Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hot topic: private school wait lists

An SF K Files visitor has the following questions for the group:

"What does being wait-listed really mean in the private process? Is there actually a wait list or wait pool, or is this really a way for schools to gracefully let you know your kid didn't make the cut? That is, is it a "nicer" way of saying no? Finally, if the wait list actually is a wait list, any idea what percentage typically end up being offered a spot?"

52 comments:

  1. Yes, someone please answer this.

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  2. the quick answer is that it is a true waitlist. There is a lot of movement after the acceptance letters go out. Some kids have multiple offers. other parents decide on public school or a move to the suburbs. It is a fluid situation. We were advised, after you get a waitlist letter, if you are interested in a spot, to definitely let the Admissions Director know. It might be a tiebreaker between you and another more family since there is no formal ranking.

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  3. This is one part anecdotal and one part rogue math speculation, but I would say that 1/3 to 1/2 of people waitlisted will get a school, if they want one.

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  4. Keep in mind that of all the applicants -- accepted, waitlisted, rejected -- many will drop out of the competition for whatever reason. Combine the 1/3 to 1/2 that get in off the waitlist with the other 1/2 to 2/3 that drop out, hope that there's little overlap, and you will see that it's possible for everyone to have a happy ending.

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  5. It does NOT mean your child didn't make the cut. It could mean the admissions director wasn't sure you would enroll if accepted.

    Remember: They are judged by their "yield", meaning, what percentage of those accepted ended up enrolling?

    So they tend to be stingy with acceptance letters, sending them only to those they are pretty sure will enroll, and waitlisting the rest.

    Then they wait for the phone to ring or for the email messages to come in from those families who *really REALLY* want to go to their particular school.

    We know someone who got into the school of their choice even though they got a rejection letter -- not even a waitlist letter. They called to say the school was their very top choice and that they were very disappointed about not even being waitlisted. They asked if they could apply for first grade. Turns out the admissions director liked them but had no idea they were that interested and had assumed their school was a back-up only.

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  6. That's right. If you are waitlisted at a school you *really* want to attend, make sure they know it. Tell your preschool director, call the admissions director, etc. Make sure they know you would absolutely enroll if offered a spot.

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  7. who judges them by their yield? and how does the yield compare among schools? do they publish the yield?

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  8. Their supervisors (heads of school).

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  9. Did anyone get accepted to
    St. Brendan and declined
    to register?

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  10. Actually, it's the board of trustees.

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  11. We've been waitlisted to our favorite school. I did call the school after we received the letter and spoke with the principal to let her know that it was our top choice. But how much parental contact is good and how much is overkill? I don't want them to feel pestered by us but we aren't waiting on any other schools - this is it for us. Ah the waiting is excruciating!

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  12. I think the wait lists are real based on our process. Schools said "no" outright to both of our kids for HS and K rather than wait-listing us to be polite but they also got some admits and wait lists. I think the wait lists are a legitimate mechanism for filling classes with suitable students, since many schools get far more great kids applying than they can possibly admit and not all offers are accepted.

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  13. We've been waitlisted to our favorite school.

    Are these the Catholic schools? The independent schools haven't sent letters yet...

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  14. Yes - St. Monica's and NDV have sent letters out. There may be others - I think Sts. Peter and Paul were doing rolling admissions.

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  15. St. Brendan sent out their letters (we got waitlisted). We speculate that we didn't donate enough (yuck).

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  16. When is the deadline to accept one's acceptance? I bet a lot of people put down their deposit and then eat it when they later get into a public or independent...

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  17. We are looking at high schools this year and went for the scorched earth approach -- we looked at everything. I thought we would have a clear preference (independent v. Catholic v. public v. charter) but it didn't end up that way. Our ranking has more to do with the invididual schools than what type they are. We'll see when admission letters come out how much choice we really have.

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  18. Yes - St. Monica's and NDV have sent letters out."

    St. Philip's sent their letters out last week also. We got waitlisted. Based on talking with other applicants who did in, they seem to be weighting being in the neighbourhood strongly (not just for parishoners).

    St. Finn Barr was on a first-come first-served basis, but closed applications in mid-December, because of volume. We got notice just before Xmas that we were admitted, which has done wonders for one's mental health.

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  19. "I bet a lot of people put down their deposit"

    At this stage, it's a registration fee rather than a deposit.

