Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hot topic: Are people ready for private school letters?

This from a reader:
Now that everyone has heard news regarding parochial and public schools, how are people feeling about private school letters coming out this Friday? How was the experience up to this point?

76 comments:

  1. Bring it on!

    We received our third choice in the public lottery. If the two independents we applied to offer us places, we will be pleased, but we will weigh all the options after visiting the schools (public and independent) once more.

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  2. I was ready last Saturday.

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  3. Ditto. Now that I have the public school assignment of a failing school, makes in hesitation I might have had about private school completely disappear. Nervous but hopeful.

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  4. Nervous. Contrary to what some may may think just because you apply to private school does not mean that you get in. We found the application experience very competitive. We went 0/7 which makes this wait all the more difficult.

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  5. We went through all the steps of both public and independent schools. We are 0/7 public. I just have no idea where we will end up. Yes, I know it will work out in the end. But until it does work out, I am nervous. Some independent schools were more gracious and open to us than others.

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  6. With budget cuts and bad lottery results, I need a Hot Tube Time Machine to go back in time to apply to more private schools.

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  7. The private school thing is much more personal.

    At least the lottery is a lottery.

    You get REJECTED from private school: We met you, we met your kid, we read your essays, we assessed your kid, and we DON'T LIKE YOU ENOUGH TO OFFER YOU A SPOT.

    Ouch.

    And that's after you spent countless hours preening and schmoozing, not to mention hundreds of hours in application fees.

    Give me the SFUSD lottery over the private school madness ANY time.

    (Especially since the uber-wealthy with donor potential will get in anywhere they want...)

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  8. Should have read "countless hours on essays, hundreds of dollars on application fees..."

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  9. "You get REJECTED from private school: We met you, we met your kid, we read your essays, we assessed your kid, and we DON'T LIKE YOU ENOUGH TO OFFER YOU A SPOT."

    Look, let's keep it classy and try not to devolve this down to a public-vs-private thread. We've had bucketloads of those already. Some on this thread already went 0/7 on the lottery. They could do with a wee bit of good news.

    Good luck to all, but especially to those who went 0/7, so that you get your Plan A or B.

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  10. "You get REJECTED from private school: We met you, we met your kid, we read your essays, we assessed your kid, and we DON'T LIKE YOU ENOUGH TO OFFER YOU A SPOT.""

    Really, truly, it is not a matter of "like." There are all kinds of class demographics they are tweaking: siblings, boy/girl balance, extrovert/introvert balance, diversity issues, financial aid vs. tuition-paying balance, etc. Try not to take it personally -- even though I know it hurts to have your child turned down.

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  11. There is a sting when you don't get accepted. I remember our first pre-school rejection letter. There were only like 6 spots after siblings that year, but it's hard not to take it a little personally.

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  12. Anyone have an idea of how many kids actually get shut out completely from privates? Is this year a tough year for boys or girls? Tougher than last year? Preparing for the worst, misery loves company...

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  13. I will need to weigh how much quality was taken away from public schools with the budget cuts vs. paying for a private education that may offer more services.

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  14. It's more like "you don't add value to our private school." That covers the issue of demographics, socioeconomic status and rejection because they just don't like your looks.

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  15. I know from experience that it is not fun being denied admission to a private school that you really want, but it is seldom because they don't "like" you. They have lots of applicants to choose from and are trying to balance their classes in various ways, get enough families who can pay full freight and donate to meet their financial objectives while trying to improve their socioeconomic diversity (for most private schools this is a very sincere and serious goal) and select children they think will succeed in their setting. Are they wrong sometimes and kick kids out? Occasionally, but not often.

    If you can't take "rejection" from the private school application process, I hope you never have to date or look for a job. Life is full of situations where you can't get what you want because you don't fit the other person's perceived needs or desires. Would you like everything you're chosen for in life to be by random lottery? There would be no personal rejection in it, but no personal merit either.

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  16. 9:48 - Nice post!

