Reader Question: Great School, Inconvenient Location

What do you do if you have great personal contacts at a school, but the school is too far from your house? A great question! Not always an easy answer.

In this situation you may have a difficult decision. Let’s say your best friend’s child attends this school. Assume you’ve seen the school and really like it. But, its an hour drive each way to and from your house.
If you go ahead and apply to this school, a letter of recommendation from your friend would probably help your application. If your friend offers to speak to the admissions director about your family, all the better.
In this situation you really need to determine if the location of the school is going to make it too difficult to get your child there every day. Will the drive be too hard on you? Will the drive be too long for your child? If the drive is more than an hour each way, you really need to consider the feasibility of this commute over the years your child will be at the school. Don’t forget about evening events like Back To School Night and other parent events at the school.
If you ask your friend to write you a letter of recommendation, she will probably ask you to promise her you’ll accept the schools offer of admission if your child is accepted. If you don’t, you’ll be putting your friend in a very awkward position with the admissions director. Parents get asked to write letters for friends all the time. But, it’s very uncomfortable if a friend makes a promise to accept the schools offer, but then changes their mind. It puts the parent at the school in an embarrassing situation.
So, if you’re asking a friend or contact to recommend your family to an admissions director, don’t double-cross your friend!
This isn’t always easy. You’ll need to walk a fine line between asking a friend for a favor and committing to her school and your desire to keep your options open once you get your admissions letters.
If you’re unsure about what to do, discuss it with your friend.
Private schools want to know that if they offer a family admission, they will accept the offer! One way to potentially avoid this problem is to wait until February to ask your friend to write the letter of recommendation. That way, its late in the admission process, but not yet March. By then you should have a better idea of what other schools you like and a sense of how the parent interviews and child visiting days have transpired.
I think every parent at a private school has probably been asked to write a letter for a family only to have that family select another school. It happened to me. Now, I always ask the friend if they will accept an offer of admission before I write the letter.
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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

2 thoughts to “Reader Question: Great School, Inconvenient Location”

  1. I really like the idea about getting a commitment that the recommendee will accept the offer of admission prior to the parent writing the letter of recommendation. But what if the applicant can't go unless s/he receives financial aid? Is it reasonable to make that commitment contingent upon receipt of assistance?

  2. Yes!!! If the applicant is waiting to find out about financial aid, that changes the situation. The applicant may need to select a school that offers the most financial aid. In that case, I think the person writing the letter of recommendation would understand IF it's made clear BEFORE the letter is written. I think most schools do try to time it so that financial aid awards are made as close as possible to admissions offers.

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