    "and then eat it when they later get into a public or independent..."

    It's an investment in your mental equilibrium. Think of the anxiety you'll go through if you go 0/7 in the lottery or get turned down by the privates and don't have a backup, and how many therapy sessions/yoga classes/bottles of Jim Beam it would take to compensate for said anxiety & frustration.

    Just don't let sunk costs influence future decisions - I met one parent who got offered a place at Alvarado after being waitlisted who turned the place down because she'd already paid a deposit to St. Peter's while she was waitlisted.

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  20. What's the dish on St. Finn Barr? Aside from their not-so-spacious facility...I can't seem to find any negatives.

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  21. 12:59--
    What neighborhood do you live in?
    Are you close to Noe for St. Philips?

    We were waitlisted as well at St. Philips.

    Sigh....

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  22. We're parish members at St. Brendan-
    got waitlisted as well. I know a family who signed up as parish members in October and got in. Not fair!

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  23. Some years ago, a family I know pulled their daughter out of St. Finn Barr after 3rd grade. (This was one of several catalysts for moving out of the city.) Advisory that this is OLD INFORMATION...

    They said the classes were 38-1 with no teachers' aide, just the lone adult. Their daughter's math homework was long lists of problems, and she had no idea how to do them. They were unclear on whether the intent was for the parents to coach her until she understood, or what. The teacher and the head of school refused to discuss it with them or let them into the classroom to observe what was going on.

    I have to believe that this was a temporary dark period for St. Finn Barr, because surely no one would pay to send their kids there if that was all normal for the school. But that's what they told me at the time.

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  24. What did 11:51 mean when they said "we speculate that we didn't donate enough?" To the parish or the school itself?

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  25. What did 11:51 mean when they said "we speculate that we didn't donate enough?" To the parish or the school itself?

    11:51 here. We've been parish members for well over a year, but we've been pretty lame at filling out the envelopes (they have special envelopes for the school too at mass) because we've been totally half-assed about church attendance (so we are talking money to the parish). My ears heard that a good chunk of change to the church would up our chances for acceptance. I also heard that heavy volunteering with the parish could get you in the door. My husband didn't believe that money would be an issue hence why the giving wasn't as much as it could be (we gave to other charities). And frankly all the talk made me a little queasy. I'm just speculating why we were waitlisted though so take it with a grain of salt - maybe they didn't want my smart, pliant 5 year old because they saw the hell on wheels siblings coming down the pike...

    I'm not that gaga over the school, but that may change come March when we get our letter from SF Unified.

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  26. last year there was *no* movement in our top private, where we waitlisted and did not get in. FYI. movement may be a thing of the past.

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  27. Katherine Michiels School, on Guererro and 25th, is expanding their elementary program. They won't have a waitlist this year. I encourage you to check out this school. Tour it, don't just look at the outdated webpage. The two year kindergarten is amazing! And the school is intimate, nurturing, and very creative.

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  28. sisterkortney-
    What school was your top last
    year that didn't have any movement?

    I do have a fear of "no movement"
    myself and hope that the public school we get in is on our list.

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  29. 2:08 PM:


    I'm in Berbal. Surprised that you were waitlisted - I'd heard they had 50 applications for 35 slots. A friend (girl, non-Catholic) in Noe got in, but we (boy, Catholic) got waitlisted. Either it's gender balance, or they were selecting on being in the neighbourhood: our kid did great on the interview/playdate. I'd be optimistic though, as if the slots/applications numbers I've heard are correct, there should be a good chance of getting in on the waitlist.

    "What's the dish on St. Finn Barr? Aside from their not-so-spacious facility...I can't seem to find any negatives."

    Thought St. Finn Barr's was a good, solid school: principal claimed they send 20% of their graduates to Lowell: I'll take those odds. Was impressed by the principal, as I was by the no-drama low-key principal at St. Philip's. Facility lacks green space, but that's true of almost all the parochial schools, even NDV. I haven't heard anything bad about the school from other sources, save the account at 5:52 pm. I do think St. Finn Barr's expects a lot out of the parents in terms of volunteering.

    Anybody check out Epiphany or Corpus Christi?

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  30. "I'm in Berbal."

    Err, I meant Bernal.

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  31. I think 5:52 is Caroline coughing up a hairball.