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  17. Does anyone know if letters sometimes arrive on Thursday? (Just trying to figure out which days to wait for the mail...)

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  18. 11:07 a.m., I too have been wondering about/hoping for this. Of course, I've been in full countdown mode for the last five weeks. We went 0/7 in the publics and I am very anxious. My partner has always said that he won't send our daughter to a public school as he is in the "You get what you pay for" camp and refuses to believe that the publics could possibly be as good as the city's top private schools. He believes that things that are referred to as "bells and whistles" at times on this blog are actually important enough to spend the money on. I disagree but after having been assigned to a school where less than 40% of the students test proficient in Math and Reading (not sure what grade they are referring to, but it is a standardized test) I am finding it difficult to disagree with him.

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  19. @ 11:12. Sounds as if our husbands are on exactly the same page...very similar discussions in our hosue! We also went 0/7 in the public lottery which wasn't a huge surprise considering the schools we listed. With budget cuts we're doubtful we would be happy with even one of the trophy publics...but we were also quite selective in the privates we applied to and so may come out of this process completely empty-handed. I am completely sympathetic to the many families who are unable to opt-out of the public system. But for us, we can think of no better use of our money.

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  20. Big news for CDS applicants: per an email we just received, they are enrolling 2 full K sections, so now there should be a lot more spots open than the handful previously predicted.

    Full announcement will be posted on their website this afternoon at http://www.cds-sf.org/news/cdsweekly.html.

    Hopefully this alleviates the tension for some ...

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  21. I too had a husband who couldn't possibly imagine having our kid in public last year. But, we got shut out of all the privates we applied to (and this happens to MANY people. We were picky, for sure, but really, it is incredibly competitive). We were lucky on the public end, and now we are happy in public for the time being. Personally I believe strongly in public education.

    And I have to say that being wait listed for the privates is incredibly upsetting. And whoever is saying that it is no different than dating or job-searching is full of shit. Obviously we have all done that, most of us probably with considerable success, but this is about your little child, and about evaluating 5-year-olds, and the merit of your "family". It both is and isn't personal, but it is VERY upsetting. Give me a lottery any day.

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  22. "Big news for CDS applicants: per an email we just received, they are enrolling 2 full K sections, so now there should be a lot more spots open than the handful previously predicted."

    We applied to Live Oak, Cathedral, Stuart, and SF Day. Is CDS was one of them? I have never heard of CDS... Please let me know if you can.
    THANKS


    Also, I am so happy to have the support of all of you through this mess-reading about others landing at 0-7 too and what options they see moving forward, helps me feel a little alone. But please could those who just want to write negative things stay off the blog. With all this stress at this point in time, I am thinking we need to be sharing not arguing!

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  23. CDS = Children's Day School.

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  24. I've heard that it is a tough year because of large numbers of siblings at SF Friends, SF Day, and Burkes. Not sure if this is accurate or not...anyone else have data points?

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  25. Thanks for posting that cheering news! We applied to CDS despite the long odds (preschool was essentially enough to fill existing K spots), and despite the admissions director telling people not to apply unless they really liked it because there would be likely zero to four spots -- we liked the school very much, and our only reservation about it was that it might be too small. Will hope hard!

    (We were 0/7 so our private school side has suddenly become more important...)

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  26. "Would you like everything you're chosen for in life to be by random lottery? There would be no personal rejection in it, but no personal merit either."

    Well, as a lot of one's situation depends on how one did in the lucky sperm lottery, or whether one graduated from college in boom times or bust times, I don't think it's bad for more of life to be seen as explicitly Just Dumb Luck.

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  27. 11:12 here again, responding to 11:12 a.m. We too were super-selective, and only applied to three schools. In truth out of those we only see ourselves at 2. We could very well be shut out and then our anxiety will only increase.

