Not Accepted at the Private Schools We Applied To

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi, I'm trying to work through my feelings and am wondering if this has happened to anyone else this year. My son and husband seem like they've moved on, but I'm still really pissed at what I feel is a bait and switch from the schools, one of which pursued us pretty vigorously. Obviously, my son will still go to school - and there are benefits of public school. He can still see his compatriots from grade school, he'll have more choice of social groups, more activities, more freedom. But there were some pretty relevant reasons we thought the smaller setting of private school would be good for him. I guess it would just help to hear how others have copes.

    I am so sorry. My son was waitlisted for all of the high schools he applied to, even his older brother's and my husband's alma mater. We ended up hounding one of the schools and he eventually got it. It all worked out for the best, but it was very hurtful and stressful at the time. After all of the years feeling that we were in a "community," we realized that private schools are just a business. So we've coped by seeing ourselves as customers and not getting attached or having a false sense of "family."

    Our kid got rejected by every private middle school we applied to. She also did not get past "waiting list number10 thousand" on any of the charter school lotteries. I'll be honest, we did the application circus to hedge our bets, but the public middle school she is in was her first choice of school and we knew pretty quick that we'd be more than happy if it was where OUSD assigned her.  I'm so glad we dodged the decision bullet by not getting into any other school !!  She is halfway through 7th grade and OUSD public middle school is the best ever. The school leadership and teachers are really fantastic, the school community is warm, the academic education is high quality, the music program is excellent, there are plenty of after-school extracurricular activities from sports to really nerdy things like a small but active Latin Club. She comes home every damn day chattering about school, is always happy to return each morning, and glad to get back after vacations. She's at Edna Brewer. 

  • Dear BPN,

    Our son has applied to the Athenian School in Danville this year for high school and is wait-listed. His grades are outstanding, he has strong letters of recommendations, extracurriculars that he is genuinely dedicated to and apparently did quite well during interviews based on feedback -- but most importantly, every cell in his body is sure that the Athenian School is the right school for him. It all just clicked for him. At his last school, his main struggle was the traditional one-way academic instruction. He loves learning actively and curiously, so he didn't get stellar grades there. Not surprisingly, a couple of his former classmates who thrived in the previous school weren't really feeling Athenian when they visited.  

    We actually decided to let him try a different school for eighth grade, and are wondering if that is the issue? Maybe the school thinks there is something funny going on there, but there really isn't, he was just deeply unhappy.  We realize it was an unconventional choice, but we also believe that there are times when change is required to get a different outcome. We explored the first choice 1) teaching our child how to "shrink" just enough to fit into the box and find whatever joy he can out of it, or 2) try a different environment -- also to make sure it isn't just him.  But when we saw his light start to fade, we went for #2 and had him try an experiential school, and voila!  Our bright, enthusiastic learner and performer was back!  There are many parallels between his current school and Athenian, which is why I think it clicked -- he now knows it when he sees it.  

    Here's the thing: we know our son will figure out how to do okay wherever he goes.  He committed to that.  His attitude is that he hopes and dreams Athenian will give him a chance, but that everything happens for a reason so he'll accept the outcome. He's more mature now and can handle whatever environment, but we just hope he doesn't turn into the jaded student who is just going through the grind, like I was frankly.

    Does anyone have insight into chances, or ways he or us as parents might have dropped the ball?  We are pretty typical suburban parents -- not in powerful or elite positions, nor are we underprivileged.  I wonder if we were supposed to hire a special consultant or missed some other strategy that parents "in the know" do.  We really let him handle everything because we wanted him to enjoy the fruits of his labor, fully expecting a different outcome based on what we saw. Now I wonder if we hurt his chances.   

    I don't have any idea what the odds are of getting off the wait list, but I think you handled it perfectly.  You did not drop the ball or hurt his chances.  And your son sounds like a very sensible young man.  Take a deep breath and don't give up hope.  Regards, AboutTheSame

    I don't know Athenian but my kids have applied to various private schools over the years. You might check in with the admissions director and let them know you are still very interested in the school should any spots open up.  There are a lot of reasons why your son might not have been accepted - too many siblings coming in this year, not enough girls this year, who knows.  It couldn't hurt to let them know you're still enthusiastic about the school! 

