how we survived: applying to preschool part II
So! We made it to the other side. Avvie will be going to preschool next year (!), at a fantastic school that we love AND in the morning time slot. It's a little bit of a further trek than I was envisioning, but still within walking distance, so it's gravy.
And now that we're finally finished with this months-long journey, I want to walk you through what happens during the admissions and (hopeful) admittance process. And I have a few opinions on the whole system that I probably won't be able to keep to myself so ... look forward to that.
When I last wrote about this, we were finalizing our list of schools and waiting to hear back from the ones that used a lottery to determine which kids were allowed to continue in the application process. We ended up applying to seven schools: we made the lottery for four, did not make the lottery for one, and two did not require it. Here's my first piece of advice:
It's not exactly a lottery
Admissions directors will make it very clear that legacy and sibling kids get priority for spots. What is less clear, but what I can tell you from firsthand experience: connections matter. It can be very disheartening to hear this if you don't know people at a certain school on which you have your heart set, but it's the truth. The one school for which we didn't make the lottery was sort of the one I had envisioned for Avvie, namely because it was two blocks away, but I also heard great things about the program. But, not knowing any families or anyone who worked there, there wasn't much I could do, short of asking to stay on the lottery wait list which ... is as ridiculous as it sounds. There will be kids who make it through the lottery because their parents know someone. This might make you somewhat irrationally angry. But repeat after me, it's just preschool.
Just be yourself
If you make it through the lottery, most schools will have one or two additional visits. They want to meet your child, of course, but they also want to meet you. What kind of influence will you and your partner be on the school? No one wants to deal with the parent who sues a preschool because they didn't adequately prepare the kid for Ivy League admissions.
Don't be that parent during the play session (i.e. the informal interview) who is trying to coax their kid to recite the alphabet in Mandarin. Do be that parent that comforts your toddler if she starts to bawl. Ask questions and be engaged during the tour of the school, but for the love of god, don't ask about kindergarten private school placements when you've been there for five minutes. The preschools admissions teams are not conducting IQ tests on anyone (your toddler is still pooping in diapers), they're just looking for kids and their families who will be a good fit with their schools. And a lot of times, that has more to do with their birthdays and genders than anything else, so it's really and truly out of your control.
Make your interest known
What is in your control, however, is communicating to the schools you like that you'd very much like to go there. Send a thank you note, handwritten if you can swing it, after your tour. If there is one (I repeat ONE) school that is your first choice, send them a letter saying so (and be willing to take any slot they give you). Schools want to admit kids that want to be there. And sadly, there are way more kids applying than spots in each preschool, so admissions has to weed out the applicants that seem less interested.
It sometimes might not be enough...
Nearly all preschools notify on March 1, which means I was checking my email frantically all morning, while simultaneously texting without about a dozen different moms about half a dozen different schools. But I woke up to an out and out rejection -- not even a wait list -- for one of my favorite schools. Look, let me preface this by saying that I am well aware there are about eleventy billion more important things, but in the moment, I was sad and I was mad. What could I have done differently? Why wouldn't a school want to take my kid?? Ultimately, you probably won't ever know. Similar children will be accepted to a school that you weren't (and maybe vice versa). Other people go crazy with recommendation letters and finding their man on the inside. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes, a school literally ceases to exist in the middle of the application process. People who are famous or are billionaires will often seem to be able to finagle spots at the toughest schools to crack. Welcome to Manhattan. Unfortunately, as far as school admissions are concerned, it only gets tougher from here.
...but sometimes it will!
The good news is that I have yet to talk to a family who didn't get in somewhere, and nearly everyone made it in to a school that was high on their list. For any ISAAGNY school, you will have a week to confirm your placement (and put your deposit down, oy). Also, remember, this is school for two-year-olds; you can always opt out completely and try for a 3s program (or a 4s) instead. Or, you can enroll in a preschool alternative program like Kidville or NY Kids Club. Or, let's all move to Canada!
The point is, while the preschool process in New York can be stressful and time-consuming, don't let it take over your life. Your kid will either get in to the school you want or she won't, but it shouldn't have any real bearing on ... anything. After the events of the past few weeks, be thankful for a happy, healthy kid.