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  32. One bit of information I heard regarding St. Phillips (from a mom with kids there):

    Several kids transferred in during the fall semester. (From an independent private, mainly due to money issues.) I think they were in a variety of grades, but they may have siblings who will be entering K next year, reducing the number of open spots.

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  33. I don't think repeating information about a school that is more than about 3 years old is particularly helpful. Schools can change tremendously in only a few years. If someone mentions a current concern, and someone can concur that it's a problem that has been happening for a long time, that's another story. That would show a pattern, rather than an out-of-date isolated incident.

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  34. ARe they waitlists or waitpools?

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  35. I think they are pools. That's why calling can help.

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  36. 10:53--

    St. Philips mostly takes people from the neighborhood from what I was told from a few families that have kids in the school. They also take families from the close surrounding areas, but they are mostly Noe families.

    Did you ever get in contact with the principle to see where in the scheme of things you fall in the waitlist or if you have a good chance to have your son in?

    Then again, I'm sure St. Finn Barr is a good school. Don't know much about it-- it's a school I didn't visit since it was a little far for us.

    Also, I'm sure it's a balance of gender at most schools.

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  37. Beware of St.FinnBarr.
    I loved the principal at my tour last year and he promised many wonderful things. He is beyond difficult when you address an "issue" your child may have. Crazy energy in the kindergarten class with out of control recesses. I suggest you "spy" on recess before accepting an offer there.

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  38. 9:45
    Our only private school was Synergy. They over enrolled, which used to the private school MO. But so many people accepted their offers AND stayed, that they never let anyone in off the list (their story to us, anyhooo)

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  39. A lot of people in Noe, potrero and Mission apply to Synergy as a back-up to public school.

    I think that might be one of the reasons they ended up over-enrolled last year... so many folks ended up empty handed after the SFUSD lottery, more than other years.

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  40. 12:19 PM:-

    We just got word we got into St. Philip's, and so are choosing between St. Finn Barr's and St. Philips. Thanks for your anecdote, and sorry that your experience was adverse.

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  41. We were at one of the CAIS assessments today, and the admissions director said that two letter types will be sent out - acceptance or waitpool. Twenty spots for new incoming k; they've already done their sibling and pre-k counts, I think. I don't know how many new families applied, but given the fact that they only had three assessment sessions over one day, perhaps no more than 80 families? Still, not great odds.

    She did say that, if you end up in the waitpool, you should call the school immediately to let them know whether you want to stay in the pool.

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  42. We LOVE St. Finn Barr for several reasons - the Kindergarten teacher and the principal are, of course important and they were the deciding factor in our initial choice. After we started, the kids were what completely sold me. The treat each other with respect and, dare I say it? Love! Even goofy 8th-grade boys really visibly care about each other there. Our son got adopted by some 6th-grade girls who would hug him every a.m. as he walked into the yard. As for the comment about requiring a lot of parental involvement? They'll take it if they can get it but they're realistic about working parents and have found ways to decrease the hours for those who can't put in the time.

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  43. I AM FREAKING OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHEN DO THEY ACTUALLY MAIL THE LETTERS????????

    I was told "first week in March"

    AUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  44. We interviewed at Waldorf last week, anyon know how their enrollmet looks?

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  45. Waldorf--my next door neighbor is a preschool teacher there. Want me to ask her??

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  46. Friday March 13 public school offer letters are mailed.

    Only about 1/2 of us will get them by Friday. The rest will arrive Saturday and Monday.

    I hear Trader Joes puts wine on sale that week.

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  47. how funny that they're mailing them on Friday the 13th

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  48. If you're waitlisted but hoping for aid, are you basically screwed?

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  50. What does it mean to be waitlisted for the preschool at Children's Day School and The San Francisco School? Are they just too kind to reject a 2 or 3 year old?

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  51. Does anyone have any insight as to what typically happens over the summer in terms of movement. Our daughter is devastated about not getting into MCDS for 6th grade. She is wait listed, and has asked every day over the summer if we have been contacted. I explained several times that it is most likely that, at this point, spaces rarely open up. Does anyone have any thoughts around this and if spaces generally open up in the summer.

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  52. How often does a wait list move at SFFS? We were wait listed and probably on top of the list...is there a good chance it should move up in the next year or two?

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