O.K. all you parents who are either in the midst of the school application process for your pre-school or kindergarden son or have submitted your applications and are counting down the months until you are scheduled to hear the responses, take a deep breath and let it go slowly. Time for a reality check. We’ve all heard the depressing stories of how tough it is get your little one into these fiercely competitive independent and public schools. But we also know that each year, parents manage to figure it out and enroll their children in pre-school and kindergarten. No reason why you won’t be in that group. So stop listening to the naysayers (external and/or internal) and know that you’ll make it through. Here are a few tips for surviving this process in the best way possible:
Try your absolute hardest to stay relaxed through this process. Easier said than done, yes, but so necessary, for these three reasons: First, admissions directors can smell fear and nervous desperation a mile away, and it is such a turn off. In admitting children for the early years, admissions staff have to rely more heavily on the impressions they get from the parents, as there is only so much that a school can learn about a 3-5 year old from testing and interviews. So you are actually doing your child a disservice if you allow nerves to interfere with you being the best examples of yourselves that you can be when you are visiting or interviewing with a school. Second, no matter what anyone tells you, admission to a highly regarded pre-school and/or kindergarten admission is not a ticket to a top-tier college. It is a long and winding road from pre-school and kindergarten to college. Take it one school year at a time. Third, that long and winding road will be filled with admissions applications and nail-biting wait times and victories and defeats for your child (and therefore for you as well). You absolutely can’t afford to get crazily nervous this early in the game, you’ll burnout and will be of no use to anyone. Seriously.
How to Relax? Make sure you have completed all parts of every application, attended every open house and interview for each school, focused on getting any letters of recommendations in (more on that below). Also make sure that you have done your homework on the places to which you are applying for your child so that you’ll have the best sense possible of your direction once you know the choices he’ll have. Most importantly, have a good public school backup that your know your child can attend and that you would be satisfied with. If you are only applying to a series of special public schools, make sure you know and can live with the alternative if he doesn’t get into the schools of your choice.
Recommendations: Provide them if they are requested, even if they are optional. The best people to ask for a recommendation for pre-school or kindergarten is someone the school knows, like a current or past parent or a board member. But this only makes sense if the person really knows you and your child. A generic recommendation from someone the school knows will come across as lukewarm, and won’t be as helpful as a glowing recommendation from someone who genuinely knows you. And even if you are close to a board member, do not ask for a recommendation unless you are prepared to answer the question of whether that school is your first choice for your child. Many board members are unwilling to go to bat for a child knowing that if he is accepted his parents may send him elsewhere. And if you are asked, be truthful, even if it means you won’t get this recommendation. At best it is extremely bad karma to lie about this.
Interviews: During any school visits and interviews, be sure to do the following: Silence the phone and put it away. Be courteous to all the people you meet at the school, from the security guard to the secretary to the tour guide. If you are not, know that it will get back to the admissions department. Look respectable. Leave the “look at me” outfits at home–nothing too tight, too short or with crazy heels, ladies, and everyone should cool it on the flashy jewelry.
Repeat the Following Phrases Until You Know Them As Truth: Your child’s education is much greater and will be much better than whatever school you send him to, because you are ultimately his first and best teacher. Whatever school he goes to will be lucky to have him. Whatever school does not accept him, it is their loss.
Lots of Hugs: Hug your son a lot these days, as often as he’ll let you, as he is undoubtably feeling pressure and uncertainty about the transition ahead as well. Encourage hugs around the entire family–great antidote to stress.
Focus on Having a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season With Your Family. Best of luck to you all!
Coming soon: Admissions reality checks for Elementary/Middle School, High School and (gasp) College.