For many parents, even the thought of applying to top private elementary schools in Los Angeles can be overwhelming. Competition for schools on the Westside is fierce, but knowing how to get started can help ease your anxiety. Here’s an introduction to how it all works to make it more manageable for you and your family.
Feeder Preschools. Some of you may have heard the term “feeder preschools.” These are preschools that send their graduates to specific private elementary schools each year. While “feeder” preschools are often popular and hard to get into, you should select a preschool that best fits your child and your family’s needs, irrespective of whether it is a “feeder” school. And, don’t forget, even if your child attends a “feeder” preschool, that won’t guaranteed he/she will get into a particular elementary school. Having a well-connected preschool director can help, but private elementary schools accept children for kindergarten from a wide range of preschools.
· Applying For Kindergarten. The private elementary school application process begins in September the year before your child will enter kindergarten. Here’s how it works:
o Tour schools at least one year before child will enter kindergarten (September)
o Submit written applications to schools
o Parent interviews
o Student testing or visiting day
o Admissions letters are mailed (March)
· Tour Early. If you’re thinking about applying for kindergarten, you may want to begin touring schools two years before you apply. This will give you an opportunity to find schools you really like and eliminate those you don’t think are right for your child. This is a big time saver. And, the year you’re applying to schools you will be able to visit your favorite schools a second time to learn more about the school. You should tour at least 8 schools to get a feel for the various types of schools. It’s impossible to learn about the school based on other parent’s feedback. You really have to see each school yourself!
· What Do Private Elementary Schools Really Look For? This is the “million dollar question!” The reason the top private elementary schools in LA are difficult to get into is that there are far more applicants than openings. So, schools can be extremely selective in which families they accept. Most schools are looking for a good fit between the child and the school. They want kids they can teach and kids who will excel at their school, from kindergarten until graduation. They also want parents who understand and embrace their educational philosophy. Families who will be involved in the school, volunteering time and contributing financially, are also an important consideration in admissions decisions.Schools need to have an equal number of boys and girls per class. After all, you wouldn’t want your daughter in a class of 18 boys and 2 girls for example. And, they look for ethnic and socio-economic diversity whenever possible.
A few of the intangible factors involved in admissions decisions are:
· A child may just meet the cutoff date for age requirements and could benefit from an extra year at preschool. In other words, the child is too young for kindergarten in the school’s opinion
· A family’s connections or contacts at the school. Connections and letters of recommendations from parents at the school or board members don’t guarantee admission, but can help
· Being a member of the school’s church or temple can give a family priority in admissions
· Support from your preschool director on your child’s behalf
Christina Simon is the co-author of “Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles.” She is the mom of a 2nd grade son and a 4th grade daughter who attend The Willows Community School in Culver City. Christina writes the blog, www.beyondthebrochure.blogspot.com for parents applying to private elementary schools and about her life as a mom at private school. She has a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an M.A. from UCLA.
Next week Christina will give us some of the basics on the cost of going to Private Elementary.