    I would contact the admissions director and tell her/him about the your son's passion for the school and how he feels in his heart that it is the best school for him and why. This will put your son into the forefront of the admissions process. I don't know about Athenian's waitlist, but many waitlists move quickly. I would think he has a good chance of getting in, but it will help to establish a relationship with admissions, so they can understand your son's love for the school! Good luck!

    Have your son write the Athenian admission director a letter about how he feels about Athenian, and why he wants to go. Schools want to know students want their school specifically. Best of luck. Sounds like you have a wonderful son! 

    I don't know about admissions Athenian in particular;  I do know a couple of families who are very happy there.  Our family went through the private HS admissions process and it certainly can be grueling.  We didn't use any consultants, nor did anyone we know.  I think numbers applications may have risen again which makes everything more competitive.  At least last year we heard there had been a 20% rise in applications to the private HS in the area.  

    One thing you did not mention was your son's SSAT or ISEE scores.  I hope he took one of the tests!  They are required for all the schools.  If he did not take the test, that would probably have cost him admission.  If you love the school you should call the admissions office and let them know how much you love it and why it is a great fit for your son.  Tell them you will sign a contract with them asap if a spot opens up.  If he did not take the ISEE or SSAT, you could ask if you could substitute some other standardized test score he may have taken in the past year.

    Admission to private HS is very tough around here.  There are a lot of great kids and a lot of parents able and willing to pay.  The schools are all tiny.  The advice we got over and over again was to not put all our eggs in one basket!  We did take that to heart.  Your son can have a great experience at many different schools.  But if he loves Athenian and it seems right for him, it certainly can't hurt to keep trying.

    Best of luck for you and your son.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Private school never responded to our application

April 2014

Have had a rather bewildering experience at a local private elementary school and wondering if anyone might be able to shed some light on our situation.

Hearing this school still had slots open after the deadlines for other East Bay independent schools, I called the school to find if this was so. I spoke to their admissions director who told me to fill out the application ASAP. I did, and a few days later, I got a call and was told that we had been accepted to the school. When I expressed surprise that we hadn't even been interviewed yet, the director realized she'd made a mistake and said she was actually calling to confirm our interview the next morning. This was the first I had heard of the interview time, but I said okay. We arrived at the school the next day at the appointed time only to discover that the interview was actually the following day. The Admissions Director wasn't in the office that day so it took the staff several minutes to figure out what was going on. The next day, we took our kid out of preschool again and went back. At the end of the interview we were told to expect an answer within 24 hours. A full week later, the school called to ask for additional information and to ask if they could talk to our kid's preschool teacher, and that we could expect an answer in another two days. We provided the information and alerted the teacher she'd be getting a call. Well, that was almost two weeks ago; the teacher never got a call, we haven't heard a word from the school, and they are on Spring Break now.

So I'm totally bewildered about what's going on and not sure if I should contact the school again to try find out the status of our application or just let it hang. Needless to say, I'm not feeling very confident about the school now anyway, plus now I am really wondering why they still had slots when everyone else had already filled classes and had waiting lists. If anyone has any insight, I'd be grateful. Also, the school did ask if we'd applied to any other schools--we'd applied to another private school and didn't get in--so I wonder if when they realized that, it downgraded our application?

Ask your child's preschool teacher for a meeting or phone call and ask whether there is anything you should know about your child that might be affecting the decisions of schools you applied to. Most likely, that conversation won't turn up any cause for concern, but the teacher may well have advice on other schools that might be a good fit for your child. There are some schools that still have open slots.

What you are describing sounds a lot like something that happened to us at a local private elementary school. We ended up going with that school anyway - and I wish we hadn't, or had at least asked many more questions to understand what happened. In our case, the inefficiency and rudeness was symptomatic of problems with the school's administration (which has since gotten even more unprofessional). We have since left that school and are happy with our decision.

That said, it's possible that there is an innocent explanation. The school we're at now is good, but very recently had to hire a new front office person, who is still learning the ropes. I don't know what effect that may be having on new families.

The fact that your child didn't get into another school wouldn't count against the application -- not unless there was some reason (e.g. if your child had caused problems at preschool, which the teacher should tell you). First impressions can be accurate!

