Waiting Lists and Rejections at Private Schools

Archived Responses: 


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

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