    12:15 p.m., are you at one of the "List of 11" publics if I may ask. I too--and my partner--imagine that it will be very upsetting to get waitlisted. We realize that the schools are looking for diversity (skin color, socio economic, family structure) but surely they will accept a child that looks just like ours and is in a similar family and economic situation and we'll wonder why they took that child and not ours. I think it's human nature to take things "personally."

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  28. How am i feeling?

    Wanting closure. There are a lot of unknowns. It would be nice to be able to move on.

    Extra nervous. I would hate to go 0/7 in public and then go 0/7 in private. Private is not a shoe in. Those applying realize that the odds of getting accepted to a private school are fairly small.

    Prepared. I've always prepared myself for the long haul--wait lists for public and private for this year and possibly having to make a change next year. The SF school system process means that a fairly large number of people are in limbo for several months.

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  29. I'm enjoying how civil all these posts are! Best of luck to everyone.

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  30. @1:08...11:07 here again. We also applied to just 3 very competitive schools and can picture ourselves at only 2 of those. Was truly surprised at just how many schools I was underwhelmed by. Thankfully, everyone seems to be looking for something different. Won't ask you to disclose which schools you chose - but here's to hoping we don't overlap too closely! Good luck.

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  31. Good luck everyone. I can't speak about the elementary process, but for preschool, we (our child?) were rejected from all 4 we applied to. I called up our favorite one the day we received the rejection letter (yes, it sucks!), and thanked the admin director for her time, reiterating our interest in the school. We chatted a bit and then she said, "Oh, I have a Tu/Thu slot I can offer you." So it never hurts to remain upbeat and persistent with the ones you like (don't waste energy and emotion on the filler).

    If you are open to the parochials, it's not too late to try them, too. (We're probably going to St. Monica's.)

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  32. 2:25 ... can you share what preschool it was?

    thanks

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  33. @11:07 a.m., 11:12 a.m. again. As I said, my partner and I didn't see eye-to-eye on publics. So when we took a look at privates I made it clear that I was only willing to pay (although we have the funds, $22,500 per year versus "free" is a huge difference and not one to be entered into lightly) for a school that I thought was truly heads above a public school. When we toured we only found two schools that fit that bill for us (will reveal after we have signed a contract :)). We added the third because although it didn't thrill us we know a few people who attend and they all love it. In the intervening months as we've spent time (interview, assessment, etc.) at the third school we have becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that we just don't like it, no matter what others think of it.

    I too was surprised by how underwhelming I found many of the privates and parochials I toured.

    Good luck. Hopefully everybody will find a school that they are sincerely happy with it, though I just don't see how that's possible given the disparity between supply and demand for private schools in this city. Sigh.

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  34. We waited two years ago and it was pretty agonizing. Kind of laughed off going 0/7 public since we didn't really anticipate going the public school route. In the end we got the school we wanted and while it's exspensive, I couldn't think of anything I'd rather spend money on.

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  35. 1:08

    Yes, we are at one of the "infamous 11", and I do know that we are lucky to be there. And, there were new kids coming into my daughter's class even in October, so there is movement. Maybe there is some Cosmic equilibrium somewhere, that makes those lucky in public less lucky in private, but my point was more that the personal aspect of the private process was particularly upsetting to me. Now, however, my daughter loves her school, and is happily oblivious to being "unwanted" at the private schools in this city. (I know, I know, it isn't personal....).

    Yes, there are people "just like us" at the schools. I would guess most of them are in fact "just like us". That is the problem, in privates as well as in public.

    Best of luck to you! You might very well be lucky, if not in the next weeks, so over the next few months.

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  36. 2:59 p.m. did you apply to only co-ed? single sex or a mix? Curious as to others views as well on whether they really liked single sex schools or coed better as a general principle?

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  37. @3:03, thank you for responding to my question. I asked because I wanted to know what "type" of public school a family which was seriously considering private would be happy at.

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  38. @2:24 here...we applied to two same-sex and one co-ed. Very much prefer co-ed (and it is our first choice school) but we thought that the same-sex schools we applied to were excellent academically (and have three little ones who are all the same sex)!

