Jump-Starting the School Admissions Process for Your Child

DSC_0231Our 3rd Annual Admission Panel took place last Tuesday in Harlem.  Admission Directors from Hunter College Elementary School, Convent of the Sacred Heart, The Calhoun School and St. Bernard's School were on hand to answer questions and share some 'words of wisdom' on navigating the Hunter and private school admission process.  Rachel Christmas Derrick, former Director of Development Communications & Publications at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School and Senior Writer at the Rockefeller Foundation, provides a great summary of the discussion.

Jump-Starting the School Admissions Process for Your Child

by Rachel Christmas Derrick

Do stories of parents applying to seven or ten different schools keep you up at night? Does the thought of filling out all those applications make you want to pull the covers over your head each morning? Does the prospect of writing the essays and parent statements seem as daunting as applying to college or for a new job?

Take a deep breath and prepare to be pleasantly surprised:  Applying to schools for your child doesn’t have to be an ordeal.  In fact, with some planning, organization, and guidance, exploring how you and others see your child and your family can actually be big fun.

Here are some tips to help you jump-start the school admissions process:

  1. Do your homework!  School websites can give you a sense of what makes each educational environment different from the rest.
  2. Don’t apply to a school simply because everyone you know is applying or it’s on some Top Ten list.  Remember, there are lots of excellent schools out there—and you’ve never heard of many of them.
  3. See if your family’s values match those of the school. For instance, do you believe that allowing learning to be incidental to having fun can be detrimental in the long run? Or do you think that rigorously training a young child in the basics can have a negative impact?
  4. Keep an open mind.  Even if you’re positive you want a co-ed school, for example, consider single-gender schools.  If you’re convinced that a progressive education is the way to go, visit a more traditional school or two.
  5. Consider the neighborhood.  If you live in Manhattan, you can certainly send your child to that phenomenal school with the main campus in Riverdale.  However, make sure you’re comfortable with what that will mean for play dates, birthday parties, and long bus rides for your young child.
  6. Once you identify the schools that interest you, attend their tours and open houses.  Take detailed notes of your impressions of each school, including the demeanor of teachers and other staff, the classrooms, the cafeteria, gym, and auditorium, the hallway artwork, the outdoor spaces, even the bathrooms.
  7. Feel free to ask administrators and teachers questions—but not those whose answers could easily be found on their websites.
  8. As you walk through each school, can you visualize you and your child as part of this community for the next 6, 9, or 13 years?  Do teachers look happy?  Do students seem engaged?  Are children well-supervised?
  9. Remember, the “best” school is the one that feels right for your child and your family.
  10. Tailor your application essays or parent statements to each school and explain why YOUR child and YOUR family could be right for THAT particular school.  A quick way to turn off an admissions team is to submit a generic essay, one that could be written to any school about any beloved child.
  11. If you’re applying for financial aid, don’t put down “$0” when asked how much your family can contribute to tuition. Schools are drawn to families who understand that your child’s education is a partnership that both you and the school have a stake in.
  12. Apply early!  (Applications go online at the end of August or right after Labor Day.)  Schools like enthusiastic, organized families who plan ahead.  Even before you know what schools you’re applying to, get started on your basic essay.  You’ll then be ahead of the game when it’s time to adapt it to the questions asked by each school.

Rachel Christmas Derrick is a widely-published writer and editor whose Words Rule! program helps guide families through the essay-writing process for school applications.  For details, contact her at WordsRuleCommunications@gmail.com.

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3rd Annual Admissions Panel on August 13th



Our 3rd annual admissions panel is set for Tuesday, August 13th in Central Harlem.  Once again we will have admission directors from Hunter Elementary and several independent schools on hand to speak about the admission process and to answer your questions.  Flyer here

This program will inform parents applying to kindergarten at Hunter Elementary and private independent schools of the various options available and is an overview from admission directors. (Applying in September 2013 for the 2014-2015 school year.)

