As I promised months ago at the beginning of the Kindergarten Admissions (Fall of 2012) process (Private School Edition), I would let you know how it went, what I think we did right – and what I think we did wrong.
When it came to finding a private school for our daughter, we applied to a total of eight schools. Why eight? Well, because when you sign up to take the ERB test, they allow you to send out seven reports for the price of the test. Anything else is extra. (However, not all private schools require the test.)
One school that doesn’t, is also the first one we didn’t get into. The School at Columbia has no testing, no parent interview, no essay, no processing fee. All it has is a lottery. That we did not win.
However, I do know people who did, and I would still advocate any family in District 3 or 5 to apply. It costs nothing and takes virtually no time to do. You can always say no, thank you if and when you get in.
So that left seven schools. Two Jewish ones, two all-girl ones, two relatively new ones, and a co-ed K-12.
In the end, we were accepted at two schools, waitlisted at four, and flat-out rejected at one.
The flat out rejection came from a school where, during the parent interview, my husband and I kept asking the Director questions about the school’s policy, certain that we must be misunderstanding something, and receiving consistent answers that eventually prompted us to ask, “And you think that’s a good thing?”
We weren’t exactly expecting to be welcomed with open arms there.
Tip #1: If you want to get into a school, do not question the director regarding the wisdom of their mission statement.
Of the schools where we were wait-listed, we liked them all, but we didn’t love them. And that obviously came through. One school called our Preschool Director twice to ask how interested we really were in them, and we honestly replied that we were interested, but would not commit to saying that they were our first choice. Because they weren’t.
Tip #2: If you want to increase your odds of acceptance, swallow your morals.
The two schools that accepted us were – coincidentally… or maybe not so coincidentally – K through 8s. Most parents prefer a K-12, if only so they never, ever, ever have to go through this admissions process again. My husband and I actually prefer a K-8 school. We believe that, with kids this young, it’s impossible to know what they might need in 3rd grade, much less 12th, and that it’s good to give kids a chance to reinvent themselves, rather than go through adolescence alongside those who remembered the time they threw up in Kindergarten. In addition, K-8 schools tend to give their 12 and 13 year olds more responsibility as leaders, plus their middle schools need to be stronger, since they have to exmit their pupils into high-school.
Clearly, our sincere enthusiasm for a K-8 environment came through.
When it came to our first choice school, we didn’t just do the minimum of filling out applications, showing up for tours and arriving on time at appointments, like we did at the others. We asked people we knew at the school to send letters of recommendation on our behalf, and we sent a letter ourselves, explaining precisely why we thought the school would be such a good fit for our daughter.
While we didn’t go quite as far with the second school, we were, nonetheless, genuinely enthusiastic about it. Being a newer school, without the reputation of many other New York institutions, it still needs to work harder to recruit families, so we made sure to show our interest by attending all the events, and never treating it like a safety or a back-up. Had it been our only choice, we would have been happy to attend.
Tip #3: If you really like a school, let them know. And be specific. Schools like to hear that you appreciate the unique qualities they work so hard to instill.
In the end, everyone – parents and schools – are looking for the perfect fit. Their job during the admissions process is to prove to you why they would be the best fit for you. And yours is the same.