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:
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.
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.
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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A review of Beyond The Brochure by Elaine Sir on her lovely lifestyle blog:
“If you’re on the LA private school admissions circuit right now, say AYE!
I was lucky enough to attend and graduate from The Buckley School — where the teachers held Stanford degrees and PHDs. The education and the lifelong friendships from such an intimate and private community were invaluable — and I hope to gift my own kids with the same luxury. I have to say though, I’m not sure that I would be admitted if I was to apply today. These LA schools’ admissions process is a [bleepin’] racket these days.
The Center for Early Education, for example, had 178 applicants one year with only 16 spots available. That’s a whole lot of rejections mailed out on Black Friday.”
I’ve written about my daughter’s kindergarten visiting day at Oakwood School previously. Here’s my recollection about that morning again. Did I make the right school choice? I’ll never know, but I’m looking forward now that our family is THRILLED to be at Viewpoint School. We truly fit in there in a way we never did at The Willows. But, if we hadn’t gone to The Willows, would we be at Viewpoint now?
It was early and I was nervous. With my daughter in the car, we drove to the 8 a.m. “visiting day,” one of the requirements of the private school kindergarten admissions process. The school was more than 30 minutes from our house, traffic was bad and I mistakenly went to the high school rather than the elementary school. Frazzled and arriving with a minute to spare, I arrived at the correct location, a progressive school on a rustic campus.
After a brief time in the school library with our kids, parents were asked to go into a conference room for a meet and greet with the head of school. At the same time, our kids were taken into classrooms with teachers for various for visiting day.
This was the aspect of the admissions process that filled me with anxiety, since a lot depends on how your 4-5 year-old is feeling the day of the visit and how he/she acts when you arrive at the school. As soon as we got there, my usually shy daughter turned on her biggest, most charming personality (one I had only seen at home). Feeling very comfortable in the library, she pulled some books off the shelf and began reading in a loud voice. The admissions director turned to look at her, clearly impressed. Now that she had an audience (the best possible audience, I might add), my daughter continued reading other parents and kids turned to watch.
Relieved, I went with other parents into the conference room for what turned out to be a chance to ask questions of the head of school. This, you should note, is a time to ask smart, well-formulated questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the school. It’s also a good time to find something nice to say about the place you want to accept your kid. The room was filled with parents who already had older kids at the school, so they were confident about the process and even joked about their chances of getting in. The competition for spots at this popular school was no joke.
After about an hour, my daughter emerged from the classroom bursting with enthusiasm. We thanked the staff and left.
I didn’t have to ask my kid if it has gone well. I knew. She’d nailed it. The look on her face told me everything. In March, we received our acceptance letter from the school.
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