Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hot topic: Private school process

An SF K Files visitor suggested the following topic:

"Private School assessments, playdates, and parent interviews...

Can anyone share anything about the private school application process? What are the parent interviews like at various schools? How about the playdates or assessments? How have people explained the playdates to their child?"


  1. I was wondering -- how much is interviewing the parents, not just the child?

  2. Is it true that your child is more likely to be accepted into an independent school if you do NOT apply for financial aid?

    We are applying to high schools now and are borderline in terms on annual revenues for receiving aid.

    Does ignoring the financial aid process improve one's chances?

  3. One Catholic school we applied to was working on a first-come-first-served basis, and as we applied in October and our kid didn't mess up the interview, we were told on the spot we'd a place. Very good for one's mental health to have a place in hand while waiting for SFUSD to do its stuff.

    Made up for me blowing the extremely early deadline to Notre Dame.

  4. When we went through the process a couple of years ago, we felt that the process was not as bad as we had thought it would be. Of the schools we applied, the assessments were pretty common, and were not stressful at all. We just told our daughter it would be a playdate and to have fun. What more is there to explain really?

    In terms of the tours and interviews, that is when you really get a good feel for the school. The tours give you a view of what to expect and the culture and feel for the school. In addition, this is where you ask your questions. After this point you will usually know whether the school is a fit or not. Also, you may try to stand out somehow with your guide or docent - these people may talk to administrators so it may help you.

    The parent interview is the final step in the process. You should use this time to try and connect with the admissions staff. Any pressing and/or big concerns I would avoid bringing up here, as this is pretty much the 'face' that you give to the school during the process (aside from the childs assessment, of course). Yes, this is the most critical part of the application process! After all, just as important as your child is to the school is how your family will benefit the school community.

    In addition, I do believe that making sure the essays are well written are absolutely important as well. With regards to the financial aid, I don't know if it would make a big of a difference than some may think. It would depend on a number of factors, such as the schools endowment, and number of families in the class that need aid. If every family in the class needed aid, then the school would go out of business. I think that asking that question is good, but the answer will vary not only from school to school, but case by case .. in other words don't let that stop you from applying or asking for it!

    Despite the high cost of the school (MCDS), we feel there is no better place for our children (a sibling will be entering this year) - we knew it was the school for us! Good luck to all this year.

  5. Elizabeth (who has yet to submit a review!)January 12, 2009 at 10:05 AM

    We've had three parent interviews, with the playdates for our kid a separate event. In our interviews, it seemed like it was a meet and greet situation. The admissions folks were trying to get a sense of who we are. They asked the typical questions of what we did for a living and where we went to school, our backgrounds, and so forth. They were all scheduled for 20-30 minutes, but we were the last appointment for one of the schools and ended up chatting for nearly 45 minutes.

    I've asked the admissions directors how to prep the kid for the playdates and screenings. Their advice was to make it low-stress - explain to your child that you'll be there to play, that it's like preschool (if your child is going to preschool), and it'll be fun. We were also invited by two of the schools to drop by prior to the playdates so that our daughter could get some context.

    Re: financial aid and likelihood of acceptance - I don't know if it's true for all independent schools, but on the SF Friends site, it says that they select applicants NOT based on financial need:

    "The admissions process is separate from the awarding of tuition assistance. Children are first admitted to the school on a needs-blind basis. Only after a child is admitted does the Tuition Assistance Committee consider an application for tuition assistance. Application for tuition assistance will in no way affect a child’s chance for admission to San Francisco Friends School."

  6. Also, you may try to stand out somehow with your guide or docent...

    ...(in a good way!) One parent on a tour I led asked incessant questions about the Spanish program, obviously comparing it and failing it next to a Spanish immersion program.

  7. Children are first admitted to the school on a needs-blind basis.

    Perhaps that should say application-for-aid-blind basis. Your line of work, for starters, is pretty much a dead giveaway about your financial status.

  8. I absolutely agree with the comment about standing out with the guide. You ask the tough questions, but do not show yourself in a negative light. Honestly, I could see this in a movie - an aspiring family touring an elite private and ending up in a fist fight with the guide .. They would sure stand-out all right :)

  9. BTW, most of the private schools we toured offer Spanish, and most had spelling mistakes in the signs and posters created by the teacher. Depressing.

  10. Here's my two cents worth, as a parent who was rejected by our dream private, Notre Dame des Victoires.

    Don't apply to any private school for any reason other than you're excited about having your child go there. If your heart is in it, your enthusiasm and interest will show. It's not that your interest alone will necessarily get you in--schools look at many factors--but if you don't really want a school, they are not likely to want you.

    If you are not confident about your writing skills and an admission statement is required, seek the advice of someone you trust about organization, style, spelling and grammar. (I would never suggest this for high school applicants; I think the kid's work should be entirely her own by that age.) Your essay and other interaction with the school should show the admissions officer what your child and your family offer the school and why your family is a good fit for the school.

    Read the school's literature carefully before you go on the tour. Be considerate. Don't waste time asking questions covered in the literature. Don't annoy the tour guide or alienate other parents by monopolizing the tour guide. Ask questions because you want to know the answers, not to hear yourself talk or try to make an impression.

    Be yourself. Who wants to be part of a school community where you have to expend a lot of energy pretending to be someone you're not?

    If you love a school and need financial aid, apply for it. Don't let a dream for your child die because of rumors and speculation about how much aid might be available and who will be the preferred recipients. The worst they can do is say no, and the only thing you'll have lost is the time expended on the application.

    Encourage your kid to behave nicely at the play date but emphasize that it's a play date with some new kids and they're there to have fun. If your kid likes puzzles, tell them the testing is sort of like doing puzzles (as I believe is true). You don't want to have your kid get accepted on two-days-before-Santa-comes behavior, then get kicked out mid-year after they see "normal" behavior. You could be stuck with no school, and in some cases, liable for a full year's tuition.

    Try to find out your child's impressions without being too pushy or obvious. If they express a good reason for disliking a school, that's something to consider. But if you do end up with more than one choice, don't let the kid make the decision. You are the parent and know what's best at this age. (For middle and high school, more kid input is appropriate.) A kid could be motivated by very a minor factor such as the color of the play structure or whether they like the uniforms.

    Even if it's a big deal for you, try to avoid putting pressure on your child. If you have them, keep the "your whole future depends on this" feelings to yourself. If the child asks about a school where they were rejected, tell them the school did not have enough space for all the kids who wanted to go there.

    Be prepared for rejection and don't take it personally. It's true that private schools evaluate the children and the "no" letter is not fun to get. But remember that many other factors come into play in the decisions besides your child's wonderfulness: gender balance, family diversity, the suitability of your child's temperament for the school's classroom environment, and the mood of the person reviewing your application are just a few that come to mind.

    Don't overlook public and get your public school lists in on time. Even if, for your reasons, you consider public schools to be back-ups only, you will at least get a school, and it might be a very good one.

  11. You know, Marlowes Mom, I wouldn't even tell my child about the school itself, let alone ask if they wanted to go there. I think it's best to just tell them it's a playdate and leave it at that with the child. Sure, ask them what they thought and so forth, but at the end of the day, at this age, they will be happy pretty much wherever they end up anyways.

    And to the poster concerning Spanish - I'm sorry to tell you .. but most parents don't care if their kid doesn't come out totally fluent in a Spanish by the time they graduate. Frankly, it's a non-factor for most. Being exposed to another language at this stage is more than enough at this stage, unless you want a dual language school like CAIS or FAIS. I mean, I know, you know, they know, everyone knows, what to expect in that regard.

  12. To Marlowe,

    You really have a lot of good advice! Thanks for what you wrote...

    For me, the hardest part of the tours/interviews has been seeing my child through other people's eyes--something i never thought i would do.

    My child is bright, funny and can just be a dream, but if you get her at the wrong moment, she can really come off as a brat. unfortunately for us, at two of the schools she interviewed,, I just know she was awful. And that has been the hardest thing for me to accept--that perhaps other people don't see her as her parents do, and perhaps i did something wrong as a parent.

    I also feel like a total fraud at school interviews! If I knew i could get into my local public school, i think i'd just go. I have never studied in a private school, and i feel guilty even interviewing.

    I cannot believe how grueling this is, how much i still think about how i nervously blabbered on and on and on this interview, or made an idiot of myself at that one.

    its killing me.

  13. What i hate about the whole process (more than the stress, childcare costs, etc), is how much of this is out of our control!

    I mean, how many spots are there really at Live Oak? Hamlin?

    I feel like so much work goes into the process, and in the end, we probably never had a chance anyway!

  14. One thing that i feel i learned by the parent interview is how little we as parents matter in the process.

    First, every year, there are very few spots at SF Independent schools (after siblings are factored in).

    And it seems to me (judging by the number of tours i have taken) as if most families seeking to attend private school in San Francisco--for all its diversity-- are strikingly similar.

    Most children attend preschool (and judging by what I have seen, are just great kids), most parents are quite educated. Very few people are conservative, most people are comparatively affluent, and there are quite a large number who are interracial families (at least Asian/Caucasian) or speak another language at home.

    So how do they tell us apart? I don't have a clue. Really, I'm stumped.

    I guess it must be that the details become HUGE,
    and those details (your child's attitude the day of the playdate, for example or just having a kid who is extroverted or introverted)are out of my control.

    Last year at my daughter's preschool, several kids got accepted NO WHERE (although the parents had applied to an average of 5 or more schools). There was absolutely no difference between the kids who got accepted to schools like Burkes, Hamlin, FAIS, Friends and MCDS, and the children who were not accepted or were waitlisted. If anything, the kids who no one "wanted" were smarter and more interesting (in my opinion).

    That experience has taught me not to be surprised if my kid doesn't get in anywhere.

  15. Invisible woman -- I hope your public school choice works out. I too, was very uncomfortable with the private school process. Didn't know what to say, wasn't really sure I wanted to be there, but felt I needed to apply, at least as a back up. Of course, my ambivalence was likely quite clear, and we were rejected. Fortunately, we lucked out in the lottery and are at a great public school that we love. It feels so much more comfortable for us. Good luck to you and everyone else going through this grueling process.