We had a somewhat similar experience (but without the administrative mistakes of yours, which in and of themselves raise red flags). We toured a school that was clearly under-enrolled, went through the application process, and were told that we'd hear back in a day or two. We simply never heard from them, and found out through a circuitous process that our child had an off day during the school visit and was not accepted. And of course I was disgusted by then and had no interest in enrolling him anyway.

A friend tried to find a different school for her child, also outside of the traditional admissions season, and had a similar experience. Admissions directors simply didn't call her back.

I'm sorry you had that experience--it sounds very demoralizing. But be happy that your child won't be going to a school that doesn't seem to have it's act together! Happy for public school

You'll have to ask a few questions, if you want to understand what's going on.

Next time you talk to the admissions person, mention the delays and the confusion. Let her know that you're curious: Was the delay about you or your application, or just circumstance? Is the school struggling with organization? These are fair questions, and if you ask in a friendly and relaxed way, you might gain some insight.

I doubt it's about you or your child or the other school's decision. Different schools pick different kids. They want a good fit, whatever that means to them and to you.

Did you feel like the teacher and the philosophy of the school will serve your child well? Those are the more important questions. If the answers are yes, then stick out this process, and don't take the confusion personally. I bet they are just busy, or changing their systems or something. Who knows. Don't Take Things Personally

It seems to me that you know the answer already. There are still places available at that school because it sucks. There is no follow through, no consideration given to anyone else's time, and chaos reigns. It's hard to believe that your child would have a better experience as a student than you are having as the parent of an applicant. It's not you, it's them. And every red flag is present- ignore them at your peril. You want to pay for this?

Private high school wait list--sadness

April 2011

Our daughter was put on the waiting list for the private high schools she applied to. We are so sad she didn't get in and she seemed to us so qualified. Who did get in we wonder, and what could we have done better to have improved her chances? anon

As the parent of a private HS freshman (who was wait listed at one of his first choice schools--despite great grades and test scores), my advice is to call the admissions director of your first (and maybe 2nd) choice school and ask for more information about your daughters standing as an applicant. You can reaffirm your interest in the event a spot opens up (sometimes things change over the summer), and explore the viability of applying as a sophomore next year. Also, enlist the advice and/or help of your middle school principal or head as they might have insight into your situation, and/or steer you to a viable alternative school. Good luck. A sympathetic parent

I totally agree with the reply from ''A sympathetic parent''. I would go further to say - to be VERY clear with your 1st and maybe 2nd choice school that if a space opened up you would be there within the hour to sign the contract and pay tuition. Between now and the end of the month there will be students who do not accept the admission, for many reasons, and spaces will open up. Some schools rank their waiting list and others do not. So if it is an unranked waiting list anyone on waitlist can be offered a spot that opens up, and as time continues schools become very interested in finalizing the class roster if they have a number of students who do not sign contracts. If you were looking for a large scholarship this may be affecting your application since scholarship resources are very scarce at the high school level.

Please do not be shy about asking your community resources - former teachers, principals, religious leader, or activity leader to add additional support to your efforts. Keep it rational and respectful, but from experience it does work. In the end your student really needs to get into only one school. Good luck - from experience the private schools in the Bay Area are excellent but there is heavy pressure on admissions. You might also look at boarding schools if you do not find a suitable public program in the area.

Above all as DIFFICULT as this is please share with your student that this is not about her worthiness or ability. It may be because their were just many many girls applying this year, yes numbers do affect outcomes. There are not enough seats in private school in the Bay Area for people who want them - college will be a much much easier process. Also if she has any concerns about being admitted from a waitlist - no one will know unless she tells them. All the students that walk in the first day of class are the students in the class. Go For IT

