Hopeful Or Dismayed: When The L.A. Admissions Letters Arrive

Pool flowers

It’s been an eternity (or so it seems) and finally, the admissions letters will soon arrive by regular mail or email. All over town, parents will be either (1) celebrating (2) trying to figure out what their wait-list letters really mean or (3) freaking out because their kid didn’t get in anyplace. It’s admissions day in L.A.


If you’re like me and you’ve been through the admissions process twice for two kids (DK, K, 4th and 7th grades), you’ll probably be familiar with at least two of the three scenarios above. My kids have been accepted and wait-listed, with one application that never got to the finish line after a terrible parent interview (more about that in the book…it caught us by surprise and there was no way our kid was getting into that school!).


First, let’s talk about the good news. Acceptance letters! Oh, joy! Now you can break out the champagne, call the school and tell them your family will accept. You’ll fork over the deposit and carefully analyze the admissions packet from what is now your kid’s school. Your kid has a school! Maybe you got two or three acceptances and you have lots of choices. Weigh them carefully, the pros and cons of each. Perhaps in a neurotic moment of ego-driven self-doubt, you’ll regret you didn’t apply to even more schools, including that amazing, constantly talked about oh-so-fabulous-school, just to get the letter and turn them down. After all, their tour was lame, the moms are mean-girls who wear Chanel and you’d enjoy the satisfaction…oh, never mind. All of this is pure happiness.

One Fit Window


Now to the wait-list. Yes, I’ve received several, one in particular that I felt panicky about.  Actually it was an email and it came at 12 noon on Saturday. Wait-list. Wait. List. To try to get a spot off the wait-list or not. To be or not to be? That was the question and this day seemed truly Shakespearean after a long process middle school process. Barry and I decided not to pursue the wait-list for our daughter, since that would have meant keeping our son at Willows, something we had decided very late during the admissions process would a mistake for various reasons. If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door. Instead, we focused on getting both kids into Viewpoint. And we did it.


It went something like this. We submitted a late application to Viewpoint (late being the Monday after admissions letters were sent out). We didn’t talk to the Willows about it, since experience told us that would be pointless. It turned out to be the right move at the perfect time. The kids got in. Maybe at sometime in the future in a galaxy far, far away, I’ll spill the details of what I think happened to cause my kid to end up on the wait-list. But, for now, you just need to know that I’ve had the experience of opening one of those emails and I know what it feels like. It’s a very uncertain feeling, but it isn’t always a “no” and a few kids at almost all the private elementary schools get in every year after first being wait-listed. Wait-lists move around. When one family declines a spot, the school looks to the wait-list to fill that spot. There are some schools, however, with very high acceptance rates so wait-lists spots are fewer. Sometimes, these are schools with lots of faculty kids, legacy families or siblings applying who are pretty much guaranteed to accept spots when offered. Parents often ask if they should turn down a spot at one school and linger on the wait-list at another. No! Send in your non-refundable deposit to the school where your kid has been accepted. It’s not a good idea to mention to that school you’re hoping to get a wait-list spot elsewhere. If a wait-list spot opens up, you’ll lose the deposit (it can be $2000-$5000, depending on the grade level, but that’s the reality). That is all just part of the L.A. admissions process.


If you find your family without a school, create another plan. A new plan that discards all mention of rejection letters. Don’t blame yourself and definitely don”t obsess over what went wrong. It could have been sometime entirely out of your control. Instead, focus on creating new options. Talk to your preschool director. Some of them have near-magical powers within their carefully cultivated relationships with admissions directors. Send him/her to public school for a year until you can re-apply. Call an educational consultant who knows how to work a wait-list to get a spot and who may also know which schools will take late applications. These might not have been your first choice options, but they can end up working out better than you’d expect. You’ll need to be open minded, patient and flexible, not exactly the qualities the admissions process brings out in parents.


We all want the very best education for our kids. Good luck! –Christina


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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of two kids who attended The Willows School in Culver City and Viewpoint School in Calabasas. My daughter is a graduate of Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism ('23) and my son is a sophomore at UPenn/Wharton ('26). I live in Coldwater Canyon with my husband, Barry, and our dogs. Contact me at

24 thoughts to “Grateful, Hopeful Or Dismayed: When The L.A. Admissions Letters Arrive”

  1. What if you get very early mail (9am) and NO letters at all?!? Lol.. Applied to 7 Schools. When do they start emailing?

    1. Who gets 9 a.m. mail???? Ok, so I think a lot of schools send emails at 12 noon on Sat. or 7:00 p.m. That’s what I’m hearing this year. Also, check your junk mail email to make sure they don’t land there. Good luck!!!!

      1. Windfall of emails last night at 7pm! 5 Acceptances (including our Top Pick School!!) and 2 Waitlist. I know that rejections were also emailed. Thank you so much for all the help! From ISEE score madness to application do’s and don’ts’.

