Monday, March 17, 2008

K Files Council: girls schools

Here's our situation:

Admitted at one girls' school, waitlisted at the second one (our first choice). We told the second school to let us know ASAP if a spot opens up, which they said they'd probably do by late Monday or early Tuesday. We haven't said anything to the school we were admitted to. My dilemma now is that the one we were admitted to has grown on us over the past few days, and let's be frank, they do really want our daughter as opposed to the second one, which was our first choice up until now. We can't help but feel slightly hurt by the second school. Now, we are totally confused and not sure what to do when and if we get a call on Monday saying we have a spot at the second school.

Any advice is appreciated!


  1. I don't think your hurt feelings about the second school should influence your decision. All of these schools have way more applicants than they can handle. Presumably if you had NO chance there they would have indicated that to you. I think it's fine to change your preference to the school that accepted your daughter, and I think it's great that you feel positive about this school in case the waitlist one doesn't come through, but don't let the idea of feeling "wanted" or "unwanted" play into your decision.

  2. I think a lot of privates waitlisted more kids than usual this year after what happened at Live Oak last year (almost all the students they accepted actually enrolled and they had to add another kindergarten classroom at great expense.)

    I wouldn't take it personally. I know a lot of people whose kids have been perfectly happy to school they were initially waitlisted for.

  3. A waitlist letter isn't a rejection. And it certainly doesn't really mean the school likes your daughter any less than the school that offered admission. We don't know what either school started with in terms of siblings and what they were looking for to fill the remaining open spaces.

    The last two posters are absolutely correct: don't let the notions of hurt feelings or wanted or unwanted cloud your judgement. Choose and go after the school where your whole family will be happy and thrive.

  4. I completely agree with the last three posts. Pick the school that in your gut will be a better fit. Also, if that school is closer to where you live or work, that may make a difference to you. You wanted it the most in the first place; there must have been a reason why.

    It does seem like there were a lot of wait lists this year. Does your first choice school have more siblings than the other school? Maybe there were more applicants from your preschool or with the same birthday range? It seems so random.

    Congratulations on getting one of the girls schools and wait listed at the other! Best wishes to your family. It will all work out fine.

  5. It may go beyond what you were asking...

    Maybe I'm a little more cynical, but as someone who almost killed myself for five years paying $20,000 per year for private school, per child, I think you should think about what's best for your child. I rarely saw my kids, I was enslaved in a job that paid a fortune but took 80 hours a week, and my kids were getting damaged because of it.

    They never saw me, and when they did, I was worried.

    Then, when we got home from a Summer camping vacation to Big Sur, which is all my schedule and budget allowed, our kids felt awful because all their school chums were bragging about their two weeks in Hawaii and or the month in the Mediterranean. I knew I had to make a decision.

    For me, that meant stopping the insanity of paying $40,000 for killer schools that do not reflect life, and pairing back to a great parochial school that costs $11,000 for both kids. That's what was best for them. And who knows, maybe we'll afford to go to Hawaii for a week one of these days. Mainly, I have TIME to give my kids, I'm not stressed, and that's the greatest education of all for your kids: You set a good example, and the rest falls into place.

    I am bringing this up because you still appear to be pursuing public schools.

    If money isn't an issue, accept the private school who accepted you and be grateful. Then if the waitpool school comes through, you will accept that and free up the first slot for the first school. There is no shortage of kids who will take either slot.

    I loved Katherine Burke School for my oldest. It was awesome. But it is in no way better than a good parochial school, or a good public school. Our kids are five years old! They need to play in the sand! They need to befriend all kinds of kids, colors, classes, etc. There is always room for the $20,000/year school when your kid doesn't get into Lowell, or wants to go to Lick Wilmerding or SI.

    You might even have the resources to have a third kid, which I did, which is why I really want to go to a public for him.

    Your kid needs YOU. Especially K-5.

    I hope this helps.

  6. I'm the one who posted the question: I'm not concerned about the money issue, it's really which school is the best fit for our kids. I'm not taking it personally, either, that the second school did not chose us in the first round, it is just that I'm thinking the schools might know best which kids will be a good fit and which won't, perhaps better than we do, and if that's the case, then should we just go for it with the first school and say "thanks but no thanks" to the second one because she just might not be a great fit there.

    These are two of the top girls schools in the city (Burkes and Hamlin), so any thoughts on one versus the other?

  7. Unfortunately with any school, a lot has to do with that year's cohort. Your daughter can get in to a "nice class" or a "mean class" an "old class" or a "young class" and you won't know until you get there. Any parent with more than kid at a school can tell you that the feel of each child's class can be very different.

    It's the big spanner in the works that's totally out of your control.