Program includes: 

• Summary of the complete application process

• Screening tests (ERB & Stanford Binet)

• What to look for on tours and what to expect

• Financial aid and affording an independent school education

• How admission decisions are made

Date: Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Time: 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Location: Ephesus Church, 101 W 123rd Street

Reserve your space early!  Financial aid is available.  Contact info@letstalkschools.com for details.

The Speyer Legacy School

The Speyer Legacy School is New York City's only non-profit, K-8 independent school Gifted and Talented (G&T) program, designed to support the needs and encourage the passions of advanced learners.  Connie Williams Coulianos, Speyer's head of school, is a well know and respected educator in field, leading The Hollingworth Preschool for years before leaving to head up Speyer in 2009.

Speyer is now accepting applications for Kindergarten, 4th, 5th and 6thgrades. A limited number of spaces will also be open for 1st grade applicants.  Tuition assistance is available to make the program accessible to children from a wide range of circumstances.

Open Houses for the Lower School (Grades K – 5) are scheduled for October 2nd, October 17th, October 25th, November 8th and November 14th from 6:30 to 8:00pm at 15 West 86th Street.

Open Houses for families interested in applying to 6th Grade are scheduled for October 10th, October 29th and November 19th from 6:30 to 8:00pm at 15 West 86th Street.

To register for an Open House please visit www.speyerlegacyschool.org, submit an inquiry, and then call the admissions number, 212.581.4000, or email crosenthal@speyerlegacyschool.org to reserve a date.

Applying to Schools? Then Come to Our School Information and Networking Night

'Tis the Season...the school application season...and everyone is talking about schools -- at the playground, on anonymous online message boards, at the supermarket-- but are you talking to the right people and are you getting the right information?

  • How do you know what the right school is?  What do you really need to know about tours, play dates, thank you notes, lottery schools, testing, etc.?
  • Financial aid for private schools – is it real?

We have done the research for you and have put together a group of parent experts from the schools that you want to attend, who are ready to share their experiences.  Let’s Talk Schools is having a social mixer, to provide parents applying to schools an opportunity to connect with other parents in an informal setting to 'talk schools’ with each other.

Come mix and mingle at our School Information Speed Date Night with parents that will give you the real, unedited scoop on schools and answer your questions live, one-on- one.  Our Parent Experts have knowledge of ongoing schools*, experience of successfully completing the application process and they don’t mind talking about schools all night long!

Come join our conversation.

*Schools represented include the following:-

  • Fieldston Lower / Dalton / Trevor Day / Riverdale Country /
  • Bank Street / Columbia Grammar & Prep / St Hilda’s and St Hughe’s / Spence
  • NEST+m / PS 166 G&T / Hunter /PS 180 /Manhattan School for Children / Ascension
  • New York French-American Charter School / Upper Westside Success Academy
  • Weekday Preschool / Claremont (now MontClare) / Twin Parks Schools – Riverside, Central Park and Park West Montessori
* Final list of schools subject to change

Jack and Jill of America, Inc.’s 9th Annual Education Seminar is this Saturday

If you are interested in learning more about school options for your kids, plan to attend a wonderful free education seminar hosted by The Metropolitan Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.  Learn about the many opportunities available for children in some of New York's top independent public schools.  Meet Admissions Directors and Faculty Members.  Hear about their approach to education.  Have your diversity questions answered.

The Education Seminar will be held on Saturday, October 1, 2011 at The Dalton School, 108 E 89th Street, (Madison & Lexington).

Full House at our First Ever Admissions Panel

We had a full house at our first ever private schools admission panel in Harlem last night.  Thank you to everyone who attended.

The discussion got started with tips on how to research and organize your schools and moved into testing, applications, interviews and financial aid.  By all accounts the evening was filled with helpful, informative conversation with admission directors, faculty and parents from NYC independent schools and Hunter College Elementary.

