Four Questions For Gaby Fogelson, Former Interim Admissions Director at Archer School

Gaby Fogelson is an educational consultant based in Los Angeles

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.

Stay up to date on the latest L.A. private schools news and events! Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. Buy the book on Amazon.

Here’s How To Plan Ahead for L.A. Private Secondary School Admissions by Sandy Eiges

Applying to Private Middle and High School in Los Angeles

Yes, it’s already that time! Some schools have their fall open houses scheduled already or will soon. Ditto with other events, such as the increasing number of parent coffees hosted by current families at the different schools.

If you are considering the private school option for middle or high school, the most important piece of applying to private school is to put together a plan to see what’s out there, narrow down your list, and get through the multi-faceted application process. This is definitely a process, and not just a one-time effort.
A private school application is a process with many moving parts. Some of these elements are in your control – touring schools, filling out the applications, meeting application deadlines, interviewing with admissions staff – while some definitely are not – teacher recommendations, for example, or how your student does on the entrance exam, or in the interview or assessment. People can find this process both time-consuming and nerve-wracking. The reason is simple; this is a complex process, and private schools are selective and can choose the students they accept into the school.

While it might be time-consuming, you should read through the websites for each of the schools you’re interested in.  The school open house and tour will give you a better feel for the school and the families that attend that school; the websites go into great detail about the curriculum and philosophy of each school. But let’s take a look at the steps in the private school selection process, to help you get a better overview of what’s involved. Applying to private school is the same for every school and includes:

1. Identifying schools – in putting together your initial list of schools, do take your child’s advisor or academic dean’s recommendations into account. But it’s important to keep an open mind and tour a variety of schools, not just the one or two that everyone’s heard of. Your sister’s hairdresser’s nephew might be doing great at a particular school, but that bears no relation to how your child might fare at the same school. You are looking for your student – not for other learners, and definitely not for yourself. Tour as many schools as possible, and then narrow down your list. Plan to apply to at least four schools.

2. Attending tours and/or Open Houses – this is mandatory. There is a separate tour/open house for middle and high school students.  Open Houses generally take place nights and weekends, while tours are usually during the school day. Some schools will allow you to do both.

3. Completing applications – most of these are online these days and there is a parent section and a student section. School applications may have anywhere from 3-10 questions about your child, their school experience so far, your family’s expectations about school, and how you have participated in your child’s current school. For the student you can expect a number of questions requiring one word or one sentence answers, as well as an essay – or two or three – with a writing prompt. This must be completed by the student, not the parent, and definitely not a hired hand! In addition to a school’s main application questionnaire, you will have to provide:

  1. Payment – anywhere from $100-$200 per application.
  2. Photo – a photo of your child.
  3. School recommendation –This may be both a request for a transcript as well as a recommendation from your current head of school.
  4. Teacher recommendations – they will also provide teacher recommendation forms that you will also give to your current school.

4. Parent Interview – once you have submitted an application, the school will schedule your interview. Unless you’re out of town on the date you’re assigned, you should make every effort to make the assigned interview date. You want the school to feel like it will be easy to work with you! Please be aware, though, that for middle and high school many schools do not interview the parents at all.

5. Student assessment – there are two types of student assessments required for middle and high school students: the ISEE (Independent School Entrance Exam), the SSAT (Secondary School Admissions Test, used for some L.A. schools and boarding schools nation-wide) or the HSPT (High School Placement Test for Catholic schools); and the student interview. Once you have submitted an application, the school will schedule the student interview. This may be an individual or group interview.

From 5th grade and up, most incoming students applying to private schools must take the ISEE – the Independent School Entrance Exam. At least one school requires the ISEE for 4th grade applicants. Check with the requirement of each particular school, and be aware that the test must be taken, with results sent to the schools you’re applying to, prior to the last acceptable testing date for each school. These are challenging exams; for most students, prep is advisable. If your student requires special accommodations, like extra time, be prepared to provide documentation supporting that need.

6. Student shadow day – some schools allow students to spend a shadow day at the school, whether that is individually organized – attending specific classes and activities – or for a group of students on a certain day. It is certainly worth taking part if offered – this is a great way for the student to get more of an inside look at the school.
Los Angeles is a very large city, with a limited number of private schools. Added to this is the unhappy fact that siblings, legacies and school personnel get preference in admissions. The only way for you to affect how a school views your child and your family is to apply to schools that are really the best possible fit.
I can’t stress this enough – the most important factor in applying to private schools is making sure that you’re applying to schools that are the right fit for your child. That means taking your wish list out of the equation, to some extent. Is this the right school for them? All schools should provide intellectual challenges, but there is a difference between a challenge and a struggle. Knowing who your child is as a student is key. So yes, tour a variety of schools, by all means. But also make sure that you’re not just considering a school because it fits you. It really needs to be a fit for them.

Thoroughly overwhelmed about the school selection and application process Kindergarten through college? I am now scheduling consultations for September 2020 admissions. Please contact Sandy Eiges at for Kindergarten-College, or call me directly at 310 926 0050.

Stay up to date on the latest L.A. private schools news and events! Follow Beyond The Brochure on Facebook. Buy the book on Amazon.