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  39. @3:04 p.m. Single sex only. I realize that there has been a lot of debate regarding this topic, and of course everybody will have their own opinion and that should be respected. Having said that, the co-ed privates that I toured seemed to be no different than the publics except that they were "whiter" and had nicer facilities. In my mind that doesn't warrant $22,500 per year.

    The single sex schools on the other hand, were not necessarily whiter than some of the public schools I toured--at least not when comparing K-2 across the board. For example, I think the K class at Peabody was something like 20 white kids. The upper grades looked different, but the K class was very white.

    Other than that what did the single-sex schools have? A very noticeable energy, and vibrancy. Plus all the single sex schools in the City are known for their high academic standards, and what I saw bore that out.

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  40. I am definitely of the camp where if I am even considering forking over the big $, it had better be not just fancier, but materially different in a way I think will be positive for my kid's personality and learning style. One single sex school in particular is very attractive to me. It seems like such a wonderful balance of music, arts, community service, sports and academics in an environment that really embraces and celebrates boy energy. I can see my kid thriving academically and socially and becoming a better human being there, and not in a condescending noblesse oblige way either. I'm not real hopeful we'll get in or if we do, get enough financial aid to swing it, but I would gladly sacrifice many small and large luxuries for him to go there. I would not be so calm if we did not have three great backup options, including one public so for those of you who are 0/7 and dreading the mail Saturday, I have my fingers crossed for you.

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  41. Letters should be arriving on Friday...mailed out at 10am on Thursday.

    @3:33 - I am guessing you are talking about Cathedral? If so, we too were very impressed.

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  42. 3:33 - I can't help but ask which school, it sounds so good. I can understand if you don't want to jinx yourself, though.

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  43. At the risk of jinxing ourselves, yes it is Cathedral. We got a similar "this is it" feeling when we toured Convent with our daughter for high school--and she went there. Whether Cathedral got a similar "this is it" feeling about us . . . well, only they know. No matter what comes in the mail, I think Cathedral is real treasure. And I promise to post results Monday. Our application budget was limited so this was one of only three schools we applied to.

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  44. Yes it is Cathedral. We got a similar "this is it" feeling when we toured Convent with our daughter for high school--and she attended. Whether Cathedral got a similar "this is it" feeling about us, well, only they know. Regardless of what comes in the mail, I think Cathedral is a real treasure. And I promise to post results Monday. Good luck to all . . .

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  45. Oh Cathedral likes to talk the ethics but they practice moneyball as well. Ask Cathy how her son happens to just get a job when the boss applied to Cathedral; and got in. It's a great school but money still talks.

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  46. @4:48 p.m. This is the second time I have heard this story on this blog. As the saying goes, "It's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor man." Or perhaps the son and family were a good fit. Why assume that the boy only got in because of his parent's clout? You sound like one of those people who think that minorities are only at a school to fill a minority spot or if they are there it is on a scholarship. Or perhaps Cathy's son was qualified for the job he was offered by this man? Why short change her son when you don't even know him. Or maybe you do, and now I've short changed you. Sorry if that's the case.

    Have you ever met Cathy? Out of all the admissions directors we have dealt with throughout the process we have found her to be the kindest, most understanding, real, and open (she released sibling numbers others didn't don't forget).

    If we don't get into Cathedral come Friday, which is very likely based on the statistics, my opinion of her and the school won't change.

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  47. I am downright scared. We have always hoped for single sex girls. That was my experience growing up. We just dread that there are no spots. There are already few to begin with. Alumni kids are not usually included in the sibling count.

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  48. There are some very great schools in Marin, and even some off the radar in this city. It can work out if your kid does not get in anywhere private and the public is 0/7. I am saying this because a boy at our preschool had that issue last year, and parents were able to find a spot at the end, even though they had not even applied until after the decisions came out. And it wasn't a money talks thing. It is a small school, but seems like a better fit for the boy and his needs. Most important is the fit for your child, right? You cannot take the process personnally.