        1. Congratulations!!!! That is so amazing. I love hearing that you applied to 7 schools to give you the all-important options. I’m thrilled BTB was helpful. Yes, I’ve been hearing from readers that rejection emails are being sent. This is the first year I’ve heard of that happening, but maybe it was going on previously. Your family has a lot to celebrate! –Christina

  2. Do they send rejection emails? Some sites say only acceptances via emails, clearly you had a different experience. Or maybe it’s all emails these days. Thanks.

    1. I don’t think they want to send rejection emails, only wait-list or acceptances via email. There’s also a site some schools use where parents log on to find out.

      1. Thanks for your reply. We haven’t received a USPS letter or an email. I’m a bit confused. Do they always send an acceptance or wait list email now days? If so, at this point, should I assume we didn’t get in?
        I would just like to know either way!

  3. We got 3 acceptance emails at right around 7pm last night, and a rejection email this morning that was sent at 3:40am.

    1. Congratulations! A rejection email at 3:40 in the morning? That’s the first time I’ve heard of that. Good to know.

  4. I’ve really liked this blog as we’ve gone through the process. Our daughter went 4 for 4: Marlborough, Brentwood, Windward, and Archer, after getting wait listed (and not accepted) by Archer last year for 6th grade. Incredibly, one our friends’ son got wait-listed at all three of his schools despite all 9s on his ISEEs (along with many other strengths), which shows you how challenging (and even unfair) this stuff can be.

    1. Congrats!!!! What a nice feeling to go 4 for4. Wow! I agree completely that you just never know and perfect 9 ISEE scores don’t always guarantee admission. It IS challenging and often feels unfair. Ultimately, I do think when one door closes, another will open if you can see through past the disappointment. –Christina

      1. Probably Marlborough based on our daughter’s strong preference. Obviously they’re all good, but we’re inclined to trust her gut about where she thinks she’ll fit in best and be happiest.

          1. Congrats to you and your daughter too! I heard from a few people how hard Archer seemed to be to get into this year.

    2. My daughter is graduating from Archer this year. She’s been there since 6th grade. It’s been an amazing experience. Archer empowers girls and uses best practices as to how girls learn. Our experience is Comraderie not competitive.

  5. My daughter was wait listed for Harvard Westlake as well as Marlborough for middle school. They say the lists are not ranked – what does that really mean ? How do they pick a child to move off the list and – realistically – what are the chances once you are wait-listed ? I hear that they NEVER move off the wait list for Marlborough.

    1. Hi Jamie, I think wait-lists at both those schools will be difficult, but it does happen. Every year, somebody turns down their spot and they go to the wait-list. Unranked means they can pick from the entire wait-list instead of going down the list in a pre-determined order. I hope that helps. Good luck!

    2. I know we did not move off the Archer list last year. I think kids have to be ranked in SOME way, but they move kids out of the wait pool to replace a TYPE of kid who has not accepted — so if fewer, say, athletic boys have accepted Brentwood than they anticipated, they’ll move an athletic boy off the list. Hopefully some girls with a similar profile to your daughter will decline H-W and Marlborough.

  6. We applied to three schools for Kindergarten and were accepted to one and waitlisted at the remaining two (including our top choice). We do love the school we were accepted to and got all the financial aid we need, but there’s a part of me that’s still holding out hope for the favorite. Do you know how common it is for someone who is accepted off of a waitlist to still receive financial aid? I wouldn’t think it’s terribly likely since we wouldn’t have been factored into the original aid distribution, but was wondering if you had any insights. Thank you!

    1. Hi ECL, Congratulations on the acceptance! I don’t think its likely to be offered a spot off the wait-list and be offered financial aid, but it could happen. Have you called the AD to ask the question? Hopefully, they will give you an idea of the chances for it to happen, especially if you ask whether you should accept the spot you’ve been offered. If they say “yes” that probably means you won’t get in off the wait-list. If it were me, I’d accept the spot you’ve been offered. Getting the financial aid you need is a big deal! Hope that helps–Christina

  7. Hi!
    Wondering what the etiquette is for declining an offer of admission? My son was accepted to 4 great schools, we really liked all of them, but obviously must pick one. I have other children who might want to go to one of these schools and don’t want to burn any bridges.

    1. Hi TJ, congratulations! All private schools want everyone to accept their offer of admissions, but clearly that doesn’t happen. Most applications ask if you applied there previously, so if you apply again you’ll have to explain why you didn’t choose their school. Maybe by then you will have moved or changed jobs so that could be a reason why you’re reapplying. Some schools are more forgiving of this situation than others. You’ll just have to wait and see.

      1. Thanks for your response! Should I email the Admissions Directors or Send a Thank You card? Any hints to how to word it? Do you have to say what school you did choose?

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