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The Preschool Admissions Game

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In New York City, there is one spot for every 15 toddlers entering preschool. Some parents lose perspective while vying for what they see as a coveted leg-up for their child's future Harvard application.

kid wearing tux with parents

Elizabeth Lindell:
Many parents think their child is going to be the next Mozart, but one child who poops on the potty does not deserve a spot in preschool more than another who does the same.

If you choose your child's school wisely, he will develop a love of learning, social- and conflict-resolution skills, and a deep concern for the world in which he lives. Concern yourself with these things and the mission of each school you research, for that is what will forever change the direction of the life of your child and family, not the name on the school's letterhead.

The point of the interview is for you to interview the school, as well as the school to interview your family. Focus on seeking answers to the questions you have -- and the questions the school has about your child will be answered naturally.

More than one parent has told me how "horrible" their child's interview was, that they proudly said they had mastered The Legend of Zelda but didn't really like reading -- only for their child to receive acceptance to that school. If you feel nervous during an interview, figure out why. Nervousness indicates a need to prove something, or that the school is not right for your child. It is important to remember that the school has much to prove to you.

In New York City, private school directors give the following tips at admissions seminars:

• Be prompt and stay organized.

• Don't send a resume for your child, a DVD, or an essay about a 1-year-old saying how gifted they are.

• Don't take notes throughout the entire tour, mention money, push, or say, "Oh, my god, he's never done that before!"

• When your child is transitioning to a new school, listen to the guidance of your child's teacher and director. You have a partnership with your child's educators. Work together and keep it real.

Don't allow yourself to take part in what many loving parents sometimes engage in, and what I'm going to call the "admissions game." Several years ago, my family shared a table at a Japanese steakhouse with another family. We began a conversation with their articulate daughter about her process of applying to several private schools. She told us they had made a mistake by not switching schools earlier, because at the eighth grade entry point, there were only three spots open and the "competition" was fierce. If she had switched at fourth grade, there would have been 40 spots open. Get in, and get in early, her mother added, pointing to my toddler. They seemed to have it all figured out. What I hadn't yet figured out was that this delightful family was playing the admissions game -- and they saw themselves as losers.

There is a beautiful fruition about your child completing elementary school where she began. If you have ever attended a sixth grade graduation ceremony, you will know this to be true. There is also a strong social benefit of beginning a school at its entry point. Your decision, however, should be based on what is best for your child and never on odds of acceptance.

If you play the admissions game, they will likely volley right back -- in the form of a rejection letter. When you are real (and speak openly), that is what you will be met with.

next: Don't Worry, Be Happy!
17 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 13, 2009, 8:52 AM


Renee Mosiman October 13, 2009, 9:05 AM

And if you do not want to send your child to preschool, you can do a great job in providing intellectual enrichment for your kids.

Renee, author of

Eleanor October 13, 2009, 3:57 PM

I think that choosing a school with the right curriculum, that focuses on the needs of children is what we should worry about, not how prestigious the school is.

Mamaganda May 2, 2010, 12:39 PM

Wow, that’s crazy. We just went through the preschool interview process for my daughter in Hawaii and I thought that was bad. If you’re interested in comparing notes, I posted our experience at Good luck everyone!

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