My belief is that if you really love a school, you can eventually get into it (presuming your child has been waitlisted and there are no extenuating circumstances that would preclude her from being a candidate). It is important that the school hear from you and that they know they are your daughter's number one choice. Write them a love letter, explaining what you love about them, what your family could bring to the school (special skills, willingness to do extra volunteering, etc.), why the school is a particular fit for your family and your daughter. Become a very friendly squeaky wheel: make sure Admissions folks know who you are, be pleasant and persistent, ask them if they mind if you call on occasion to find out about the wait list status. There are plenty of folks who change their minds, move, decide on pubic options, etc. Most schools do not have an ordinal wait list (they won't tell you where your daughter is on their list); all things being equal, if you let them know how much getting in means to your family and kindly persist (never get presumptuous or obnoxious!), it's amazing how you will find your daughter at the top of the list. Most of all, do not take the initial rejection personally; there are so many variables in the decision-making algorithm and many of them have nothing to do with your daughter in particular. Once in, she will be a beloved student just as all others are. The initial rejection will be a distant memory, only called to fore when you find yourself writing another family this sort of encouraging email. Stick with it; chances are you will prevail! Best of luck. mom of a wait listed girl who got in

Private school rejection blues

March 2009

My son was just rejected from the private schools to which we applied. We were on the fence about public/private anyway, and we're in a good public school district, so I'm not worried about his schooling. But I'm having a trouble dealing with the rejections. We didn't apply to very many schools, but they all said something along the lines of ''we don't have the capacity to deal with him.'' We have other kids who are doing fine, so we can objectively see that he has a harder time than other kids. He's very socially anxious, and feels extremely threatened by the world around him, and I know he takes extra teacher time. I also know that after the first few months of school he would have adjusted. We fronted all this with the schools in our applications because we knew he would do terribly in all their assessments. They were very nice and went to his preschool to observe him. And then they all said they couldn't handle him. I'm so torn. A part of me feels like he must have some huge problem that we and his preschool are missing, and I'm panicked. A part of me feels like they just didn't want to deal with a kid who would take extra time, despite the fact that we applied to schools that say they focus on social and emotional development (i.e., we didn't even bother with Head Royce or Redwood Day). I'm angry at the schools, and then sometimes I look at my son and wonder why he can't be like everyone else. Is ''we can't handle him'' just the thing that these schools say, or do they really see something that no one else is seeing? anon

Our son was rejected by the private schools we applied to also. We've now been in public school for three years, and I believe I have some perspective on what these rejection letters are saying. When a child is not learning like other children (for a wide variety of reasons), in a public school there is federal funding to deal with the problem. A 504 plan or an IEP (both forms of individual student help) can be drawn up, and the child can get the help he or she needs with none of the funds coming from the local school My son gets lots of extra help with his handwriting (occupational therapy, the resource teacher comes in and helps him finish assignments, etc.). A friend of his with significant emotional and behavior issues, in part due to the death of a parent when this child was in kindergarten, has an aide with him most of the day. And there are many other forms of such help. None of this is available in private schools. They do not get the federal funding, and they generally don't have a staff which includes school psychologist, special ed teacher, occupational therapist, and additional aides. So they don't have the means to deal with kids who seem as though they MIGHT have learning or behavioral problems. I think the belief is, these kids will do better in public school where the funding and staff is available should they be diagnosed with some form of learning problem (even a very mild one, like my son's). Karen

Right now schools are strapped - including private schools. They need kids who don't need anything ''extra.'' If your student has any kind of ''special needs'' they just won't take him on. At least they are honest about not being able to meet your child's needs. They may have not for profit status, but there is nothing charitable about them! They offer all those beautiful things to easy, compliant kids who fit their very narrow molds. It's a reality I have seen over and over at the private school our kids attended. While I understand it, I do find it sad - even offensive. That's why we have moved them over to public, despite lack of any special needs among our kids. The world is not a perfect place, but it's a beautiful one, with all the quirky, different, and very special people included. This is not about your or your child's deficiencies - it's all about theirs. forget about it

I hear the justified concern in your post, and I am hoping to offer some words of comfort. My son was rejected by many preschools, and had great difficulty at the preschool(s) he attended. He was referred to an occupational therapist who evaluated him and had many concerns regarding his ''delays.'' I was very confused, because he truly did seem like a ''normal'' high energy boy to me. Fast forward to his public school experiences which have been great. His teachers have never expressed concern regarding his behavior or academic ability even when pressed. In other words, he is ''normal.'' I do not know your child, and he may require interventions in school, but private schools, and preschools, have the privilege to reject those who are unusual, high energy, delayed, gifted, withdrawn, extroverted, original or in short ''more difficult.'' Try sending him to your local public school, and after a few months ask the teacher what he or she thinks. If your child needs interventions, work in partnership with his teacher, and advocate for him.