  8. With new Heads of School at both Burkes and Hamlin starting next Fall, you may want to find out a little bit more about the incoming leadership at each school. Both schools are fantastic places -- I really feel as though you won't go wrong with either choice. How lucky you are!

  9. I think it depends on what you want for your daughter. My impressions from touring both schools..

    Burkes - A strong vision that is built into every aspect of the school, open campus which allows for more outdoor time, and a teaching staff that is focused on the three E's.. I equate that to passion for learning and leading.

    Hamlin - A strong academic school with superb facilities. I wasnt sure what the vision was and I felt the teachers were more about academics than actually integrating ciriculum to create an enriched learning enviorment.

    We chose Burkes hands-down!!

  10. To the parent who pulled your Kids our of private....

    Thanks for sharing. I really feel your experience and am thankful for the perspective. Would you make the same choices if you only had one child? Do you think that 4-8 grades are comparable in Burke's vs Public? I for some reason strongly believe that K-3 maybe a wash, but after that it's close to impossiblle for public schools to compete with the science, enrichments, and enviorment in which children learn ast Burke's and school like that.. But I havent been there, so I really dont know.

  11. Both are great schools and I would count your blessings since I know families who would kill to be in your situation right now.
    Some food for thought: We really wanted a certain school for our son but got our 3rd choice. It turned to be a perfect fit for him. After a couple of years and better knowledge of the subtle differences of the various schools we realized that that he ended up at a school that was the best for him and the school that should have been our first choice all along.
    We then thought we wanted a certain school for our daughter and didnt get in ending up at our 2nd choice. This time I'm not sure if it was as clearly a better fit but it certainly was as good a fit as our first choice school and we're very happy.
    Sometimes you as parents think you want a certain school after a few brief tours but be careful what you wish for. You might not get your first choice but as long as you applied to good schools to begin with the schools themselves make the right decision for your child. At least they certainly did in our case.

  12. I'm not sure if it always works that way. I'm no expert, but most of my friends who have kids in private schools obtained their spots towards the end of the summer. In most cases, they were enrolled at not-first-choice schools and then a spot opened up at their first or higher-up choice over the summer. These are kids at MCDS, SF Day, Hamlin and Brandeis. In all cases, it seemed like a fluke or else just bad luck that the kid didn't get in the first round, and then once the child was happily there in the fall, no one knew that they were a "wait list" kid -- they did just fine.

    Seriously, honestly, how much can a school ascertain about your daughter from a 2 hour meeting (actually, at the girls' schools, it's just one hour, due to the off-campus screen). A one hour assessment is just not going to be a definitive answer. I'm with the previous poster who mentioned that a lot of it is just demographic stuff - what preschool, what age, what temperament.

    Go with the school that you want to go with -- why drive across town farther (or whatever) just because one school offered you a space a couple days, weeks or months before the other one did?

    That said, both Hamlin and Burke's are school with great reputations, and I'm sure your daughter will have a great (albeit expensive) experience in either.

  13. Wow, that last post describing movement through the waitlist process for private school seems vaguely familiar... sort of like the merry-go-Round (1 or 2) process for..... Public schools!

    But based on what I have seen, that is the way it works for the privates. Most of the families I know applied to 4-7 schools, get waitlisted and eventually get in somewhere they are thrilled to be at. Sounds just like public schools but is much more costly in terms of deposits that are lost.

  14. Someone questioned Hamlin vs. Burke.

    The new heads of school will make some of this info moot, but my sister put both her girls in Hamlin, then was lucky enough to switch to Burke after several years of Hamlin angst, so, I vote for Burke hands down.

    She said Burke takes diversity more seriously, doing lots of outreach. They really stress the outside world and get the girls to look beyond their privilege. The facilities at Burke are better. The Hamlin vibe was so snobby, in my sister's opinion--or at least the real world community these girls experienced--and the "mean girl" syndrome so overwhelming, it cost my sister a ton in therapy bills. My nieces were so relieved once they switched to Burke. They were happy again, carefree, their grades went up. Night and day.

    The support systems for different kinds of learning are superior at Burke. At Hamlin, my niece joked that it was the Hamlin way or the Highway. The sports were better at Burke.

    Now, I bet you can find people who say just the opposite. But I am offering feedback to your question, by giving one family's experience.

  15. I can't speak for Burke's, but I can tell you a little bit about Hamlin, which my niece used to attend. Suffice it to say that her classmates were developing eating disorders, experimenting with drugs and "cutting" by the time they were in 8th grade. I have a seventh grader at Live Oak and that kind of thing is just not as pervasive hear. Hamlin is a very high pressure environment and it only gets worse as the girls get older.

  16. By not as pervasive, do you mean you do see that stuff (drugs, eating disorders, cutting...)at Live Oak? We are considering an offer there for 6th grade. Probably shouldn't be surprised as it is Middle School, but I am very interested to hear anything else you can say about Live Oak Middle School.