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  49. @5:21, great points. Cathy is awesome. One never knows the full story. Let's move on and talk about something productive.

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  50. Does anyone know if letters mailed tomorrow morning might arrive tomorrow afternoon? Has this happened in past years? Not sure if I can handle the wait. Wish they would just email...

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  51. I am resigned to get nothing until Saturday. So, if anything comes on Friday its an added plus!

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  52. Most letters will come Friday.

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  53. 7:25 - curious what school in Marin are you referring to?

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  54. " I disagree but after having been assigned to a school where less than 40% of the students test proficient in Math and Reading (not sure what grade they are referring to, but it is a standardized test)"

    When interpreting the %age proficiencies, you'll want to break them down by subgroups to see e.g. how non-economically disadvantaged or non-ELLs are doing. Also, the CST tests have a high bar, they're fairly stringent.

    Let's take Rooftop. We can all agree Rooftop is a good school, right? API 877, bells and whistles, good PTA.

    For its 5th-grade CST tests, the following are the %age proficient. Stats for non-Economically disadvantages are in brackets:

    Math 72% (78%)
    English Language Arts 79% (86%)
    Science 65% (76%)

    For Miraloma, another trophy school:

    Math 61% (73%)
    English Language Arts 74% (87%)
    Science 72% (87%)

    Just FYI: So, when you're looking at a potential waitpool school, you have some calibration on the range of good/bad.

    I'll just note that as someone who likes to immerse themselves with data, the lack of transparency from privates was very frustrating (the parochials are a bit more transparent, but not much), was very frustrating to me. I'd have liked to made the private/parochial/public decision with a bit more than anecdotal info from the private/parochial side.

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  55. 11:49 here. Sorry to have talked about publics on a private thread, just wanted to put the proficiency numbers into context.

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  56. The only shut-outs at our preschool last year were the families that needed significant financial aid (like 75 percent or more of the tuition subsidized).

    If you can pay tuition, you'll get in *somewhere*...

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  57. We had no shutouts last year. And last year had fewer slots then this year. Not everyone got what they wanted but they all got spots at recognized privates. Try not to go too crazy before Friday.

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  58. 6:25 am and 7:56 am...thank you for sharing your experiences. I might stop biting my nails :)

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  59. "If we don't get into Cathedral come Friday, which is very likely based on the statistics, my opinion of [Cathy] and the school won't change."

    We feel the same way, and we'd also heard that nepotism story about Cathy on this blog. Certain people pop up over and over again grinding the same axes against particular schools, or particular people at schools. When I make hiring decisions, I always look first to people I know, or people referred by friends or colleagues, if they have the necessary qualifications. It's easier than putting an ad on Craig's List and looking at hundreds of resumes from total strangers.

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  60. Just another anecdotal item to help people with their upcoming decision-making , especially those with late summer boys: we went 0/3 for privates two years ago, decided to red-shirt our son and then went 4/4 the next year. Again, it is all about winnowing down the numbers for the private school AD’s and if there is an easy way to cut down the selections they will probably do so. I do think applying again may have helped us as well, because we showed that we were serious and would probably help with their yield numbers. FWIW, we offer diversity and didn’t ask for aid. YMMV. On the public school side, we did get offered our waitpool first choice during the summer – but had already committed to our private school. Good luck to all.

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  61. This may have been asked already, but is there a place online that lists all, or most of, the private (religious and not) schools in the city? We're new here and I have no idea where to start when researching private schools (for a K start in 2011).

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  62. @10:23, Go to Greatschools.net for San Francisco. They list pretty much everything, with reviews. The reviews are helpful but you have to see for yourself, IMHO. Sometimes you can tell that schools have encouraged happy parents to "pack" the reviews (lots of 5 stars written within a couple of days of each other), and sometimes a person who is bitter about something will write something really scathing. You can sort into lists by all schools or requests lists of publics only and privates only. You can also sort by elementary, middle and high schools.

