Honest, funny, suspenseful, and emotional, this is the first nonfiction book ever to take you inside all aspects of the private school application process. Alan Eisenstock followed several families across the country from their first school tours until the moment they opened their admissions letters. He interviewed admissions directors, school heads, teachers, educational consultants, and kindergarten tutors who coach both parents and kids.
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Grand Central Publishing
September 18, 2006
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Excerpt from Kindergarten Wars by Alan Eisenstock
The Three C's
From the moment the idea for this book inflicted itself on me, before I began meeting with admissions directors and following families around the country, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances who were frantically applying to private school kindergarten began bombarding me with questions: Is private school that much better than public school? Will getting into an elite kindergarten get my kid into an elite college? Do people of diversity have an edge? What should I write on the application to make me stand out? What are admissions directors looking for in the interview? Are there really such things as feeder nursery schools? Do first-choice letters matter? Do siblings automatically get in? Do people buy their way in? Is a private school education worth $500,000 per child from kindergarten through twelfth grade?
This book attempts to answer those questions.
But the first question everyone wanted answered, the one that encompasses most of the others and stands above them all, remains:
How do you get in?
After two years of talking to dozens of admissions directors, school heads, college counselors, educational consultants, teachers, and preschool directors, I can honestly say . . . I don't know. When I posed the question to admissions directors and school heads, I was greeted by bewildered looks, vacant stares, uncomfortable shrugs, and one actual scratch of the head.
"I go by instinct," an admissions director told me.
"The process is not an art," another director of admissions said, "and it's certainly not a science. It's a feeling. At the end of the day, both the school and the parents are taking a leap of faith."
"The decision-making is intuitive," a school head said. "We can reduce it to numbers if you want to. I'm sure that works for a lot of people. I've been doing this for so long that the system I've created over time has become a sort of nonsystem. But it works."
Apparently, I'm not the only one who doesn't know the answer; the people who actually make the decisions don't know either.
Except I don't believe them.
I believe that the admissions directors and school heads of top-tier private schools know exactly what they're doing because they have certain needs and obligations they have to fulfill. They know which siblings, legacies, and children of faculty, diversity, and prominence they're letting in. The "no-brainers," one admissions director called them. I believe that their instincts, intuition, and leaps of faith are reserved for what another director of admissions called the "leftovers," the "regular people," when and if they have openings.