  17. As a lower school parent at Live Oak, I can't attest to whether or not those things exist [drugs, etc.], but frankly it's hard for me to imagine it. The middle schoolers at our school are so down to earth, so respectful of each other, the parents, and the younger students. I interact with them on a daily basis, and can honestly say that they're a fantastic bunch of kids. At the middle school play this past weekend, I was thrilled to see what a great time the students had [they run the entire show... sound, lighting, costume, make-up], and how wonderfully carefree and innocent the subject matter was. In our modern, urban world, it's delightful to see young adults using humor, talent, and confidence to reach out to others.

  18. Live Oak middle schoolers are much more innocent...

  19. Hamlin is a pressure cooker.

    Burke's is much more humane.

  20. I think Hamlin has changed, and probably Burke's, too. The families I know with daughter's at Hamlin are very happy there. I also know more than one family at Burke's that feels the parent culture there is very snobby, and others who love it. As someone up thread mentioned, it probably depends on the entering class more than anything else. If your child is in with a pretty good group to being with then all will be well whichever school you choose.

  21. Any other Burke's, Hamlin, Convent parents care to comment about the girls' schools?

    Hamlin's new head of school is young and African American.

    KDBS's new head of school is young and from the south.

    New heads of school sure to bring some change, but what have things been like the past 5 or so years?

  22. I have heard some not great things about Hamlin- basically a lot of it has been said already. Be sure to budget in money for tutors is what I have been told as well.
    I don't have much information re: Burkes or Convent.

  23. Hamlin is known as a pressure cooker but I dont think it's as bad as some posters here have written. We're at Burkes and very happy. The main reason we chose Burkes was to reduce pressure for our daughter which happens mainly in the upper grades. Kids should be allowed to be kids.

  24. A close friend has a daughter that went to Hamlin. My friend was one of the few dual working families there. She noted that there was a lot of "have your nanny call my nanny to arrange a playdate" going on with scads of trust-fund families. She felt that her daughter was one of the few in the 'real world' regarding what the rest of us deal with.

  25. Hamlin now has 70 percent or more dual career families. It's not what it used to be!

  26. As far as drugs or eating disorders in middle school, any school that says it in a non-issue is likely burying its head in the sand. Though I am not aware of issues like this at Live Oak, and agree with the poster who speaks about the respectful and down to earth students who attend, I also believe that if issues did surface, the students are so well known by teachers and administrators that they would be very aware and proactive, working with parents as partners.

    At Live Oak, kids don't slip through the cracks; academically, socially, or in any other way. They are nurtured at each step along the way.

  27. oh come ON. I really have a hard time believing that Live Oak kids, who also come from privileged wealthy backgrounds, are not privy to the problems of children at other schools. There are half as many children at Live Oak, but there are also half as many grown-ups! Honestly, I can't imagine that any school is immune.

    But that's not why I'm posting.

    I'm wondering: SO, did the wait list call come in? What did you decide? I'm sure it will work out great whatever happens.

  28. From reading these posts one would think Burkes is not very academic and instead is geered towards providing a mellow learning enviornment. If I was paying 25K per year I would want to be certain my daughter was getting a strong academic ciriculum that is far superior to what schools can offer for free to the parent.

    I guess the benfit of Hamlin is that if you pay the money you can be confident your girl will truly be pushed to achieve.

  29. "If I was paying 25K per year I would want to be certain my daughter was getting a strong academic ciriculum that is far superior to what schools can offer for free to the parent."

    Wow your family definitely belongs at Hamlin. I guess Hamlin to Harvard will be your holy grail. IMO it is very easy to swamp kids with workload and any public school can do that.

  30. To the poster who wrote: "oh come ON. I really have a hard time believing that Live Oak kids, who also come from privileged wealthy backgrounds, are not privy to the problems of children at other schools."

    Live Oak kids are privy to the problems that children at other schools face, but it is the way in which they, their families, and their teachers deal with the problems which make the place special. It's not just that there are only two dozen children per grade... it is the culture of the school which is the major difference. Live Oak children, from kindergarten through middle school, are give the tools to know themselves and their classmates extraordinarily well, and teachers and administration know the students deeply. Middle schoolers know that they are in a safe place where they can be themselves. Parents support each other, and the school supports the parents in a variety of ways. The parent association and school organizes parent education events on a monthly basis, many of which span issues crucial to middle schoolers (sex, substance abuse, identity), and these frequently tie in with corresponding discussions amongst staff and students timed to coincide with parent education so that the tools are there for students to learn, grow, and get help from one another, staff, and family. Social events (dances, etc.) with students from other independent schools like Synergy and the San Francisco School are organized in a safe, supportive manner.