  16. I think friends at private schools have a ton of pull. Also, it helps if your preschool teacher has a connection. If your child doesn't get into any privates, typically a savvy preschool teacher can pull some strings. I do think that people get in despite connections but typically it's much less common. If a dedicated parent at school knows another dedicated parent who is applying, of course that parent is going to have an advantage. Also, parents at private schools will warn admissions directors about difficult parents. Private schools can't afford to take chances on people.

  17. Does anyone know what goes on during the Assessment that kids who apply to Live Oak, Hamlin, SF Day etc go through?

    its coming up for us, and I'm real curious to see what that is all about!

  18. 11:05PM - i just went through the assessment at live oak, and it's really not a big deal. the kids are with the regular kindergarten teachers, and it's just like a big fun playdate. we just told our daughter she was going to play, and one of her preschool friends was going to be there (true) and she just ran off and had a blast.

  19. Hi,
    I meant that assessment at Temple Emmanuel?

    they go there for an hour and do what exactly?

  20. We just did the assessment at Temple Emmanuel. I did not give too many details to my kids - just that we are still looking for the "right" kindergarten for them and that they were each going to speak to a teacher one-on-one as part of the process. I was apprehensive as my twins are going through a period of separation anxiety at the moment but after a tear or two they were led off just fine and seemed to enjoy it though I did not get many details out of them. Best I can tell the questions were asked to assess kindergarten readiness.

  21. My understanding is that it is the really large preschools that sometimes end up with kids who get in nowhere initially, just because no independent school wants 10 kindergarteners from the same preschool class.. but they all end up getting in somewhere in the end off of waitlists, etc.

  22. I don't care if my kid learns another language. But I do care if they spend a whole hour a day on a subject and don't come close to mastering it in the end. So I'd rather they didn't bother teaching a language if they aren't going to do a good job of it.

  23. Does anyone have a point of view on if it is best to be in one of the earlier screening sessions vs. later sessions or does it really matter?

  24. Can anyone tell me the questions you were asked in the interview?

  25. Re: Interview questions,

    For us, every interview was a bit different. At Live Oak, it was very genial and easy going; the director is very friendly, and asked the basic standards: Where did you go to school, what has your daughter's preschool experience been like? etc.

    At SF Day, again, the same questions, and she seemed a bit rushed, but was pleasant enough.

    at Hamlin, it was a bit more tense, but the same questions were asked. That was definitely the least successful of our interviews.

    I got the impression that the interview's success was based on how much of a good fit they think your family/child will be. That was my personal impression, but since this whole process is a mystery to me,
    I could be very wrong!

    One good thing to remember is to have a good question ready, one that cannot be answered by the brochure, or the tour or by the coffees.

  26. 4:36 PM

    Chances are then, you will be dissapointed. I doubt that any of the schools aside from dual language learning (FAIS, CAIS, etc) have the intent of children mastering a foreign language.

  27. No, their goal is to please parents by saying they offer a foreign language.

    If your kid couldn't solve simple word problems after 8 years of Math, you wouldn't be that thrilled about their having spent an hour a day on it.

  28. What made the Hamlin interview more tense?

  29. I don't really get this 'all or nothing' attitude to teaching a foreign language. Do you apply the same thing to art? music? swimming? (well, honey, you aren't going to Juilliard, so let's can the music lessons). How about if the kids come out with enough to have a conversation with someone and if they enjoy the class? That's enough for me.

  30. I think it's the same all-or-nothing language troll from the other thread... Anyway, a daily or even weekly hour of French or Spanish vastly improves SAT results!

  31. Enough with the Spanish language complaints already! Haven't we discussed this to death in other threads? If you want Spanish immersion, apply to public schools. Let's talk about the private school process here. This is not about changing the curriculum at private schools.

  32. I didn't think the Live Oak admissions director was impressed with us. I think she thought we were a couple of stuffed shirts. It's like you really have to have your hippie, liberal credentials pasted on your sleeve or something. We're two very liberal, open-minded people, but maybe our hairstyles or outfits didn't show it?

  33. We have had three interviews so far, and I find it impossible to say how any of them went. We were in for more than an hour at both SF Day and Friends, which might be a good sign, but I didn't come out necessarily feeling like it at gone "well". At SF Day it was a very chatty. In both cases it would have been a nice dinner party conversation about our backgrounds, child development, education etc., but since it was an interview I am not sure. We might have been too easy going about it. Live Oak was swifter, and the admissions director there seemed to have more of an "agenda" that she wanted through in terms of talking about our child etc.

    Our child is pretty social and good with grown ups, so the screening at Temple Emanuel and the one play date she has been on so far seemed fine. She was smiling walking out of both, but she is like all children, and refuses to say anything about what she did and how it was. She is bilingual, and had refused to speak her second language to the tester at the screening. I am not too worried about that though, since they really should know how person- and place-specific languages are to children that age.

    Whatever way it all falls in the end, it is stressful to feel like one has so little control over the outcome, and that there is no knowing what might be a deciding factor one way or the other. I agree that there are so many good kids and decent, resourceful families, that there has to be an element of luck in the end. Maybe connections are a big deal, in which case we are in trouble. We are now trying to think of ways of playing that angle, but isn't it possible that it can backfire too? I am European, from one of the countries where "trying too hard", (or appearing to be) is a sin, and I find it cringe-inducing to listen to my American husband at some of these interviews.

  34. "You don't want to have your kid get accepted on two-days-before-Santa-comes behavior, then get kicked out mid-year after they see "normal" behavior. "

    While I agree with a lot of what Marlowe's mom said, I do want to point out that this particular situation is unlikely. There are plenty of poorly-behaved kids in private school and they don't get kicked out for being disruptive. A pre-K child's "best" behavior is still going to give a pretty accurate picture to a school of whether the kid would be someone they want in the class.

    Also, if the screening doesn't go well but the school thinks they might be interested in admitting the child, sometimes they go to the preschool for more observation. Just FYI.

  35. 11:52

    You sound just like us! we are a multiracial and bilingual family, and my husband also comes from a European country where trying to talk yourself up (anti-social and against "solidarity") is in bad form.

    I was wondering which language your bilingual child wouldn't speak at the assessment. I don't think they talked to ours in a foreign language.

    Anyway, our assessment seemed to go well. what i was able to tease out of it is there is some sequencing work (asking a kid to repeat stuff), and some drawing. Thats all my kid would say. The assessors seemed quite nice, and my kid didn't seem stressed by it at all.

    But, that whole one on one thing (people leading your child away), freaked me out though.

    Yes, i also know what you mean by the interviews. we haven't done friends yet, but i couldn't tell what they were thinking at the other interviews. Plus, i feel like such an a-- when i talk up our kid, or ourselves. We both come from working class/lower class background and both put ourselves through school, and we both have multiple degrees and we both learned different languages, but so what? Isn't that everyone in SF?!!

    We also know NO ONE who has any private school pull; the vast majority of our friend's kids are a bit older, and got into good public schools when it wasn't so hard.

    And then I go to Hamlin or SF Friends and i see how some parents monopolize the directors and I just cringe. First, i could never do that--it seems rude. And Second, i suck at that sort of thing; i was raised that that is wrong, and i'm shy. Anyway, its just plain intimidating, and although i want a great education for my kid, the thought of having to greet these type of parents daily makes me just wanna puke.

    Maybe we don't belong in a place like that if we aren't good at that sort of thing....

  36. 11:18,

    My impression of the Live Oak director wasn't like that at all. We definitely don't look like hippies (does anyone?), and she seemed pretty nice. Maybe she was rushed?

    These people are so well trained in giving little away, who knows what she was thinking (maybe they should go play poker!).

    I swear, after the interviews we have been on, it just seems your child's abilities/behavior/diversity/and the je ne sais quoi they are looking for is what seals the deal; the parents must just not be pains in the butt.

    And someone asked about assessments. What I have heard is that its better to get assessments later rather than earlier. Apparently, they actually stopped assessing in December because of this (the December assessments were markedly lower than the later dates). But this is blind gossip.

  37. @3:00pm, loved your post, but did have to laugh at this:

    got into good public schools when it wasn't so hard

    It's always been hard, or at least in the last 35 years has been (since desegregation, which I am very glad for btw). Finding a good public school is a rite of passage for SF parents. Kate/Amy wrote a blog post comparing it to pregnancy and labor. I might even argue it is easier in some ways now as the number of schools considered "good" has increased so much, though I would admit the process is more complicated--in part by more options--and therefore more stressful in that regard.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the underlying humor of your post. Good luck in landing a school that works for your kid and for you!

  38. The key, if you care about foreign languages, is not to dismiss those schools that don't start until 4th or 6th grade. Those schools that start in kindergarten don't give their kids that much of an advantage. Most of the kids end up in Spanish 2 in high school, regardless of whether they started in kindergarten or 6th grade.

  39. I hear families that need limited aid still have a shot at admission this year, but if you need a full ride (or even 80 percent) you are unlikely to be admitted at all.

    Some of the families with smaller needs for aid might be admitted *without* a financial aid offer because the admissions office susupects the family might be able to come up with the necessary tuition money somehow...

  40. has anyone had their Burke's or Hamlin interviews yet?

  41. Is it true that you don't want your kid to do *too* well on the IQ test part of the assessments because non of the privates are geared up to teach truly gifted children, just the merely bright?

  42. Come on,

    Gifted? Most kids are Lake Wobegon "gifted" --lets try to put our precocious children in perspective please.

    Affluence and dedicated parents breed "gifted" kids. Funny how in the end, they really don't end up any different from the rest of us. I was smarter than most kids growing up, and was always named gifted. big deal--i'm just an adult now.

    Growing up, i was in "gifted" classes. you know what that meant to me? That thats where the put the white kids in diverse schools.

    If a kid is gifted, I'm more than sure that private schools can handle them. they do what they do at the assessment.

    And the Hamlin interview was fine. Lisa seemed nice enough, and I'm not sure how our interview went; we are a lot different than the stereotype of the Hamlin family (but remember that Lisa said 65% of parents there are dual income). You'll be fine if you come prepared, know what you want for your daughter and be yourself.
    good luck

  43. So... is it true that at the Temple Emmanuel assessments they are just looking to single out the kids who are NOT ready for kinder and that it doesn't matter how well your child does, only that they are deemed ready for Kinder?