Sounds to me like the schools saw exactly what you see yourself, no more and no less. You've identified the issues your son has. Rightly or wrongly, private schools have the luxury of picking and choosing those students who will ''do best'' in their schools, unlike public. Be thankful you live in an area where the public schools are good! He may need assessments and extra help as time goes on; mostly, the public schools are set up to deal with that (albeit sometimes with a lot of ''pushing'' by the parents) Good luck. Best wishes

I'm sorry to hear about the rejection letters. I don't have experience with how private schools work but I do have some ideas. I would start by talking with your pediatrician. I would also have your child's hearing and vision checked. Sometimes difficult reactions or behaviors we see in a child are caused by physical discomfort or issues that the child can't or doesn't tell us about such food allergies causing lots of stomach aches, not sleeping well, constant ear infections, vision or hearing issues that the child doesn't understand and that can make it difficult to navigate one's daily life, etc. Or if your child is experiencing some type of social anxiety, your dr. could refer you to play therapy or other avenues of support. Lastly, if you suspect that your child might have a disability, such as in the area of language processing, that could be causing some of his or her difficulty, contact your public school district to request an assessment. Best of luck. parent

Well I can understand that you feel frustrated and down, but honestly I think if your son really does have some special needs then public school is probably the best place for him. Private schools don't do a good job dealing with kids who need more than average help. Many schools don't have the resources to hire specialists or provide for a child's special needs above and beyond the minimum. In a public school they will have to provide for your child no matter what and there are many more resources to draw from. They may not have the glamorous prestige of private schools but they will give you what you need and probably more. So my advice is to let it go, accept your son for who he is and help him adjust to his new environment feeling confident and well prepared for the adventure. Go for Public

i had three kids attend a great small private school when we moved to berkeley in the mid-ninties ... the kids were 2nd, 4th and 6th grade and when we moved to town our realtor recommended The Acadamy. it's a great place, very nurturing.

since then, i have found that the large ''elite'' private schools focus on getting a certain kind of student. i have been very unimpressed by the elite schools. so, nurture that shy child and encourage them (and yourself) to embrace our public schools. two of my kids went to Berk High and did great but you need to be involved as a parent. one child went to the best of the best high school but it didn't prepare him for life, only intellectual pursuits... which is great, but far from perfect.

everything happens for a reason. don't let your disappointment rub off on your kids expectation of him.

good luck (wait for college!!)

I read your post with interest and compassion. I've worked in Bay Area private schools for the past 10+ years and can say this: your son is lucky to have you as a parent. You seem to see his social anxiety and fears clearly and are confident in his education in your district. He has siblings, which is always a support, and he is a PRESCHOOLER-- basically still a young, vulnerable child--not an ''applicant.'' Yes, most private schools tend towards the ''easy'' kids, and I think it's a sad but true statement in our culture that people fear sentitive, fearful boys. My take: it's the schools' loss. If you are seriously concerned about your son's development, check in with your most seasoned, trusted preschool teacher or a child developemnt specialist (Meg Zweiback is great and her contact info is archived on BPN)--otherwise, trust your isntincts, love your son for all of his perceptiveness and anxiety, and walk away fom a system that is not obligated to serve every child in the way that the public schools are. Take care of yourself and your boy. Don't sweat the kindergarten rejection letters

Your child may be fine...but, schools often are looking for pretty narrow academic/behavioral diversity. You accept anyone who falls outside of these norms and you have to devote scare resources to this child (just look at the public schools...more money is spent on educating a child who may never be able to spell his own name rather than on the child with the potential to discover a cure for AIDS). Don't stress about it and now just look for a school where your child will thrive... -anon

I think that is the common line. We just got it from two schools too. Discrimination sucks... you know your child is great and you are better off not sending him to a school that is going to make you look at him critically. If you are aware of his problems and are getting him help then you don't need to second guess yourself. Just continue to love and cherish your child. Any school that can't do the same isn't worth your time and energy. a mom

