Admissions Season

Five steps for getting your little one into school.

New York City academic admissions season starts in September and ends in February/March. Here are five easy steps to ensure a smooth and painless ride through the educational process.

1. Get organized.

One of the most essential requirements for a smooth admissions season is to be organized. In September, you will need to schedule and attend tours and Open Houses, mail in your applications, and be present at various playgroups and interviews.

To keep all of your commitments in check, buy a calendar or create an Excel spreadsheet. List the schools you like with the complete contact information for each, including the phone number, e-mail, mailing address and, most important, name of the director of admissions.

Each school has its own application deadline. Note all deadlines, Open Houses, tours and interview dates. Maintain a folder or calendar that is easily accessible. We suggest a duplicate calendar for your spouse. Invest in a filing system, too. All correspondence from each school should be saved in its designated folder.

Keep a notebook handy to record your thoughts, impressions and observations of each school. Record your sentiments immediately after each school visit. This log is an invaluable tool to have as you approach the decision-making process.

2. Work on your application essays early.

One of the most time-consuming and stressful parts of the application process is writing the application essays. Most essays ask you to describe your child and explain why you are applying to that particular school.

Jot down your child's strengths and weakness. Keep the latter list short. Once you have chosen four or five attributes, note a brief anecdote that would complement each one. This list leads to an easier writing process.

Be realistic and succinct when describing your child. Remember, admissions people read hundreds of essays. The more personal and specific the information is, the more memorable your application will be.

3. Look at schools with an open mind.

One of the most productive things you can do throughout the entire admissions process is to tune out other people's opinions. Also, do not rule out schools that are not considered top tier. In this competitive environment, there are few safety schools and the top tier designation can be somewhat inaccurate as many independent schools do a superb job of educating.

It is critical to seek a good match for your child and family as opposed to a school that will help you climb the social ladder, giving you bragging rights. If the school is not the right fit for your family or child, you will be reapplying to schools that are actually a match in an upcoming year. Trust us, we see this all the time.

4. Do your homework.

If all goes well the first time around, the admissions process will be a one-time event. Do your homework, both for the schools to which you are applying, as well as for the entire process.

Learn as much about each school as possible. By now you have likely attended some of the spring tours. This is a good jump start to gain access to schools, meet with admissions staff and obtain a feel for the similarities and differences among schools.

School Web sites are also a great resource. Learn as much as you can about each school's mission statement, history, educational philosophy and physical space. Talk to families that currently have children in school. Open Houses are another venue for learning more about schools.

The more you know, the more confidence you'll have and the easier the next six months will be.

5. Support and maintain a good relationship with your nursery school director.

The preschool director is a crucial person to work with during your child's preschool years. He or she will welcome you to the school and in many cases help you with the ex-missions process. It is important that this is a person with whom you can connect and work. The preschool director is the liaison between the ongoing school and you.

Schedule a meeting with the preschool director in early September to come up with a list of future schools. Ask thoughtful questions. Adhere to the reasoning that the preschool director is the expert in the process and you are seeking his or her advice.

If these five easy yet sometimes overlooked steps are followed, we believe you will have an easier time with the admissions process. Remember to keep a positive attitude and a sense of humor.

Pointers for Your Interview

  • Be honest about your child's strengths but do not exaggerate.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Feel confident as a family without projecting a sense of entitlement.
  • Ask thoughtful and informed questions.
  • Familiarize yourself with the schools to which you are applying.