    (In other words, they are looking to rule out kids who aren't ready, not identify kids who are likely to excel academically, or something..)

    Can someone confirm?

  44. 8:06 PM

    My thoughts exactly! Our daughter got into MCDS (it has been a couple of years, her sibling is entering this year) - she is one of those kids whom we (and others) definitely would have labeled as 'gifted' We never had an IQ test (we just don't care ..), but let me just say she is more than bright. We wanted nothing more than for her to be happy, both socially and academically and we saw a school that we thought would nurture her. Last on our list was the intent to develop her 'gifts' for our own sake - she's a kid for crying out loud, and we wanted her to have friends, be happy, love learning, and love her school. We feel that we have found the perfect place for her and our family. Isn't that what we all want?

  45. Profoundly gifted kids often have social issues -- and even learning disabilities -- that most schools are not equipped to address. They also can find the typical school curriculum boring/not challenging.

    I'm talking kids reading Harry Potter before on their own before entering kindergarten and doing algebra in third grade, not just bright kids who are quick learners and otherwise well rounded.

    I'm sorry, but most schools are *not* equipped to differentiate and support those kids, not just academically but socially. And few of them get admitted for those reasons.

  46. What you describe sounds a lot more like a genius--and not simply a gifted or precocious child.

    Sorry, if that’s your kid, I got nothin' for you. But chances are, you're a genius too--so you'll figure it out.

    If a kid is that gifted, (provided you are in a milieu that identifies that child as such), hopefully its teachers can help you in your dilemma; you're not going to glean much insight from lowly blogs and you need a different type of help.

    good luck to you.

  47. What the heck is this assessment that's taking place at Temple Emanuel?

  48. I wish I could remember the name of the test, but our kid did a kindergarten-readiness screening at NDV. He went off with the teacher for it. From the testing company's web site, I got the impression that the test evaluates the child's verbal skills and ability to manipulate objects and solve age-appropriate puzzles. It's definitely a standardized test used by many private schools for K admission. After the fact, we were told he was kindergarten-ready but the pushy, Energizer Bunny behavior he demonstrated at the play date would not be a good fit. In hindsight I am certain the school made the right decision. He's better off in a small classroom where he can be reined in without the other kids being shortchanged.

  49. Marlowe's Mom,
    You are correct in your assessment of NDV. Their class size is large, and outliers--louder or more rambunctions children are subject to more discipline. Our Preschool advisor asked us not to apply to this school. She thought we were setting up our child for failure in a large class size school such as this.

    In the end, that is my fear: that we will get into a school that she doesn't fit into. Did you notice at Live Oak how many of the students that spoke during the tours were from somewhere else? Now, is that a good thing for Live Oak or a bad thing for the other schools (at our visit, Hamlin, SF Day and Rooftop)?

  50. I heard that Burkes has private coffees for families that they really want. Has anyone else heard about this?

    are there really "inside track" activities for the privates?

    If so, were screwed. No one has hipped us to these!

  51. I have never heard of "inside track" activities from any parents at our private school, but I also didn't apply to Burke's for my child. It may be that some schools do that (I really hope not though), but certainly not all of them.

  52. The written test you're referring to is called the Beery-Buktenica Test and it tests for visual-motor integration. My child took it when he was in Occupational Therapy at age 4 and again when he did his private school screening. It's a great early indicator for reading & writing. Click here for more info about the test and click here for an example of what the questions look like. Hope this helps!

  53. I didn't realize independent schools used this test as a screening tool. My daughter took this test when she was 9, and the results started us off down the path of an eventual diagnosis of a learning disability. If we'd applied to private schools maybe we'd have had an indication there was a problem years earlier. I got the impression that it takes a pretty experienced person to interpret this test accurately though -- maybe schools just use it as a really broad brush tool? Do they tell parents if the results are really off?

  54. Last year I also heard reports that Burkes had some kind of private-ish coffee. I'm not sure who was invited (we weren't).

    Whatever it was, our kid was admitted. So I wouldn't stress about it all that much.

  55. We got invited to a Burke's coffee this year -- and from the invitation, I assumed that it was sent to everyone who applied. Nothing seemed to indicate that we are "special" at this point in their admissions process -- we haven't had the play date yet, we don't know anyone at the school and we don't add any visible diversity. The invitation let us choose one of ~6 different dates, which seems to be set up to increase the ability of everyone to attend. It also says that it's an "optional" event. So I doubt it's only to a select group of those who have applied....

  56. 8:14

    The Coffees you were invited to are not the private invitation-only ones that we are speaking about.

  57. Some applicants are special and the schools compete for them: families that add significant diversity; families that have substantial bank accounts and track records of giving; famous people. Then there's the rest of us.

    "Private" coffees are abhorrent, but I'm not surprised they exist. does anyone know if it's just Burke's that does this or do the other schools do it too?

    I wouldn't worry if you didn't get invited to one; plenty of us are just "normal" people, and we still get spots at these schools.

  58. ARE you sure these coffees aren't urban legends? Too bad we can check on

  59. re: financial aid for the independent schools - does anyone know if admission to the independent high schools is need blind? If one asks for financial aid, are your chances less if you request aid? Specifically, I'm wondering about University, Bay, Drew and Urban.

    Thank you in advance!

  60. I don't know if chances are less if you apply for aid. We didn't apply for aid, and now I regret it. We went over our finances after we'd already applied and now realize there's no way we can really afford private, even by cutting back. And that's just for one kid. The whole thing seems like a big waste of time because even if my kid gets in we'll have to turn the spot down. We should have just stuck with public or parochial.

  61. In people's experiences, how forthright are admissions directors during the parent interview? In one of ours, the director told us outright that our child would be a great addition to the incoming kindergarten class (based on the essays but who knows what's going to come out of the assessment and playdate) and that we were a good fit with the school's community. I certainly don't want to get my hopes up, but you wouldn't say that to someone who doesn't have a snowball's chance in getting in, right?

  62. Anyone have any hints/advice/insight with SF Waldorf School?

  63. I think if you ask in the right way, most schools will be willing to tell you if the kindergarten-readiness screenings reveal obvious issues you should be dealing with. We sent a written request after we got our rejection, making it clear that we were not questioning the decision, only wondering if there were any learning or behavioral issues we should be addressing. We did get a call-back and were grateful for the school's candor.

  64. Responses to various other topics raised:

    Inside tracks: maybe it helps some people, but our daughter got into Convent for high school. We knew nobody, are the world's worst schmoozers, and had nothing to contribute financially. There were some wealthy socialite types there (mostly very friendly and unpretentious BTW), but also kids from a wide range of backgrounds on full and partial scholarships. Based on that experience, I think that it's about the kid in the vast majority of the cases. I hope this won't sound too obnoxious but our daughter is charming, well-behaved and a diligent student, and she really wanted to go to Convent. I expect that's why she was accepted. K children are not likely to feel as strongly as she did about where they want to go, but most admissions staff have been at this game a long time and want to admit children who will succeed in their environment.

    For parochial schools with competitive admissions, belonging to the parish is advantageous.

    I never heard of any of these "private coffee" things. They sound obnoxious, but if they existed at Convent, our not being invited was not to our daughter's disadvantage.

    There seems to be a substantial amount of paranoia about the competitive private school admission process. If you're that uncomfortable with it, it might be wise to avoid it. Some privates and parochials have open enrollment and might be good fits if you want to go that route, and of course keep your hand in the public lottery.

    Admission Staff Honesty: If you have a meeting or other conversation with the admissions staff, my impression is that they will be pretty honest. If they've got a lot of kids vying for few spots, I doubt they'd say they think you'd be a great fit if they did not mean it. They'd say something more neutral, like "We're delighted you're so interested in our school and we'll be in touch." However I would not get hopes too much for any school before your child goes through any testing and the play date because that's where they see your child in action.

    Waldorf: See the "Is the School District Ready for an Influx of Students?" thread. Though it's somewhat off-topic for that thread, there's some heated discussion of Waldorf over there.

  65. Thanks - that thread is a combat zone fight about a potential charter waldorf. I am applying to the privtae waldorf. Any help?

  66. about the admissions director comment -- I agree he or she was likely being honest. However, chances are that more than 20, or 10 or 6 (if they are balancing for gender) kids they meet would be a great fit for the school. So, it doesn't mean you're in, necessarily. Probably safe to assume you'll at least be wait listed. Good luck though -- sounds like you passed the first hurdle.

  67. about the admissions director comment -- I agree he or she was likely being honest. However, chances are that more than 20, or 10 or 6 (if they are balancing for gender) kids they meet would be a great fit for the school. So, it doesn't mean you're in, necessarily. Probably safe to assume you'll at least be wait listed. Good luck though -- sounds like you passed the first hurdle.

  68. @9:45
    Are you rich, famous? There has got to be something else going on other than, "we can tell by the essays that you'd be a great fit here." Everyone presents themselves and their child in an idealized fashion in the essays. Come on, 'fess up! You can afford to donate a new gym or something.

  69. The Live Oak admissions director told two friends of ours that their family would be a terrific fit and their kid a great addition. I'll let you know if we hear the same thing ;-)

  70. I'm 9:45, and @3:49, yep, that's what the Live Oak director told us! I'm still laughing. I promise that, when we get the March notifications, I'll say if we were accepted, waitlisted, or 'thanks but no thanks'. :)

    @2:13, we are so not famous. We aren't techies (e.g. no Apple or Google or any dotcom in our family), City hotshots or celebrities. And we come from humble stock, so no venerable family name there. What we did in our essays was to be clear-eyed about our kid. We were trying to paint the whole picture - not sugarcoating anything. We figured that our kid's less than stellar attributes were going to come out anyway. I can't tell you if our candor piqued anyone's interest, but it was important to us that we not gush about how brilliant the kid is.

  71. The girls got goody bags at the Burke's playdate.

    So glad it wasn't our first playdate or my daughter would be set up for disappointment at the other schools.

