Wednesday, November 7, 2012

two questions

I am curious as to how much time people are spending on their kindergarten hunts? I ask because I either need a reality check - like one of you shaking me and telling me I spending WAY too much time - or to hear from others that this process is as time consuming as I am making it out to be?

Direct time = time on tours, at open houses, indep school applications, sfsud forms, enrollment fairs
Indirect time = reading and researching

I am touring approximately eight independent schools and about ten public schools. Each tour is about two hours. I will attend about 10 open houses, two hours each. Figure about an hour per application (estimating five applications) and about two hours for the SFSUD paperwork. Parent Interviews and child playdate for indep. for one and two hours, respectively. what else? surely there is more....

I have myself at about 80 hours of direct time. Is it worth it - obviously...but jeesh, what a to-do.


Part two: I have not been posting my public school comments. I was sticking with indep. because I didn't see anyone else doing that.  Holler if you want my public two cents as well.

27 comments:

  1. 10 open houses seems too much to me - having been to two now, I don't find them that useful (just really another tour of the facilities, and some redundant stuff in speeches that you can pull from websites anyway). Open houses feel like cattle calls that don't add much value so save your time.

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  2. I spent a LOT of time last year on tours, looking at data, making spreadsheets, making our choice list and changing list (many times), asking questions, getting more info, etc. I toured 14 public schools and 2 privates. I toured a trophy school out of curiosity - NEVER thought we would even consider or put on our list but I was just intrigued - and it ended up being number one our list. And my son is now attending kindergarten there. That tour changed everything (and hopefully for the better in the long term). And all the tours I went on helped me better understand what we wanted in a school for our child. I do not think you can decide what school you want until you see for yourself. There was another trophy school that everyone raved about but did not even make our list at all after we visited. If you can spend the time, I would do it.

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  3. 10:43 here. Just realized you were probably referring to private open houses - maybe not public school tours? Either way, I think you need to see all that you would consider. One of the privates felt like a cattle call but one was actually informative and helpful in decision process. The public we got into is as good as (or better than in a lot of ways) than private in my opinion. Financially, a big relief.

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  4. I would love to hear your perspective on the publics. I've searched the archives here, but a fresh/ recent review would be helpful especially since we also live in Bernal and proximity is a big factor for us. Most recent public reviews are for schools too far away. We've definitely seen some private schools we like but money is a factor for us. Thanks for your contributions!

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  5. yes, i was talking about private school open houses.

    I will get some publics posted this weekend.

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  6. I haven't seen any recent reviews of public schools on the west side of the city. If anyone can share thoughts, that would be really helpful!

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  7. I went through this process last year and my two cents is that for private schools, open houses are a waste of time: elaborate dog & pony shows and nothing you can't glean from the websites. The tours are more thoughtful and better ways to see the school in action. I didn't get much out of walking through empty classrooms and watching a contrived panel of 8th graders say the same things at each open house event. Cutting open houses is your best way to save time. Tours are however essential.

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  8. Thx for posting notes on independent schools. There seems to be so much more info on public schools on this website so your notes are very helpful, thanks!

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  9. I was just wondering if open houses helped you get ahead in the private school admissions game. Does anyone have any idea about this?

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  10. That's my question as well - do privates take into consideration whether you have attended open houses or not?
    My gut is that it's not going to make or break a deal but if its between one family that has attended and one who haven't than perhaps it might help?

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  11. "Lottery" is the operative word. You can get any school on your list or none at all. That is the shocking reality. You can write 10 schools and get none. But if you write more you're more likely to get one. So if you can do more tours you should. If there are more schools you would be pleased to accept write them down and better your chances. It is preferable in hours spent to striking out and having to figure out "what now?".

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  12. Yes. I think I think it is worth it to show your face at private school Open Houses. It can seem silly and forced, but from my experience, it pays off. There is arse-kissing to be done, and more to follow if you get in. In that way public tours are refreshing. Doesn't matter, really, until you get to the two weeks into the school year final wait pool moving, when showing your face does matter.

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  13. Private school is a waste of money at the elementary level unless you specifically demand some sort of nontraditional pedagogy.

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  14. Thanks for your post. Please post your review of public schools, too. It's helpful to see what you have to say, even if I've visited a school myself because it feels more like a discussion. With privates, it is my sense that every event counts because it is a real partnership between the school and the families and because space is so limited, I think the admissions people are really thinking about how a family will work within the school. If you attend an event at a private and really enjoyed something specific, I would recommend sending a thank you email with a comment about what you liked. Touring public schools is so much easier - you just show up and there is less pressure because the schools don't decide who is admitted to the class.

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  15. Having successfully gone through this last year, open houses do NOT matter for the big privates as they are too large, don't note who actually attends, and it's very hard to get time with anyone without looking weird and aggressive. However, open houses absolutely DO matter for new private schools that are trying to establish a committed community (Alta Vista!!).