If you are guaranteed a spot in a good public school, count your blessings. If your son needs any kind of special ed, or just needs a lot of attention, you are better off in a public school. They HAVE TO take him and take care of him in a public school. They have all the resources and training to take care of any kind of special ed situation. I know you probably don't think he needs any kind of real special ed, but who knows, maybe the school psychologist or speech therapist could help one of these days, and those services are not included in private school. anon

I urge you to contact The Academy, a very small academically-oriented private school in Berkeley in the Elmwood neighborhood. The kindergarten class is usually small, 8-12 children, and each child gets a great deal of individual attention from the wonderful kindergarten teacher. The school is K-8 and has only one class in each grade, so everyone knows each other and no one, absolutely no one, falls through the cracks. I don't know if your son really does have ''issues'', or is just undergoing a transition that many children, including my own son, go through at that age. Either way, I have seen The Academy welcome children like yours and nurture them into confident happy children. My own son, who was thought to have ''issues'' by his other school, just blossomed socially in his first month at The Academy. I can't say enough about what this school has meant to him and to us. My son recently said to me that ''my class is like a family; actually, the whole school is like a family.'' Their website URL is, and there you can find information about contacting the director, Gina Claudeanos, in order to discuss your son. Admissions is happening now, but because class size is so small, there is a good chance they may still have room. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about our experiences. ma02478

Use this as an opportunity to funnel those funds into one-on-one help/tutoring/part-time nanny/occupational therapy/what have you to support your son with where he's at in his development. He may feel lost in the mix and this is a great time to allow his public school experience with a little extra help on the side.

Don't dwell on it, because whatever happens in this case is truly for the best. As someone told me when I was looking at schools, kindergarten is THE time to try out different things. We tried our local school, and we've all been VERY happy with it, for the last 3 years.

I was in a similar situation 3 years ago. My son has special needs, and even though they are of a mild form, he hasn't been accepted by the only school I felt would be open to taking him, Archway. They, too, went to observe him at his preschool and then said they would consider him a year later, after he has a chance to ''mature.'' I am so happy that he didn't get into Archway then, although at the time I was very upset by the rejection, and even more by them not returning my calls - which were only to follow up one last time on their suggestions they left for my after their visit to his preschool.

Unlike you, I dreaded public school. NOBODY in my neighborhood takes their kids to our local school. But, it was our only choice, so I enrolled him there. Then, all of a sudden the Aurora school said they'd take us in. I started getting used to the idea of our local school, so I was torn between that one and Aurora. That's when the Aurora's admissions director told me to just try the public school out, and that she'd still have a spot for my son in case we don't like the public school.

She also comforted me when I told her about my experience with the Aurora school by giving me an example from her own life. She was trying to park when someone cut in front of her and took her spot. Shortly after, there was an accident near that parking spot and the car of the rude ''spot-taker'' was hit as well. The moral was, ''You may really want something now, but it may be only for the best that you don't get it.'':)

By the way, a private shcool approached us last summer (my son was at their summer camp) and offered a spot for him, because he was ''their kind of kid.'' I felt very flattered, but I said ''no, thank you, not at this time''. We don't need them now!

I am sure your son will find be happy and comfortable with whatever school you will choose for him. Best, Happy mom of a happy public school kid

Dear Rejected-I'm surprised that you even went through the process of applying to private schools when so many are not equipped to deal with extra ordinary children. Probably your best chance would have been Park Day?

Public schools have to deal with all children regardless of their needs. That said I'm married to a doctor who has severe social anxiety and not surprising so does one of my children with borderline OCD. My doctor-husband focuses his OCD ness on medicine(the type of doctor YOU WANT TO HAVE) He is a trauma doctor so bedside manner isn't so critical as keeping someone alive so he succeeds wildly at what he does and his quirks are not shortcomings at all. Not a good dinner party guy but really is that so important?

I have socialized my child every which way and still do so. I also make sure his public school teacher is aware that his needs overlap so when he has an episode(new settings mostly) his OCD-ness kicks into over drive...He therefore has always been placed in a room he's been to before-Generally following his brother through school-I took him with me weekly as a volunteer for K, 1st and 2nd. He is currently thriving in 1st grade. He was placed with a teacher who herself is a stickler for rules so he's happy as a clam because there is no fear of the unknown. So start working with your local public school NOW to get your child acclimated. You might have to go so far as filling out an IEP, I didn't but some do.