    RE: Live Oak posts. VERY funny. Certainly would make me doubt her sincerity.

  72. Goody bags??? What on earth was in them? That is just ridiculous. Please do not assume that what happens at places like Burke's is what happens at all private schools - it certainly didn't happen at ours.

  73. I think quite a few families got that line from Live Oak last year and many of them got wait listed....

  74. Yes -- I think the Live Oak admissions director is downright insincere. I'm sorry to say that, but I believe it's true. Don't take too seriously anything she says to you.

  75. Live Oak is last on my list anyway. Screw that crunchy, granola BS. I don't really feel like working the mandatory 60 hours a year in volunteer work on pain of losing my $500 deposit--on top of what I would already pay in tuition. The kids there seemed way too pampered with none of the chutzpah that would come from public schools or a private with a more competitive atmosphere. I mean everything seemed handed to them. Even the parents seemed like trust fund babies with no drive.

  76. I would definitely take the Live Oaks Admission Director's comments with a grain of salt, especially if I had a daughter. Do you all know that there will only be 3 non-sibling spots for girls this year at Live Oak?
    Those who have daughters should have saved themselves the application fee and interview stress.

  77. Chutzpah or neuroses? ;-)

    RE: Burke's goody bags.. they just had two "Burke's" pencils, an eraser in the shape of a butterfly and a sticker. Nothing over the top.

  78. I knew about the three open slots for non-sibling girls at LO, and I went ahead and applied anyway. Call me crazy and impractical, but I seriously thought we had a BETTER shot there than at MCDS, for example.

    I've been thinking about the whole application process lately. I was stressed for a while, but you know what? It's not worth it. There are so many factors surrounding private school applications, many of which I have absolutely no control. I refuse to let that kind of stress rule my life and affect my kids. It's not fair to them. We'll get into a school, maybe not our first choice, but we took care to choose only schools where we'd be happy as a family. The same goes for our public school list; we found seven schools where we think our kids will thrive.

    I say all that ^^^...but I still get stressed. I'm no saint. I'll say for all of us that the end of March will bring some sense of relief and closure. I hope.

  79. 10:40 Don't worry, with that kind of attitude, you definitely won't get in at Live Oak. Crunchy granola BS crisis averted!

  80. Even a couple of pencils would rub me the wrong way. I'm interested in finding ways to reduce the amount of "stuff" in our lives and a gratuitous goody bag, whatever is in it, sends the signal that Burke's is not a school that supports that concept.

  81. By contrast, public schools would be asking YOU for pencils! (Gratuitous comment without a barb, from a public school booster, but I couldn't resist making the observation.)

  82. 8:21 - Why do you think your chances are better at Live Oak than MCDS?

    11:54 -- You might have trouble finding a school that supports your values. There is a group of nutrition-conscious Moms trying to ban lunchables from our neighborhood elementary school because their children covet them and they have so little to offer in terms of nutrition. However, it is creating a real rift between middle class and working class families.

  83. How important is the head of school?

    Is a good school head a reason to apply to a school? If you don't like the head but otherwise like the school, is it still worth applying?

    We LOVED the new head at Hamlin, but thought the school felt rigid and stifling. We liked the "feel" at Burke's better, but the new head of school made the kind of sexist comment during her presentation that made me doubt her vision for an all-girls' school.

  84. "There is a group of nutrition-conscious Moms trying to ban lunchables from our neighborhood elementary school "

    good luck

    Some of the kids at school bring huge bottles of coke and a bag of doritos for their lunch. If you say anything to the parents they respond: "get outta my face bitch".

  85. Where, what school? You did this and that was the verbatim response? What exactly did you say to that parent? Or did you make this story up? Seems like a stereotype to me.

    I know of several neighborhood schools that have done appropriate nutrition education with families and quite successfully. Teachers and afterschool programs have had family nutrition night, and some teachers have banned unhealthy snacks from the classroom, with positive results. Most low-income kids take the free breakfast and lunch anyway so it's not an issue of bringing soda and chips.

  86. Regarding public school food -- SFUSD has a comprehensive policy governing food served in the caf and sold on site (see for details).

    As for food brought from home, principals can set guidelines if they so choose. I have to say that in the absence of a school policy it wouldn't be advisable for a parent volunteer to confront someone else's child about even a ghastly junk-food lunch -- at public or private school. How would you like it if some other parent lit into your child about some activity you were fine with but that parent disapproved of?

    (A teacher monitoring the yard once yelled at my then-7yo son for not wearing a jacket on a day the teacher felt everyone needed one -- without any prior rule or warning. My son has always run hot and said he wasn't cold. I might well have been tempted to snap "get outta his face bitch..." if I'd been there.)

    That said, the soda/Doritos culture is a lot of the reason that school food activists encourage more student to eat in the caf, where the food meets nutrition criteria. (Almost all SFUSD high school and middle schools now have salad bars in the cafeteria.)

  87. I said to the parent: "The lunch you packed isn't very healthy, is it?"

    The response was exactly "Get outta my face, bitch. I don't tell you how to feed your kid."

    So it sounds like a stereotype, but it happened.

    It was stupid of me to say anything, and it wasn't any of my business, so the parent had a right to get angry at me.

  88. Aside from the 3 non-sibling spots for girls at Live Oak, does anyone know the non-sibling breakdown at other schools this year? At this point, it won't affect our application decisions, but I am curious....

  89. 2:40, I understand the impulse, but it's probably more productive to get involved on an activist level. If I may say so, before we parent volunteers got to work, SFUSD kids could buy the soda and Doritos right there in the caf or from handy vending machines at school!

    Sorry, TOTALLY off topic; as you were.

  90. I said to the parent: "The lunch you packed isn't very healthy, is it?"

    It's not too late; they can teach your KIDS basic social skills in the private or public school that admits you...

  91. I'm interested in people's thoughts about Hamlin vs. Burke's, too.

    We liked Burke's better, but found the new head uninspiring. The new Hamlin head is much more impressive, thoughtful and inspiring. (The Burke's head couldn't answer simple Qs about the stats she shared comparing the ERB of girls at girls schools to the average scores at suburban public schools and at indep schools nationwide. And she prefaced that section of her presentation by telling the Moms they could tune out the data, that stats were just for Dads!)

    But how much of an influence will either woman have on our daughter's kinder experience? Elementary school experience?

  92. "it's probably more productive to get involved on an activist level."

    WTF? Is that because the other parent might get hurt?

  93. Stats just for dads? Are you serious? At a girls school?!?!?!

  94. Well, 6:32, at least it's likely to cause unpleasantness, and be ineffective.

    Urging the principal to establish a schoolwide policy might be more productive. Some principals are very responsive. Some otherwise good principals have been hostile even to SFUSD's Wellness Policy, which sets nutritional standards for all foods sold at schools, on the other hand. Some deliberately defy it.

    Sorry, off-topic again.

  95. 6:33 -- Yes, she joked that the Moms could "tune out now" as she intro'd the section on stats.

    She did that at the tour presentation I attended and at least one other time because I heard about it from others. We know of at least one family that did not apply because of her comment. It was pretty shocking to us.

    She also was unable to answer whether the comparative test scores for the suburban middle schools and independent schools were for girls in those settings or all students in those schools. I'm not sure you can really credit girls' schools for higher scores unless the averages in other settings are for girls only. Otherwise, it could be that the boys typically score lower than girls at that age and drag the average down. I would *never* show stats in a presentation unless I understood what they represented. Overall, not very impressive at all.

    However, I do hear she knows every girl by name, which is a credit to her nonetheless...

  96. I would much rather have skipped the Burke's goody bag in exchange for an even-slightly-lower-than-$100-application fee. There are a lot of things I like about the school, but thriftiness isn't one of them.

  97. I agree, 10:14, I'd lower the app cost rather than give pencils and erasers too. And didn't it feel like a cattle call in the library? Seems like there could have been an easier way than cramming everyone together then making the girls file through a big crowd away from their parents to some uncertain future.
    Is this the low point in the process? Because it's become wildly depressing to me. I feel like a bad parent for subjecting my daughter to these screenings, although everyone keeps saying the kids don't mind. It feels wrong to put a 4 yr old out there to be judged for suitability.
    (We applied to public, too.)

  98. My daughter is loving the screenings. She keeps asking when she can go on another group playdate at a new school. She compares the books they read,the games they play, the things they are asked to draw and do -- even their methods for breaking the kids into smaller groups. She has made some new buddies and talks about the kids she has seen at more than one school.

    She loves them so much, I was able to get her to behave the other day by threatening to cancel her next kinder visit!

    We are surprised because she usually doesn't take well to separating from us and is slow to warm with new adults... Maybe we don't know her as well as we thought. Or maybe it helps that the schools we have visited so far are schools she has heard about from friends' older siblings...

    In any event, the process need not be traumatic.

  99. I think it's important to keep in mind that even though YOU know that your kid is being judged, if you want to look at it that way, your child doesn't necesarily think of it that way. What we told our kids was that we were visiting schools to find the ones that would be good places for them - we presented it as us figuring out what we thought of the schools, not the schools figuring out what they thought of us.

    As for whether the head of the school is important, I would say that it's important but is one of only a number of factors. I think the head of our kids' school (Cathy Hunter at Friends) is fantastic and she is cetainly a huge factor in the overall success of that school. One of her great attributes as a head is her faculty hiring. However, since its a new school there's a unified committment and attitude through the whole administration and staff. Most schools have faculty, staff, and trustees who have joined the school over the years, often under a different head of school. In that case there are more varied influences in the school than you would find at Friends, and the head's position on issues isn't always going to be the dominant one. So I would say that the head of school is one thing to consider, but not the only thing.

  100. I think that is pretty obvious: That the head of school is just one factor.

    The poster's question probably has more to do with the relative weight of that factor, specifically w/regard to the girls' schools.

  101. Just went for our assessment at at Temple Emmanuel, but the assessors were locked outside. Bummer! Now I have to reschedule my appointment on a work day instead of a holiday when everyone is off.

  102. What a nightmare!

    Someone really messed up.

  103. We are NOT telling our child that we're visiting schools to see which one is right for her.

    We really do not want her to think the choice is up to us or she will start lobbying for her favorite.

