In the next few weeks many parents will be getting letters of acceptance or rejection from various private and specialized public schools in NYC. I have been through this scenario three times so far. I am positive that there are other parents who will concur that this is the most painful process on earth. I would rather have all of my fingernails pulled out one by one than go through the hell that is private school admissions process in NYC. If a parent tells you it is a fun process, they are lying or insane. (Again, this blog is just my opinion, take it or leave it).
We had the most stressful time when we first applied to schools for our older daughter. Our younger daughter said that the eldest was the guinea pig, and we had fortunately for her, made all the mistakes first. We were unaware about how difficult it was for a school to see how special our child was. BECAUSE SHE WAS SO SPECIAL OF COURSE! The worst part of the process is that your perfect child, who you love and adore is now being judged by someone, who has met them once.
The reality is that there is preparation that needs to be made in order to get your child into the school they desire. Unless your child is a super genius, there is major work to be done. The reality also is, that your child will get in somewhere, and it most likely the school will be the right fit, even if it is not what you had hoped for originally. Our oldest is at Brooklyn Friends School, which has been the most unbelievable blessing. We didn't realize it at first, but it is a perfect fit for our girl. Both of our girls are at schools that are the right fit for them. The are very different kids, and both very happy where they are. PHEW!!
I found BFS by reading a very helpful book, Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools, by Victoria Goldman. It is an informative and great breakdown of each school and what they have to offer. There are other helpful guides. There are amazing public high schools in NYC, such as Stuyvesant, La Guardia, And LAB, which are listed at the website of the DOE
Our biggest hurdle so far was the applications to middle school. So I will list a few tips that can help you through this process.
- Do your homework as a parent. Read all about every school. Ask as many parents, teachers, students about the different schools as you can. You are going to put your kid through this crazy process, so at least be prepared.
- The ISEE test is REALLY HARD! I have very smart kids, and they found the test to be very difficult and stressful. To relieve the stress, it is so important to start test prep early. I would give your child at least three months to start prepping. This way it is gradual and not rushed. We did it ALL wrong the first time, so I highly suggest this. You can use the various practice books at home, or you can work with a tutor (mind you tutors are expensive). But start early and work on vocabulary...I suggest making note cards and and having your child add at least two new words a day. Go through the list every day as it builds.
- Remember a 10 year old is not the one who is able to make their life long decisions. So don't let them not get their essays done, or not prepare for the test. I promise that they won't do it, so you have to lead this process, as painful as it is. I do have friends whose kids at age ten were extremely motivated to get everything done for their applications, but that is not the norm. I was quite impressed by those kids by the way...
- Pick the school that is right for YOUR child, not the one that his friends like, or all the other mommies in your mommy group like.
- Practice interviewing with your kid. Teach them a handshake. Make sure they look grownups in the eye. Practice some questions with them. They will be more relaxed and confident during their interview.
- Try to relax. Virtually impossible tip, but try.
The good news is, is that if you live in NYC, there is a plethora of choices of amazing schools, where your child has the opportunity to flourish. It is really the one place where the choices are endless. But it is ultimately the work of the parent to make it happen. So if you are about to start this process, hunker down, take a breadth and and do your homework. Because your kid will have to do the same.