The 2nd part of your question was more disturbing-I believe we get the children we are meant to have. I have ZERO social anxiety, speak in public often and yet I have a kid who can't(yet?) it has made me a more compassionate person to those who don't have my strengths but possess other skills I can only fantasize about. Would it be easier if your child was cookie cutter to those private school kids? Maybe? However all kids have quirks-it simply would have been different quirks but something eventually would have been tough. This journey with your child will be unique as most journeys are. Enjoy the ride and don't wonder about ''what if's?'' mom to many

I am not sure exactly what the issues are with your son. We have had a similar experience with our 5 year old son. He needs extra attention from teachers to adjust and ''go with the flow'' in the classroom. Transitions are difficult for him. He becomes overstimulated and then acts out. One thing that has helped is weekly Occupational Therapy, which has helped him manage stimulus better and gain more control of his reactions. So, we are starting to see some improvement. We also had an assessment by a developmental pediatric neurologist, who became our advocate at the schools. Luckily, there is nothing wrong with him! Another option I have heard of is hiring a classroom aide to help the child in the classroom. And in the past we sought out schools with smaller class sizes. These are expensive options, but early intervention does help. anon

Only one school (of 5) accepted us -- is this normal?

March 2008

I would like to hear from other parents who just went through that harrowing experience of private Kindergarten applications. We applied to 5 (5!) schools, got into only one (not our first choice by far), and waitlisted on the rest. 2 other parents from the same preschool got in nowhere at all--and most of their letters were not just waitlists, but outright rejections. These are children of parents who are generally well-educated (a couple of graduate degrees amongst us) and care about education. Are our kids just duds? Was the preschool (a new one) maybe not preparing the kids for these assessments? Are other schools specifically prepping the kids? Is this normal? Or was it a particularly grueling year out there with unusually fierce competition? What happened to other people out there? No More Fingernails

I think I can really understand your feelings, at least in part. Our end results were different, but the whole independent school application process (and even more the financial aid process) left me feeling so yucky in so many ways. My heart broke to think that going through that process would make you question whether your child is a ''dud.''

We applied to four private schools in Oakland and Berkeley, focusing on those that consider themselves progressive and developmental. My son was offered spots at all four. I know that one of them is considered difficult to get into, but I have no idea about the others. He goes to a very small, play-based preschool, and there was no specific preparation for the assessments at all. I called them ''playdates'' and explained that he would get to check out the schools, and I tried to ease any anxiety he would have. I also tried to schedule the assessments on the same day as his best friend so that he would feel more comfortable. As far as I could tell, they were looking for basic kindergarten readiness at the assessments (ability to follow instructions, sit and focus on a task, relate to peers, communicate and so forth).

I have no idea what the experience has been like for those applying to the schools that are considered more college prep (Head Royce, Bentley, etc.) since we did not go that route. Perhaps there was more competition at those?

Even having been accepted at the schools we were interested in, I still found MANY aspects of the process distasteful and off- putting. It has been incredibly draining.

Thank you for your post, our outcome was somewhat worse, but I appreciate your naming of the process. We applied to our two favorite local developmental schools. We received a wait-list letter from one and an outright rejection from the other, which is especially painful as I see the latter now posting on BPN with two K openings. The process felt more emotional than my graduate school application, perhaps because this was for our son. Even just the requirement to negotiate so much time off work with my boss, for the pre-tours and the parent tours and then kid visits, was no small feat. I have to admire your endurance for making it through the process with even more schools!

I realize that it must be a difficult balancing act for the schools too, but some of the late stage event / open house invitations that we received from the school that rejected us may more considerately have been reserved for families they were planning to accept/consider. Painful process for me. Anon

March 1998

Private School Waitlists
Just a note to those who may be feeling badly because they've been waitlisted at a favorite school. Don't despair! The waiting lists are going to start moving along quickly. I personally know of potential openings coming up at some highly coveted schools, including St. Paul's, Windrush, Bentley, and Prospect-Sierra. So if you're waitlisted, call the school of your choice and tell them that they are your first choice. (And don't forget to immediately notify schools which have accepted you if you are going to decline, so that others may take your place.)

A Mom