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  63. For the person asking which Marin high schools I was talking about: I first went to San Marin in Novato, which was large and very sports-focused and socially difficult for brainy/alternative kids. Then I transferred to Drake. That was a great, small school of 700 kids, very focused on college admissions and college counseling. I'm sure things could have changed in 25 years!

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  64. I was just wondering when many of these schools were scheduled to release their acceptance letters. We were also 0/7 for our Middle School choices. Our neighbor down the street got into their second choice, Hoover, but are waiting for their private school letters to come in before sticking with Hoover.
    I don't want to get our hopes up, but if there are other parents sitting waiting for private school acceptance letters maybe there will be more openings? Just wondering.

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  65. Private school letters were mailed today (any time after 10am). Contracts are due by the 26th (I think)...after which I'm confident additional public school spots will open up as families opt for private over public school spots.

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  66. 11:41, yes--spots will open up, in part because of the private letters going out. It is definitely worth doing R2 and waitpooling! (Esp since it doesn't cost you anything but a trip to 555Franklin.) Movement happens in the next month for BOTH public and private.

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  67. What a REAL JOY this kindergarten process is. SO GLAD IT IS ALMOST OVER!!!! Look forward to moving on and receiving the mail tomorrow.

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  68. Someone on the "private school letters" post reports that CAIS emailed its decision to at least one applicant today. Any word on if other schools are doing this?

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  69. The letters thread said CAIS is unique in e-mailing accepted applicants a day early.

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  70. I need some advice. If we turn down admission to a private school this year, then re-apply to that same private school in a few years for 6th grade, do you think the school will hold it against us in a few years?

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  71. I had to laugh when I read the comments about how understanding, kind, open, etc. the admissions director is at Cathedral. We thought the exact same thing last year, even thought that school was one of our top two choices. Then we got our waitlist letter and never got a response from Cathy again, despite trying to reach her on the phone and by email. This wasn't at all the case with Friends; Yvette was responsive and even helpful after we were waitlisted. We understand it is a particularly busy time for people, but my husband and I thought that even a form email response from Cathy would have been better than complete silence. It really left a bad taste in our mouth regarding that school.

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  72. "Go to Greatschools.net for San Francisco. They list pretty much everything, with reviews."

    Greatschools.net is great for stats, etc. for the publics, and locations of nearby schools of all types. It's a great one-stop shop for that data.

    The parent reviews on greatschools.net, though, are frigging useless. Either 5-star happy-happy-happy reviews that you can't help feeling are planted, or bitchy 1-star reviews from someone with an axe to grind against the principal or staff. So much for social media content generation.

    I was primarily interested in publics, and so the test and demographic data on greatschools was very useful, but I can't imagine that for anyone looking for the skinny on private schools that aside from "this is near my house", greatschools was that useful for evaluating different private schools.

    I guess there's no substitute except to talk to a human in meatspace.

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  73. " If we turn down admission to a private school this year, then re-apply to that same private school in a few years for 6th grade, do you think the school will hold it against us in a few years?"

    I wouldn't think so. You might not be dealing with the same admin director, and the impression I got was that it's easier to get into most privates at 6th grade than at the K grade. Besides, given the way your child develops, you may not even think that school is best for your child in 6 years time.

    Do what's best for your family now, and don't second-guess yourself.

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  74. 11:56 am: What sort of information did you get on Friends? Did you wind up getting in? How was the information helpful? I am curious what to look for since we are waitpooled (like so many others).

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  75. 11:56 here. No, we did not get a place at Friends. But we shared with Yvette our options and she made some suggestions. She encouraged us to check in with her over the summer, in case spaces became available. We ended up with a place at another school closer to our home. My point is that Yvette was very communicative and personable even though she did not need to be. Unlike Cathedral.

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  76. are Quakers like Mormons - cultish and creepy and all that. Is this Yvette a Quaker?

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