    We have told her that we are visiting lots of schools because we don't know what school we will end up at and we want her to see what different big kid schools look like.

    She has been told that we don't get to pick the school. That the schools decide which children go to which school, but that we will have fun visiting lots of them while we wait to hear which one she will attend.

  104. It is helpful to hear that others' children are enjoying the playdates. (Although stating that it need not be traumatic perhaps is not terribly empathetic to those who haven't taken to these as naturally.) I'm sure the schools are trying to make them as pleasant as possible for the children.
    So how about rephrasing the problem: until now, I've been able to maintain a fairly "que sera sera" attitude about the whole thing, but it's escaping me of late as the intensity of the school search has racheted up and my child has gotten involved in the process.
    Advice on keeping perspective? I know intellectually it's a waste of energy to worry about what's going to happen, but am having trouble staying zen about it. Had a dream last night that I needed to get the child ready at 3:15am so she could be "assessed" in her sleep.

  105. 12:54, I am in the same boat. We're going through the play date process now and I can't help but wonder, "What are they looking for? Do they like my child? Is she a good fit? Is this all a big mistake and am I wasting my time because we are such a longshot?" So far, my daughter's had a great time at her play dates, and she even speaks fondly of one of them in particular.

    I'm taking the long view in that almost any kindergarten classroom will be exciting and new to her. Our job was to pick the schools where we thought she'd be nurtured and happy and eager to learn. We can't do much else beyond that.

    It's a really gutwrenching process. I've had quite a few sleepless nights too.

  106. Burke's versus Hamlin.

    It's so interesting how differently people react to these two schools. We strongly favored Hamlin, where we ended up, but others from our preschool favored Burke's, where they ended up (given a choice of either). It might be that the schools show differently on different days, but I would say trust your gut instinct, and of course talk to as many people as you can to get a feel for what the school is really like.

    We are very happy at Hamlin and love the parents and kids in our daughter's kindergarten group. She's happy to go to school most days. The girls all love Wanda Holland Greene; my daughter talks about her all the time, sees her regularly, loves to run up and hug her, and is delighted that she knows her name. I do think the head of school sets a tone, and for a new head at an OLD school it might take time for the tone to permeate throughout the entire school.

    I can't speak to Burke's at all since I only experienced it going through the admissions process last year.

  107. In answer to the SF Waldorf School question, remember that you are joining an alternative (progressive) school. Some of the practices (e.g. no media policy) are very encouraging to many, but you must be prepared to follow the practices to get the full benefit of the school. Would you consider yourself progressive? If so, then this school will probably be great for you.

  108. Re: Live Oak,
    We also were told our child was great, and we would be a great addition to the Live Oak community, and were told how much we would love it there!

    I think this is like FAIS-- don't believe it until you have the acceptance in your hand!!!

  109. 7:31 -- What were your reasons for preferring Hamlin?

    What were the other families reasons for preferring Burke's?

    Trying to sort through the relative strengths and weaknesses, which is hard to do after just a couple of visits at each school.

  110. I had heard that at Hamlin they are looking to recruit and groom super-stars, and that at Burke's they are looking for nice, well-rounded girls from nice families?

    Is that true or just a stereotype?

    Did I even get the stereotype right?

    Not even sure...

  111. I am also terribly anxious about Hamlin. I have heard such horrible stories about the pressures there, and how mean the girls are to each other and themselves.

    can anyone please tell me how the kindergarten class is? I have a smart but smart a** kid, and really wonder if it is too structured for her.

    at the same time, i heard Mr. Montoya taught at Live Oak last year, so how tight can the school really be?

    My husband prefers this school, but i really never saw a girl smile there.

  112. I think danny montoya was one of the stricter teachers at Live Oak.

  113. 9:06 - What other schools does your husband like? Which schools do *you* like?

  114. Does everyone *have* a first choice school?

    We feel as if no choice is perfect. We have not applied to any schools we wouldn't be thrilled to have our child attend, but they all have one or two things we really don't like about them, and one or two things we *love*.

    We know the admissions committees will help narrow down our choices, though we do feel that if we had a clear 1st choice, it would be easier to pull out all the stops.

  115. My daughter is in Danny Montoya's class at Hamlin and she does nothing but smile all day! The guy is amazing - the unique curriculum he's developed to help girls' social/emotional development, to keep them loving learning. Both of her teachers so warm, so responsive, so intuitive about kids and so much FUN.

    I had all the same reservations about Hamlin because of it's playground rep, but so far (as you can see) I'm really thrilled. I can't imagine a better K experience.

    In terms of whether Hamlin fits your daughter, see how the process turns out. Schools truly want their students to be successful. Unless you're a bazillionaire, or your daughter is really unusual from a diversity standpoint, she probably won't be admitted unless she's a pretty good fit.

  116. Marivi:

    My first choice is Live Oak because of the constructivist pedagogy, and because I really feel they would value and teach my child for the unique person she is. I love the diversity and that my child wouldn't be any different there--we are mixed with every race in my family, and we speak 3 languages at home.

    But I am also leery of Live Oak for that reason--she can run circles around people who don't set boundaries. We are trying to teach her to self-control, but she can be very impulsive and determined, and we are wondering if a school with more structure would be better for her. I keep trying to remember what she will be like at graduation were she to attend Live Oak, and i am worried.

    My Husband prefers Hamlin. But I have heard way too many stories about cliques, mean girls, racism, etc (but these are from graduates 10 years ago, and present tutors--i have no first hand knowledge of this). Hamlin impresses me--and intimidates me, and gives me an uneasy feeling all at the same time.

    We also like SF Day well enough, but oddly, we don't know one person who ever went to that school, and so we are worried that we don't know enough.

    Friends also looks intriguing, but we now it is really hard to get into and is far away.

    Presido Hill was lovely, but not enough structure (MCDS and Synergy also struck us the same way).

    We are atheists, so the parochial schools were out of the question.

    We were thinking of the language schools, but decided against them. We both studied in France and just feel that she would not do well in such a rigid system.

    and there are several public schools, were she to get in, we would send her to.

  117. 10:24

    As someone who is hella diverse, I really have to tell you being the fly in the milk is not the Ace that people seem to think it is!

    We know several families who are swarthy or speak different languages at home, or have different families (2 dads or 2 moms), or are poor or are rich, and their admittance into schools didn't deviate much from other families not similarly situated (i.e., plain vanilla families)!

    Mostly, these diverse kids (and it varies), who were bright and talented and beautiful, either didn't get in, or got waitlisted like everyone else.

    I think last year's Hamlin class was especially diverse, but I wonder what this year's class will look like. Plus, at schools like MCDS, SF Day, Friends and Live Oak, there are so many families that are diverse, it’s no edge at all (if it was ever an edge).

    Just 'cause you look like Barack doesn't mean they are gonna roll the red carpet out for you.

  118. What is considered a "good fit" for Hamlin vs. a "good fit" for Burke's?

    Anyone have an inkling?

  119. Yeah, we know two two-Mom families that didn't get in *anywhere* last year (just waitlisted.. though they eventually got spots) and one Spanish-speaking family that only got into one school out of 7 they applied to.

  120. 10:24

    You are right--why do we obsess when clearly we have no idea where we will get in?

    I have seen so many great kids--it is amazing how much "cooler" kids are these days (do you even see bullies anymore?).

    But I would really like to know what a "good fit" is with a school like Hamlin/Burkes/Convent?

    Do they all want the same girls?

    Or do you have to be able to "bridge the Gap" (Hamlin reference)?

    Do they only take smart, pliant, obedient girls--last year, that definitely seemed the case at most schools (boys or girls, the more precocious or lively kids seemed to get shut out, while the quieter more plain kids got in everywhere).

    Is there any divesity in personality of the girls?

  121. 10:46,

    Certainly true that diversity isn't a golden ticket. Wrote post quickly, sorry if came across poorly.

    I do believe Hamlin is committed to diversity. Our class is quite diverse by independent school standards; I would be very surprised if we turn out to be the exception.

    To the other poster, there's definitely a range of personalities - some girls are quiet, some outspoken, some physical, some not. I have no idea whether they are representative of the entire spectrum, but certainly the kids in my daughter's class aren't all of the same mold.

  122. Can someone explain the reference to "bridge the gap"?

    Also: Do Hamlin and Burke's accept the same type of girl?

    I have heard that Summer birthdays are more likely to be admitted to Burke's than Hamlin... but that is about it.

  123. LOL, has anyone interviewed at Live Oak and *not* been told that they'd be a great fit/addition to the school?

  124. 90% of families would be a great fit, it's just that there's not enough room for all of them. should the director just tell everyone they suck, seeing as how, odds are, they won't get in?

  125. I sometimes wonder if diversity also means a diversity of personalities wihtin the incoming class.

    Ok, I'm one of those Live Oak prospectives who has a daughter (go ahead and laugh, I deserve it). During our parent interview (whom I really liked, thought she was genuinely warm) she asked us a bit about our daughter's personality and thought that she would add a lil somethin' somethin' to the known sibling girls who will be there. It sounded like they wanted to not have a class where the girls had the same sort of personality. So, mixing outgoing and more introspective girls. Just speculating, though.

    I do think she was being sincere (echoing 1:28's comment) that a lot of us would be good fits with Live Oak, it's just a lack of available slots. I am with 10:36, though - I also wonder if my nutty, outlier daughter needs more structure to rein her in. Does the Live Oak education adequately prepare her for how rigorous high school and life in general will be?

    On another note - does anyone have any insight into CAIS? I don't hear much being said about it on this blog (unless I missed it somehow), but because immersion is so hot in the public schools these days, they must get a fair number of applicants and keep a waitlist?

  126. I know there has been discussion about how to prepare your child for the observed playdates already. My daughter is very cautious and clingy in new situations, takes a long time to warm up, etc. Has anybody seen a child who simply refuses to go with the others or enter the room, who freaks out wailing and won't let go of mom? I'm wondering how to handle the separation should this (very likely) occur. Should we even bother to continue the process as that type of behavior will probably automatically cross her off the list for consideration. Has anybody every seen parents accompany their children during the playdate/interview? HELP!