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  16. I wanted to say how appreciative I am of all the SFKFiles bloggers to share their thoughts from the school tours. I've learned a lot from your posts both about schools and also what I should look for during a school tour. To answer your question, I spent about 15 hours touring four schools last year and also spent a lot of time online looking at data, websites, philosophy. We decided to delay our child's enrollment in K and therefore are applying this year. We will spend far less time touring as we think our neighborhood school is a fine safety school (we would probably get in, and the school is fine.)

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  17. @ November 9, 2012 2:10pm
    We are doing the same thing. Touring now even though we are going to wait one year to apply. It takes the pressure off and I'm just keeping a list of schools I want to check back in next year. We'll start our son when he is 6. I think it will give us more options in terms of being comfortable with immersion options and the larger school setting of kindergarten. It's nice to tour the publics now; I can just look around and get information.

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  18. Meeting people at public school tours or open houses (if they have them) may help you decide whether you want to put the school on your list but has 0 impact on whether you get in.

    At private schools with competitive admissions, I think anything you can do to demonstrate strong interest and persuade the admissions director that your family would be a good fit for the school--without being stalker creepy--is helpful. If they say open house attendance is an important part of the process, show up even if you feel like your an invisible cattle call participant. Do tour to observe classes in action for your own benefit. If you are invited to an interview, show up on time and be prepared to explain what your family has to offer. Make sure your kid gets to the play date or shadow day. Follow up politely to confirm your interest. If a school is sincerely your first choice, say so--but don't send "first choice" letters to multiple schools, because admission directors talk to each other. Although it IS more personal than the random public lottery, try not to take private school rejections personally. They see a lot of nice families with great kids and often have only a few non-sibling spaces.

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  19. I would suggest for independent schools to just attend the "extra events" (open houses, etc.) for your top 2 choice schools only. Targeting 10 private open houses seems over the top (not to metnion exhausting). You will be spreading yourself thin and burning yourself out. It matters more whether your child fits the space they are trying to fill (female, male, introverted, outgoing, demeanor, learning style, etc.) than how many events you attend.

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  20. As a private school parent who helps out on the tours, I don't think any over the top effort regarding attendance or enthusiasm is required. Given the numbers, it's better to treat it as a lottery, both timewise and mentally. The only thing I think might help is an indication whether or not a school is your first choice and how committed your family is to accepting an offered spot. Admissions directors are judged partly on their acceptance rates. hope this helps.

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  21. Please post your PUBLIC school comments - the more perspectives on a school, the better - especially for parents who can't spend the time you have spent. Thanks!

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  22. Okay, I just completed 3 open houses (for privates) and they all have been poorly organized, boring, overly subscribed which makes them feel like anonymous job or school fairs, and actually have very limited opportunites to mingle in a meaningful way with staff or admission folks. They have all been a total waste of our time! My partner refuses to go to any more and now we'll just have to focus on writing our applications. Tours had some value; open houses do not. If I knew better, I'd just attend one open house for my top choice only. Nobody notices if you are there or not.

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  23. Anon at 9:01, I couldn't agree more! Just attended Friends open house and it was weird and it turned me off. Nobody from administration welcomed me, the head wasn't even there, lots of speeches on quaker testimonies. It felt very cult-like and impersonal ... was that anyone else's experience too or just me? I'm scratching it off my list.

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  24. Honestly, for the private schools, it is all about fit for your family. One of the essays from Friends asked how we spent "quiet time". My husband asked if "sleeping" would qualify. Some of single sex schools teach more traditionally and people aren't comfortable with the.

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  25. I toured a ton of publics and 7-8 privates, and it was a half-time job. It paid off with a school I am very happy with for our kid and a great financial aid package, but I felt like only the privilege I had of being on paid sabbatical for a semester made it possible for me to do the tours well and systematically. It's a system not geared for working parents.

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  26. yes please post-- would love to hear about Marshall especially.

    Because my husband and I both work and commute to the Valley, and live in Potrero, we've limited our school search based on commute and location. We are also CTIP, which helps, but it has still left us with a pretty narrow set: SF Friends, Synergy, Live Oak, La Piccola Scuola, Daniel Webster, Marshall, Alvarado, Buena Vista, Harvey Milk.

    Nonetheless, I've managed to while away hours on this process. Before the first tour and after the first 3 or so, though, I and my husband made a scorecard of important factors, weighted, etc.... and now it is just up to touring all on our list, grading them, and picking the schools to apply to/list. This score-carding has really helped and I highly recommend it to anyone-- of course, you have to have some idea of what your priorities are to make it work (hence do a few tours first). But it really cuts down on the time and anxiety.

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  27. Anon on November 16 ... If you are CTIP, why tour privates at all? Why not pick the best public elementary you can, and potentially revisit in middle school? It makes no sense to be living in CTIP area, havig your pick of schools and not prioritize free and excellent public options you'll have access to (that others won't).

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