Here's what some members of our audience had to say:

"People were very helpful in sharing personal experiences"

"The entire event was very informative.  Every aspect of the process was detailed"

"Every question and answer was useful and the speakers helped alleviate some of the intensity surrounding this process."

"I really felt all of the panelists were interested in helping/informing"

A lot was discussed but there is a lot more that can and needs to be discussed.  Keep checking back here for additional events around this and other topics.

Best of luck to those who will be applying this admission season.  I'll leave you with a few things to consider along the way:

1. Most people apply for 8-10 schools

2. Between parent tours, parent interviews and child playdates, there will be 24-30 visits to these schools during a three month period

3. Including a modest 30 minute travel time, working parents will miss 56-65 hours of work during this time (not including time to complete applications and other required paperwork)

I can't stress enough the need to be organized and to plan.  See our AdmissionTimeline handout for an overview of the process.

Were you there?  Please provide your feedback on the event.


Private Schools Admissions Panel

The New York private school admission season is upon us and we want to help make sure that all our parents are well informed.  We are hosting an event on Tuesday, August 23 that will enable you to start the search off organized and well informed.  Here are the details:

Let's Talk Schools & Kidberry present a panel discussion on the NYC private school admission process.

This workshop will provide families with an explanation of the private schools and Hunter Elementary School's admissions process.

Hear from a panel of experienced parents and professionals who will offer "words of wisdom" on navigating the process, including:

- when to start

- how to develop a list of schools to look at

- the application process

- screening Tests (ERB & Stanford Binet)

- what to look for on tours and what to expect

- essay writing tips


Date: Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Time: 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm

Location: 106 W 117th Street, Ground Floor (Corner of Lenox Avenue)

Open to the public. Registration is required. We have a limited capacity so be sure to purchase your tickets early to reserve your space.

Tickets $20/person

Sponsored by KidBerry and Harlem Vintage


The First Month

It has been almost 1 month, since Surta joined Family Annex. She loves it! We are also happy to be a part of her school Family.

We had a first “parents to parents” meeting. Each parent chat with other parent for about 7 minutes. And later they introduced each other and their kids to the group. Surprisingly only 7 families were present. All three teachers also introduced themselves. The teachers mentioned parents about a typical day – start time, lunch time, out side time, working time, nap time etc. They explained in detail about project for coming month(s). Birthday time- no cakes and no

Surta knows all her classmates and most parents & siblings. She and few other kids have nick names! They have different activity areas such as mini studio, dramatic area, manipulative area, block area, cozy area, dramatic play area and light table area. Also has music and movement time. She hums some new songs. And some times talks about her activity of the day. She never answers “how was your day?” But she talks a lot about school at bed time and with other older friends and adults. Most days she eats her lunch partially. Some days does not nap. She also has fun time playing with big kids in their “up stair” class. After 3:30 nursery class and pre K class merge.

Parents receive a daily journal via E-mail. The Teachers document 2/3 kids experience and conversation in an activity that day. And mention all other kids’ activity areas. The school organized pot luck dinner in nearby garden. Nice time to meet with kids and families through out the school. One of the family organize pot luck picnic at central park in week end. It was an informal relaxing time to see kids playing, parents interacting with them and chatting with each other.

Family Annex –“Phase-in” week

My almost 3 yr. old daughter Surta is attending Family Annex. It is parent cooperative school. Parents participate in committees to run school more efficiently. The school has Reggio Emilia approach. It encourages creative thinking for children and encourages teachers, parents and children to be researcher.

Surta’s all three teachers visited us at home last week. She had a good interaction with them. Since then she was ready and excited to attend the school. First three days were short about an hour to 1 ½ hour. Surta, daddy and mommy entered the class, the teachers greeted us and she started exploring the class. When I mentioned that “we are leaving and will be back soon.” She was perfectly fine. As if she knows the place, people, activities forever!  Let’s see how today – the first full day goes!