  127. 2.:17 -- I am in the same boat! We have not started yet with the playdates but there were tears before the 1:1 assessment. Luckily, once she was away from me they went away quickly and she had fun but I am still anxious about all that is coming up and I know there will be some sort of scene at each one. I was thinking that this is something the schools must be used to BUT the letter from FAIS specifically says that your child must be able to separate and if they can't maybe they aren't ready for kindergarten or something like that. They give you a chance to try it at 2 playdates. I have no idea if the other schools have this attitude as well. With my children, separation anxiety tends to ebb and flow and it's unfortunate we are experiencing a bout of it right now. I guess any school that would reject us on that basis is not a good fit.

  128. We visited the schools ahead of time and showed our child where we would be during the playdate, even if it was the coffee shop across the street. That seemed to help.

    I think it is okay if your child has a hard time separating, as long as you handle it with grace. This is not the time to be overheard threatening your child or trying to sneak out of the room without their noticing.

    It might help to take your child to library or bookstore readings or other environments where they are with children they don't know engaging in activities with adulst they don't know. Even though you would be in the room, they will get used to being in a new situation.

    RE: Live Oak. One can express enjoying getting to know someone without giving them false hope about admissions ;-)

  129. My son is also clingy and shy to warm to strangers. We had our assessment at MCDS last week and there were 8 children. I'd say half of them had a hard time saying goodbye to their parents but none had a total meltdown. My son grabbed me and pled with me not to go. I told him I had to and he turned to join the group. He survived just fine and didn't lose it, so I felt like it was a moderate success for us. Nonetheless I'm sure I'll get anxious before each of these experiences and I certainly can't wait until they are over. It was definitely reassuring that other children seemed clingy. So don't worry you won't be alone.

  130. We asked our preschool teacher to mention that our child is slow to warm on the teacher recommendation form. That way the schools know it is a temporary thing in new settings and not a long-term problem with separation in gen'l.

  131. "Does everyone *have* a first choice school?"

    10:05am, we don't have a first choice school, either. We think our kid will do well at any of the schools to which we applied, even though we also know that the odds are probably against us getting in anywhere. We probably have a "top 3" and are just being honest about ourselves and our kid in the parent interviews. Are we supposed to be voluntarily stating that a school is our first choice? I hope not, because we haven't....

  132. Regarding Live Oak, I think the "false hope" is coming from you all, not her. It's a leap to go from "great fit" to "you're in." Especially in a school that small!

  133. --On another note - does anyone have any insight into CAIS?--

    Yes; I'm a current CAIS parent and do some volunteering w/Admissions. The applicant pool has increased dramatically in the last 5-6 years, and so admissions has become increasingly competitive. Can't tell you the specific odds, as we are not given that info, but far more people apply than get in. They don't keep a wait list beyond their enrollment period: once the next year's classes are filled, the wait lists are dissolved until the process starts all over again the next year.

  134. What happened to John Leiner, the John Malkovich look-alike who used to do admissions at CAIS?

  135. I wish I had asked directors of admission HOW they end up choosing the incoming class.

    How do they sort all the applications? Who reads them? How is the decision made? Who is involved? Who weighs in and who has the final say? Where do letters from current parents or board members fit in? Do they matter? What are they looking for at each stage (assessments, playdates, interviews, essays, recommendations), etc?

    Has anyone asked these questions?

    I wish there were an admissions director willing to answer some Qs here, even if it is anonymously and just giving answers that pertain to their own school, as one possible example of how it all works.

  136. 7:31 from way above here.

    We got a better feeling about Hamlin from the parents, teachers, and administrators we met (and this surprised us), and we felt that Hamlin demonstrated that it really was doing what it set out to do as far as educating the girls. We loved the public speaking component. The faculty was the most impressive we saw. We loved how forthcoming the school was with information about how it spends its money and why, and how they communicated with us throughout the admissions process.

    Hamlin also demonstrated its commitment to diversity of all kinds; this is a serious commitment, not a token gesture. We felt that we would not feel out of place there as a family without substantial financial resources (and this surprised us, too). I'm not sure that what went on at the school 10 years ago is a good indication of what's going on there now. Of course I've heard the stories, too.

    As the earlier poster said (hi other poster!), our K class is diverse (racially, socioeconomically, geographically, and in terms of family structure), and I would add fabulous. Who knows if the next K class will turn out this way, but I would bet that's the goal.

    My daughter's class also has a variety of "types" and ages. Jocky girls, girly girls, shy girls, outgoing girls, girls who like to read and write, girls who like to build and create, girls who cause a little trouble, and girls who are perfectly behaved most of the time. Her teacher is not the "personality" that Danny Montoya is, but she's developed a great rapport with the girls and they all love her and the assistant teacher in their class. They get tons of individual attention and support.

    I would be hard pressed to describe the ideal Hamlin girl based on what I've seen, but as the other poster said, the school will figure out if it's a good fit for your daughter. The girls all seem bright, but definitely have different strengths and weaknesses. They're all kind (can't think of a mini mean girl in the making off the top of my head, though it's early days).

    We've also noticed (we being we parents) that the school has done an excellent job of keeping cliques from forming. My daughter plays with everyone in her class, girls from the same preschool (or who otherwise knew each other before coming to Hamlin) don't sit together in class, and they mix them up a lot. Girls from all three K classes sit together at lunch, for example, and they've changed the lunch groups at least once.

    Hope that helps a little.

    Good luck!

  137. "Bridge the gap" refers to donating to the school the difference (or gap) between tuition and the actual cost of educating each student. All of the schools do this. It allows them to set "reasonable" tuition and for families who are able to to cover the difference (or more) and get a tax deduction. Certainly not all families are able, or expected, to give the entire amount.

  138. 10:05 and 4:19, I am almost afraid to have a first choice school because I feel that, with admissions being as competitive as they are, even in this economic climate, we are bound to be heartbroken if we put all the eggs in one basket, so to speak. We picked a few that we could be happy with. Hopefully we will get into one and that will make our choice very easy. If we don't get into any, well, we'll roll the dice with our public school offer.

  139. --What happened to John Leiner, the John Malkovich look-alike who used to do admissions at CAIS?--

    Ha! He took a job in collegiate admissions (not sure where.)

  140. A friend whose daughter recently graduated from Hamlin told me the educational experience is fantastic (if a bit high pressured in Middle School), but that the parent community was very money conscious. She felt the parents were elitest and looked down on those who were not mega-millionaires. She made a couple of friends in her daughter's class but never felt a part of the larger school because of this tone. Her daughter avoided hosting play dates because they lived in a small house (by Pac Heights standards).

    Granted, this girl would have been admitted to kinder a decade ago, before the big commitment to diversity.

    Have things changed that much at Hamlin? Can you tell from looking at the classes at which point they started admitting a broader range of girls? Has the nature and tone of the overall parent community changed in recent years (not just this year's kinder class)?

    Being an adolescent is HARD, especially with all of the pressures to conform and fit it... and fitting in with a crowd of mega-millionaires and billionaires is tough for middle-class girls and their parents, despite the equalizing influence of uniforms...

  141. I have a friend whose daughter attends Hamlin and she feelsintimidated about all the money there--although she paid 8 million for her house!

    That just tells me that hey, there are rich folks there. Whatta ya going ta do? I just want a great education for my kids and as my student tour guide there said, "sure there are cliques of really rich girls here that keep to themselves, but my mom's a teacher here, and I'm adopted, and its a great education."

    I want a great education.

  142. I want a great education but not at the expense of a great childhood.

    I don't want my daughter to feel like an outcast because we live in a flat, fly commercial and don't spend every Winter weekend skiing.

    But is that a given at a place like Hamlin?

    What grade is your friend's daughter in?

  143. 10:45 I can understand wanting the great education, but you say "I". This is your daughters life ultimately, (remember Palin's "I choose life"). You need to think about how 8 years in such a setting would be for her. Some kids are resilient and others are not, and obviously you know your particular situation and child better than any of us.

    Having dated someone who was one of the token poor (white in his case, and both his parents had graduate degrees) kids at a very posh private school in this country, I have to say it was painful how much of a chip on his shoulder he had, and how marked he was by it in many ways. He was brilliant, and went to a very good university, but given his parents resources (not money) and his brains, chances are he would have even if he had attended a less tony school. He did not end up with close friends there after so many years of schooling, never felt he could invite people from school home, and that is a very lonely way to spend your childhood. One spends a lot of time in school.

    You can get a good education in many places in this city.

  144. 11:09

    you are right of course--but can my child get into the school that is truly best for her?

    I just want to know if Hamlin, Live Oak, Burkes, MCDS--all of them really, have changed and can welcome diversity--of all types (like poor people like us).

    Hamlin has been the focus of many posts, but at least they are trying to change and become more diverse. In this economic downturn, I could totally see the "empire striking back" and seeing them taking more rich and more established girls.

    Is that bad? not necessarily, but it does seem the wealthier the kids, the more obsessed the kids are with wealth.

    I was always the poorest kid in school, and yeah the kids laughed at me because we lived on the really bad side of town, my mom made all my clothes and I never had designer shoes (plus my parents always refused to pay our field trip fees, thus stigmatizing us to no end), but I got I great education. I'll take the inferiority complex because at least I never got shot in the stomach (which happened to a friend of mine that stayed in the bad school I was at before).

    Unfortunately, If things don't work out (i.e., my daughter doesn't get into our public of choice, or a less ramped up private school), I would send her to a school like Hamlin (if we got in) because it’s worth the psychic damage of being in a school like that. They can't take away your education.

  145. The issue isn't the school itself.. It is the parent community and the children.

    The school can't control the kids if the "culture" among them is that it is cool to fly private and uncool to have to fly commercial, for example.

  146. So... how can one find out those cultural issues?

    It isn't exactly something one can ask during a parent interview, is it, without sounding insecure?

  147. Hi all,

    I'm the "Montoya" poster from above. (Shout out to the other Hamlin poster!)

