How competitive are Park Day and Aurora School?

Hi there, 

We are in the process of starting to get more serious about looking for elementary school for our 3.5 year old and would really love to send her to either Aurora School or Park Day. But I am unclear if we have a shot at getting in? How competitive are these schools actually? I think my kid is quite bright and very considerate and successful in social settings, but I am sure that applies to many kids. Would be grateful to hear from folks about their experience in getting in or not getting in ot these schools. 

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In my experience, both of these schools tend to self-select...which is to say, some kids don't get in, but it's generally not because there isn't room, but because the school is not a good fit for the child. Visit and see if it feels like the right fit for your family, and go from there. Also know that a 3.5-year-old can change a lot in a year, and you may have different ideas about which school is the best fit for her by next spring. Also talk to your child's preschool teachers--they know your child well and can offer good guidance.

Both are wonderful schools with similar progressive educational offerings and friendly communities. We got into both and it was very hard to choose one over the other. We could really see us being happy at either school. 

I think both schools tend to get more applications than the available slots. But, my impression is that the admission is more about fit. (I don't work for admissions at either school, so I can't say for sure.) My impression is that schools are interested in building a diverse class, so some luck component exists. We felt that our child (bright, kind, social) was a strong applicant, but we had no idea where our child would fall in terms of the school's demographic needs. 

If your child is bright, kind, and gets along well with others, most schools should find your child to be an attractive applicant. Schools are also interested in the potential contributions that parents will make. Monetary donation is helpful but schools really want and need an engaged community, so parent volunteers are very much welcome. They are also interested in parent background. 

Your preschool teachers and parent community are also a great resource. We went to a small play-based preschool, and Park Day and Aurora are very popular choices because the educational philosophy is similar. Good luck!

We applied after the deadline for middle school at Park Day School.  They had a lots of qualified applicants, but still had an opening as they give considerable consideration to class/group match/balance.  Luckily for us, it was a match for my daughter.  Staff at Park Day are very open, friendly, transparent and approachable.  You can ask the Josie Shapiro, the Admission Officer, and she will answer your questions.

Agreed with the other posters -- we visited both extensively (as well as two other schools) and found that despite the prog-ed and friendliness similarities, both Aurora and Park Day had a lot of unique features that differentiated each from the other.

It's definitely more about fit than anything else, as the other posted said, and I'd encourage you to attend the parents' events as much as you can.

As for competitiveness, our (also bright, considerate, and socially successful) preschooler got in to both (and we found it harder than we expected to choose one over the other). We chose Aurora ultimately but also knew people who weren't offered enrollment there. That said, it's not like Stanford or Harvard in terms of admission competitiveness -- my understanding is that most families that are a good fit for Aurora are offered enrollment. But in any case it can't hurt to apply!

If you love these schools, tour and apply! It is natural to wonder and worry about the chance of getting into schools that you like but there are so many variables. Many kids apply but they also all tend to apply to similar schools. Schools can honestly say that they receive 100 applications for 20 open spots, but those same 100 families also apply to the same 3 - 5 schools and they only need one spot. It can feel intimidating when there are so many people at the open house but not everyone applies.

We got into both schools you listed and are at one of the schools. We have friends at the other school you listed as well as nearly all of the nearby private schools. Same families tend to apply to Park Day, Aurora, St. Paul's, Redwood Day, and Bentley, if they want to stay nearby. If they are from Berkeley or don't mind a slightly longer commute form their home that is close to Park Day/Aurora area, then they also consider Berkwood Hedge, Black Pine Circle, and the Berkeley School.

It sounds like you have a decent shot at getting in, so apply! Also, because same families apply to same schools, the waitlist moves up quickly during the 1 week when families make decisions. We had 3 acceptances and we turned down the one we definitely didn't want as soon as the decision came out and chose between Aurora and Park Day on the 3rd day during the decision week so that the school we turned down could work down their waitlist quickly. 

Good luck!