    By the way, only some of the families in our child's class are wealthy. Most are middle class, and there are a lot of families on partial tuition assistance.

  31. Adolescence is always tricky, but kids in high-pressure schools have a tougher time of it.

    Schools definitely have different cultures.

  32. I posted the question - here's how it turned out:

    The second school (the one that was our first choice and at which we were waitlisted) did not go to their waitlist. We dropped off our contract and deposit this morning at the first school.

    We are very happy. We brought our daughter there to refresh her memory and she was very happy and had good memories of her playdate at the school. I'm ready to become fully invested with the first school and looking forward to September.

    In fact, my daughter wanted to skip the rest of preschool and start kindergarten today. Guess you can't hope for anything else.

    Thanks for all the advice / support. I think at any of these independent schools, you really have to be intune with who your child is and how they are reacting to the environment. Good luck to everyone else.

  33. How did you find out the school did not dip into their waitpool?

  34. We learned from the our preschool director as well as the admissions director at the second school.

  35. I have heard that several schools did not dip into their wait pool, including both of the non-religious all-girls schools.

    The only school that I heard entered its wait pool was Friends for boys, but I don't know anyone who received one of those spots.

    Has anyone heard of anyone who received a wait list phone call? Maybe it will only happen after the 2nd round public school lottery. Scary.

  36. Very good point. I bet there are a lot of people with private spots waiting for 2nd round public to complete.

  37. My child was accepted out of the wait pool for a top private. So the waitpools are being used. It can take time. School doesn't start for five months, after all.

    I am still going to enter the 2nd round of public. I was 0/7. But I applied to the most popular ones.

    With privates, I was 0/4, but I applied to the most popular ones, as well.

    The thing about waitpools is, people are doing all sorts of things in their lives, and there WILL be movement, on all fronts.

    They say all the top privates talk to one another, and it's hard to accept two slots, but I don't really buy that.

  38. Take 2 private school spots? Please tell me no one does this! Personally, and it is only my opinion, I think it is wrong to take a private spot and then wait out the 2nd round public. Again, only my opinion - please don't come down on me for this. I called the public I was assigned to as soon as we heard from our private and made a decision and told them we wouldn't be registering. We also immediately notified the schools we weren't going to attend so they could go to their wait lists ASAP and not keep other families waiting unnecessarily. I think all of this "hoarding" of spots is adding to the chaos of an already chaotic situation. There are families who went 0/7 public and 0/whatever private and are anxiously awaiting "that call." I think those of us who have valid choices should stop with all of the "back-ups for our back-ups" nonsense and commit already! Again, just my 2 cents...

  39. To the person who was accepted off the waitlist, was that at either Hamlin or Burkes? and if so, was it this year? I do know that some of the other privates have gone to the waitlist, but did not think that either Hamlin or Burkes did.

  40. I heard from a friend who has a 5th grader at Hamlin that most of the "diversity" students (socioeconomic or racial) end up dropping out by 3rd or 4th grade because they feel so out of place.

    That does not speak well of the school, in my opinion. Maybe the new head of school will change that. Maybe not. THe last head of school was Hispanic and she wasn't able to.

  41. The board of directors at Hamlin is very strong. They wouldn't let a head of school change the school in any way to make it more welcoming.

    My the way, at least a third of each class is told to hire tutors at their own expense to keep up. That can be hard if you are on financial aid.

  42. Clearly the posters bashing Hamlin above do not know the school very well... and do not know how diverse the school has grown in recent years and how diverse its incoming kindergarten class is.

    A lot of the reputations of the top-tier schools is based on *very* dated information that often has little/no bearing on what the schools are like right now. Schools change fast. For example tt was true at one time the top-tier progressive coeds didn't attract a highly wealthy (and elitist population) because they were relatively new - and that the single-sex schools did. But that hasn't been true for awhile now.

    Anyone who tours Hamlin with even a *remotely* open mind will see it is not what this board says it is.

  43. Hamlin has had very diverse kindergarten classes for many years now.

    But those families tend to drop out by 3rd or 4th grade.

    The reason you see so few "diverse" families in 5th grade and above is *not* because those kinds of families weren't admitted.

    Rather, it is because they have dropped out.

    Ask any of the 5th graders (or their parents).

  44. Hamlin does a terrific job of recruiting and admitting families of different ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. It just doesn't do a very good job of making them feel welcome over the long haul. It is a tough place...

  45. I only know two Hamlin families, but both pay nearly $8,000/month on outside tutoring in addition to tuition.

    They say that is pretty common there.

    But honestly, if more than 2 kids in a private school class need tutoring, isn't that the teacher's fault? Shouldn't the school pick up the slack instead of insisting on tutoring?