    Economic diversity is very important to me. I grew up in a lower-middle class community and have over time grown increasingly concerned about my daughter growing up in a bubble of crazy affluence, a place where even a doctor can be described as "middle class" (as described by one parent at a top tier school). I was so worried about this it literally kept me awake at night. But I was impressed with how Hamlin's administrators were dealing with this issue so we decided to send our daughter to Hamlin despite all the negative stories we too have heard.

    Now that we're here I can honestly say we're very happy with the class, which is much more economically diverse than we expected. I'm sure it is not as diverse as public school, but it is absolutely nothing like Hamlin's reputation. There are a lot of working moms (myself included), families struggling to make it and families from all over the city (and beyond). And there are a lot of families who share our values as to the importance of diversity at a school.

    And the education, so far, has been fantastic.

    I urge anyone curious about this to ask Hamlin's administrators directly about your concerns (as we did). They can provide lots of good information.

  148. But how do they well do they know the social dynamics and values of the girls in 4th, 5th and 6th grade, when kids become much more conscious of who has what?

  149. I would expect Wanda Holland-Greene to be very conscientious about these issues since she herself was a scholarship girl at one of the country's toniest private girls' schools (Chapin in Manhattan)...

  150. 9:41 has a good point - social issues among kids become much more pronounced in the upper grades than they are in kindergarten, at ANY school. You can get some idea of the school's socioeconomic issues by reading the newsletters or other school community information that's published - reading between the lines, if you want to call it that. Also, look at the older kids - how much "difference" do they seem to express or tolerate in terms of the way they present themselves, dress (or accessorize, if you're talking about uniforms), etc.

    One thing to ask about is what proportion of the kids get outside tutoring at different grade levels. This can give you an idea of how flexible the school is and their approach to kids' progress.

    On the whole, I think it's easy to give too much attention to how K works, at the expense of paying attention to the older grades. By and large kindergarten is a positive experience and environment. Everyone is new, reasonably friendly, fun, etc. It's easy to focus on this because of course it will be your child's most immediate experience; although it's hard to relate your little preschooler to the older kids you see at these schools, the older grades give you a more comprehensive picture of the overall dynamic at the schools.

  151. --By and large kindergarten is a positive experience and environment.--

    Very true. I have yet to meet a parent who doesn't love their kid's kindergarten, doesn't feel their kid is thriving, no matter what school they are in, public or private. Kindergarten, by and large, is a nurturing, warm, fuzzy experience. The bloom isn't usually off the rose until the older grades. Always investigate the culture of grades 4, 5 and higher, which is when social problems usually emerge.

  152. True that.

    But every school is trying to present themselves in a new light.
    SF Day--where it is widely known the majority of kids get outside tutoring help--has a new head (relatively new) who is trying to institute in house learning specialists to ratchet down the stress there, and to support those with learning differences.

    Hamlin is totally trying to go in a more open and diverse and loving environment.

    But the school's cultures are still there. Will they change in time for my child? I have no idea.

    Everything is a blind process, and I'm torn between what i see with my own eyes, and what the schools are promising...

  153. I agree with some previous comment that one thing is the schools themselves, and another is the parents and the social environment around the kids outside school. We loved the new head at Hamlin, but decided not to apply there or to Burke's (and no doubt shooting ourselves in the foot as far as getting into a private school is concerned). We do have a small boy too though, and definitively do not want him to go to an all boys school.

    We are lucky in that we have a comfortable life, and our kids are traveling a lot (commercially) and being exposed to a variety of cultures and activities, but I find a certain segment of the population here shockingly preoccupied with status and money. People take absurd things incredibly seriously, and how can that not translate to their children. Precisely because our kids are relatively privileged, I feel that it is important that they not live in a bubble where everyone are like them or even better off. I want them to have empathy and curiosity (not mere "tolerance") about those different from them. Also, they need to know that being born into comfort is not a major achievement on their part. They are lucky. Knowing some of the GROWNUPS that I do in this city, I don't know that this would ultimately be their lesson in a school like Hamlin or Burke's (or possibly SF Day school, though my gut feeling there was a little different).

    We are applying to public schools also, and if we get into a decent one, I ultimately think it would be healthier for our kids. They will be supported and at an advantage no matter what.

  154. Regarding Hamlin, there was a thread a few months ago from a Hamlin parent who was looking to get her 3rd grader transfered elsewhere, because of the socio - economic pressures. They began cropping up in 3rd grade and that there were rumors of the older girls engaging in self destructive behaviors etc. - Not sure which thread it was on in this blog, but that parent may be worth reaching out to as they have an older child at the school and can speak to seeing if a new school Head is making a difference.

  155. Does anyone have any experience with the Nueva School admissions? Once the testing hurdle is cleared do the odds greatly improve or is it still very competitive? If so, any idea what they are looking for (other than the testing minimums)?

  156. My anecdotal impression is Nueva's testing does not seem to weed out very many kids. It may be that most parents don't talk about applying to Nueva unless their kid makes it past the initial testing, but I have heard of 6 or 7 kids not accepted after scoring above the testing requirement, and only 1 kid not making it past the testing stage.

    We ended up not having our kid tested because after touring Nueva, we realized it wouldn't be a good fit for her, so I don't know whether she would have made their cut-off or not.

  157. The other Hamlin parent here.

    Of course none of us knows what 3rd grade, 4th grade and beyond will bring, but having gotten to know a number of parents from my daughter's class fairly well, I feel good about our chances of relatively smooth sailing into middle school. Most of them share our values and aren't snobs. More than a handful didn't travel outside of the Bay Area over winter break this year. A number of us rent our homes or own smaller flats. The girls (and parents) aren't all sporting crazy expensive clothes at birthday parties or when we see them out and about.

    Some families have more than others, and some have A LOT more than others. But this would be true at ANY school. Had we sent our daughter to public school, we likely would have been in the "more than others" category. I like to think my daughter would have developed friendships with a variety of children from a variety of circumstances in public school, and also would expect, as I hear is the case, that she would have gravitated toward those most like her as she got older. This is what I anticipate happening at Hamlin, too. And there are plenty of kids like her.

    I would say if YOU are uncomfortable about where and how you live, then you might want to think twice. You have to accept your own situation in the context of San Francisco to be comfortable wherever you end up, private or public, and you would be wise to have a way to explain it to your child when she inevitably asks "why", whether the question is why is Emily's house bigger than ours or why is Isabelle's house smaller.

    As for the cutting, I think this is the rep of Hamlin of old, though certainly every school--public, private, single-sex, or co-ed, is going to have a troubled kid or two.

    As the other Hamlin poster suggested, ask the admissions directors if you are curious about what goes on at their schools behind the scenes--cutting, flaunting of wealth, snobby cliques, whatever you're worried about. I found the way they answered these questions very telling!

  158. I looked at the Hamlin website -- not much info about the teaching staff there. Do most Hamlin teachers have valid California Teaching Credentials? In general, do elite private schools hire credentialed teachers, or do they use other selection criteria?

  159. Hamlin Parents,

    I think you guys feel a bit beat up, and i think we are beating a dead horse here--you both sound like great parents, I would love for my daughter to be friends with your children, and i am excited that you have found a school that fits your children and family.

    I think the problem is that we--parents who are going through this process--are going through a system where we (our kids and us) are being judged, and we have NO control, and even less "inside information".

    Knowing that the chances that we will even get the opportunity to be disappointed with a school are slim makes the dialogue even more heated. But i thank you for your insight--I am really grateful that you let us know what you think of your school.

    I just wish I could really know 1)what the schools are really like past kindergarten and whether they are a good fit for my child; and 2) whether we have a chance to get in.

    I think this discussion has made me understand that my child is not a good fit for Hamlin because I am not a good fit for Hamlin--We don't want her to be part of the new diversity, but of a school that has a track record. Now if we could just convince MCDS, Synergy, Live Oak or SF Day our kid is awesome, everything would fall into place!

    Good luck to everyone.

  160. My husband is absolutely convinced that our daughter will be offered slots by:

    - SF Friends
    - Live Oak
    - SF Day

    I bet him $20 and a cocktail that he won't win that trifecta.

    I can taste the icy goodness already.

  161. hehe, those are our top choices also, and my husband thinks we will get into Friends and SF Day, but not Live Oak. I highly doubt it, and should make a bet like yours. Think I want a bottle of champagne and some Tartine cakes though. That stuff is more needed in defeat than in victory.

  162. Any experience/feedback on Peninsula schools like Trinity, Keys, Phillips Brooks, etc.?

  163. Are they likely to offer you a spot if you ask if it is true that the parents are snobs and the girls are cliquesh cutters?

  164. I think we will get into Friends, FAIS and Hamlin... waitlisted at Live Oak and Burke's... rejected at MCDS and SF Day.

    My husband won't play that game, so who's going to buy me a drink if I'm right?

    Alas, our decision will be based on financial aid packages. Wish it weren't so, though I'd have a hard time picking a school based on other criteria. We love all the schools we applied to, but for different reasons.

  165. Has anyone heard of Marin Prep, the new "Spanish-infused" independent school opening its doors this Fall?

    It will be owned and operated by the same company that owns Marin Day Schools (Bright Horizons).

    Still trying to figure out what "Spanish-infused" means ...

  166. @5:39

    You seem pretty confident. What do you offer these schools that the other (humbler, less quixotic?) posters don't?

  167. I am not 5:39 p.m., though I do think that poster is over-confident.

    I learned my lesson during preschool admissions season years ago. Even though we are a fairly interesting international family (my husband and I are each from a different country, NOT the United States) and offer visible diversity, we did not get in ANYWHERE, though we were waitlisted everywhere. It was very sobering.

  168. All of you are very cute! FYI, it's fairly uncommon to get into 3+ schools as the schools generally offer admission to kids they think are reasonably likely to go there - so it would be unlikely for that number of schools to have enough confidence that you'll accept their offer of admission in the end. It's more likely that you would get into 1 or 2 and waitlisted at the others.

  169. @7:13

    This has to mean that schools share information .Kind of like when the Ivies shared information and then offered identical aid packages to prospective students. Then that practice was outlawed.

  170. 7:13 is an admissions director.

  171. But the private school admissions directors all share information...that way if one says or writes "this school is our first choice" or "we haven't applied to many others" etc... they can check.

  172. Wow, a lot of people will surely be disappointed come March. BTW, admissions directors talk and multiple accepts are not common. Also Friends is very difficult to get into.

  173. Yes, but should this be legal? Whenever money is involved, application fees, etc., doesn't it fall under some kind of insider trading law, RICO, something?
    Lawyers help me out here.

  174. In some ways this practice benefits families. Instead of the same few kids getting multiple admission offers, more kids will get offers, and if all goes well, from their top choice school.

    So I guess the lesson is that you shouldn't tell every school that it's your top choice or you just end up looking bad?

  175. I've heard Friends has the fewest siblings coming in this fall, so that opens more spots than the other schools. You're probably more likely to get in there than any other private, especially if you don't need financial aid.

  176. Anybody know about SF Day and non-sibling spots available this year?

  177. Doesn't it make you question the integrity of the whole process when all of the schools say financial aid/need has no influence on admissions, when we all know that that is NOT true?

  178. Also, anyone know about SF Waldorf and non-sibling spots for Kinder this year?

  179. In defense of SF Friends, their website does state that they accept on a needs-blind basis first. I highly doubt that they would put it out there for public consumption if it's not truly the case.

  180. You might get admitted, but that doesn't mean they'll have enough money to offer you the aid you need to attend.

  181. I'm the 7:13 poster and not an admissions director, just a private school parent. I have no idea if the schools talk to each other, but the people they do talk to for sure are the preschool directors. That's how they get a sense of where a family is in terms of their likelihood to accept an offer of admission at a school.

  182. One admissions director told me that they all compare notes!

  183. ON all 200 applicants they each get?

  184. Live Oak parent here. This is in part a reply to the comment poster of January 17, 2009 10:40 PM.

    First of all, ouch! In defense of parents at our school, I must say that it's unfortunate that you have these impressions. I find families at our school to be a sprinkling of folks from all walks of life, almost all of whom are nice and down-to-earth folks. They are a committed to their familes, their work, and their involvement at the school. We spend a lot of time, both at and outside of school, with other families, and couldn't be happier.

    I encourage those of you who are applying to private schools with a volunteer commitment to keep an open mind about the requirement, and not to fault a school for that requirement.

    Whether you are at a private or public school, volunteering at the school allows parents to help the children (this is what it's all about, right?), gives parents a chance to be in touch with how the school is operating, allows them to help the school and teachers function better, and allows them to see many of the magical moments in the day or outside the school day that we otherwise wouldn't be privy to. At our school, parents can work in the classroom, the art room, the library, serve lunch, go on field trips, help teachers prep materials, lend a hand for performances and other events, and help out with myriad tasks outside the school day. Families where both parents are working always find their niche in terms of volunteer jobs that can be done evenings or weekends.

    I am so happy to know all of the children in my child's class, to see them growing and learning. On a daily basis they encounter parents making a special effort to help out at school, and it shows them that we have respect for education and the community. Our country needs more of this, not less. It makes for a very intimate atmosphere, and I know that as this group of children get older it will serve me well to be able to be in touch with their activities and emotions.

    Kids at our school begin giving back to the community early on (service activities, working for charities, etc.), both as individuals and as a class, because that is the culture of the school.

    As other posters have mentioned, tuition pays for only a portion of the costs of educating the children.

    It's all in your attitude... If you begrudgingly accept a spot at a private or public school without being willing to give of yourself, your experience will be less rich.

    Best of luck to everyone in during this stressful process.

  185. We don't want her to be part of the new diversity, but of a school that has a track record. Now if we could just convince MCDS, Synergy, Live Oak or SF Day our kid is awesome, everything would fall into place.

    You will find MCDS and SF Day no more diverse socio-economically speaking than Hamlin. I don't know much about Live Oak, but do know their endowment is smaller than the others so they probably aren't able to offer as much financial aid. I know next to nothing about Synergy. The serious push for diversity at Hamlin is at least 6 or 7 years old.

    Are they likely to offer you a spot if you ask if it is true that the parents are snobs and the girls are cliquesh cutters?

    We didn't ask in those words, but did ask in general about these topics. Didn't seem to hurt our chances. I think all of the schools welcome the opportunity to correct any misconceptions you might have, or to address your specific concerns. Others here might disagree.

  186. Synergy is incredibly diverse. Its tuition is significantly lower, which helps, and it is in the Mission, so Pac Heights snobs don't consider it.

  187. LIve Oak parent, thanks for reinforcing my gut feeling. I had great impressions each time I've visited Live Oak. Our parent tour guide was awesome. Sweetest man ever. My daughter loved playing in the k room at the family open house. We have our k play date on Saturday and she's looking forward to it.

    I'm not holding my breath that we'd be offered a spot, or even waitlisted, competition being what it is. Though it's more like I don't want to be heartbroken!

  188. We loved Live Oak, too. We are at a co-op right now, so the volunteer commitment at Live Oak would actually be *lower* than at our current school (though we volunteer twice as much as is required just because we love to be involved and there is so much to get done...)

    But we know 5 *awesome* families in addition to ourselves with wonderful daughters. We wouldn't know which 3 girls to pick if it were up to us... and Live Oak has to pick among a much larger number.

  189. Just chiming in on previous experience. Our daughter was admitted to a few schools (all that we applied), and Hamlin was the sole San Francisco school we applied to. We went through this process a couple years ago, so this is not current experience.

    Although we were impressed with Hamlin there were three negatives in comparison to our top choice school. The first was that the school has a reputation for being a pressure-cooker school, and we got that feeling at least in terms of the upper grades. Second was that it was an all-girl school - while this most certainly would benefit many, we felt a coop would be fine for our daughter (she gets along with everyone, both girls and boys). In addition, she has a younger brother - there are many advantages in having your kids in the same school .. and believe me it makes a HUGE difference with drop-offs, after school activities, volunteering efforts, etc. The last major thing was the urban environment - while this is not an issue in San Francisco, when we toured MCDS we were just blown away. It is in a country environment on 35 acres, and they incorporate the outdoors into the curriculum. Facilities are top-notch, and they are constantly improving them - if you toured the school you would know what I mean.

    In the end, there was no comparison - MCDS was our top choice and we were very lucky to get in that year! Everything you have heard about the school is true. The one thing that blows me away is the parent community and its involvement, there is LOT'S of it. When an email goes out asking for volunteers, usually within minutes the spots get filled! Having been there for two years, I can tell you that there have been nothing that has been less than satisfactory.

    There are certainly many families who are well off, but there is definitely no perception of this at this school. No one cares who has what, and people genuinely make an effort to connect with each other. The parent community has been one of the best parts of our experience at this school thus far.

    Hands-down a great school - I always tell my spouse that I wish I went to a school like this when I was a child. I don't want to say the best, but I can honestly say I would not want my kids in any other school here in the Bay Area.

  190. To the post on the public school choices thread:

    No we didn't apply for financial aid for our privates--I figured if we couldn't pay outright, i would just fight harder and waitlist at a public school.

    Our First Choice is Hamlin, but we didn't send out a First Choice letter because we were disturbed about things we had heard there, and we aren't really sure our daughter would do well there (we have about 7 friends in the incoming kindergarten class, and these kids are way more polite and pliant than our kid).

    our preschool director said if you really have a first choice, by all means send out a first choice letter--but only one (lest you incur the wrath of the schools).

    hope this helps.

  191. Anyone else coming up against the summer birthday conundrum? We have a girl with a June birthday and Hamlin and SF Day admissions directors all but said that unless she's wildly precocious (she's not) she will be considered too young. But Burke's seems to think she's an OK age and would be too old next year.
    Honestly, when we've been to the playdates, the other girls look much older and more mature...

  192. 10:07

    Thanks, we actually did send a note to the admissions director as SFDS reiterating that they are our number one choice.

    Is it March yet?

  193. It is not a trend, but pretty much fact now: older kids are preferred. I would think that this would be much more of noticable in boys as well, than in girls. A summer birthday does not put you at much of a disadvantage, a lot of parents are waiting if there child is borderline.

  194. 10:35

    Our son has an early June birthday and no one said anything about any reservations about his age.

  195. As the mother of a daughter with a summer birthday, I really take issue with schools that categorically assume summer kids should wait a year. My daughter has a July birthday and would be completely out of place in her class if we had waited an extra year. It was time for her to go to kindergarten and I haven't regretted that decision for a second.

    If by chance your daughter does get into a school that doesn't tend to take kids who turned 5 over the summer, the risk you run is that the class will be skewed "older" than your child and it could be harder for her to fit comfortably with the group, even if she's academically in the correct grade.

    It seems to me that the older kids in the class, who turn 6 sometimes months before starting K, can sometimes be less engaged/bored with the class work and consequently are trouble makers (and very good at manipulating their classmates because they're older). My kids are very proud of themselves and excited about learning when they find their schoolwork challenging - and that comes in part from having them in the appropriate grade level for their abilities.

  196. I don't know about the previous posters age description. My daughter was older (late December birthday), and already much more advanced, but I don't think it mattered much.

    What I do think matters most (and what the age issue is all about) is emotional readiness. I actually think it has very little to do with academics at this early of an age. My daughter is thriving, and had a fantastic first year at (a top private). She is now a second grader, and frankly, there are some kids who are still a bit immature and have issues, but she was never one of them.

  197. At our parent interview we told the admissions director at SFDS that it was our first choice. Does that mean we have to follow up with a first-choice letter as well? I don't want to be a nuisance and barrage her with personal correspondence.

    Also, anybody have any info. on non-sibling kinder boy spots available this year?

  198. Anybody know what kind of sibling consideration is given for those who have half-siblings that already graduated?

  199. If you had family or relatives that graduated it is definitely an advantage. There is a history with the school that you are already connected to. I would definitely make a note of a half sibling alumnus - privates are family schools.

  200. 10:59 - late December is middle of the road in the age span for private schools. Their cutoff is in August or early September so a child with a December birthday wouldn't be one of the older ones in the class. Parents of kids with birthdays that fall before the age cutoff (e.g. May, June, July) parents often still find themselves needing to consider waiting a year in private schools.