The 4-Year Old Scholar

April 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Here’s a question for you: What’s harder – getting into college or getting into kindergarten in New York City? If you live anywhere other than New York City I’m sure your answer would be college, but for those of us currently going through the kindergarten admissions process in NYC, I bet I know your response: “I wish this process was for college!”

I find it incredibly ironic that at the same time the majority of my friends are going through the college admissions process for their children, I’m going through the kindergarten admissions process for my child. And in New York City, it’s basically one in the same. How can that be, you ask? Well let’s see: in order to apply to one of the prestigious kindergartens in New York City your 4-year old has to take a test and score in the top percentile, you have to go on a school tour, write an essay about your child (your 4-year old child!), pay an application fee, conduct parent and child interviews and then wait to find out if you are either accepted, wait-listed or rejected all together. Sound anything like college to you?

Now here’s another question: Which costs more?

I realize that I’ve been out of college for more than 25 years (I’m so old!) and that having attended a state university my recollection and experience with college tuition is obviously somewhat skewed, but come on, we’re talking kindergarten! A friend of mine was looking at a private college in California for her daughter, but quickly ruled it out due to the hefty price tag. When I asked her how much it was and she told me, I’m sure she was expecting me to choke, but I didn’t. I told her that was about the same price as private kindergarten in New York City. She choked.

I know you’re probably saying “your choice, your problem,” and, “what about public school?” Well what about it? We happen to live in a great district with a more than fine public elementary school, but there’s a slight challenge in that there are so many children living in the same district that there’s actually a lottery to get into the school. Since I’ve never had any luck at playing the actual lottery you can only imagine my excitement about banking on this system for child’s education.

I realize this kindergarten process is not necessarily exclusive to New York City, but based on the sheer number of kids in this city, I have to think the competition here is unlike anywhere else. The testing process alone is enough to put you over the edge. If you don’t believe me, read this article from New York magazine titled, “Failing at Four.” Nice title, huh? Apparently Stanley Kaplan (now Kaplan Test Prep) has capitalized on this phenomenon as they now offer Kaplan Kids with online training courses for pre-kindergarten students. In the words of my 4-year old son, “What?!”

And then there comes the part of the process where you actually have to choose which schools you want to submit an application. There are so many schools in New York City that offer different forms of education it truly does feel like you’re applying for college. The differences are that at least for college you can select schools based on climate, how good looking the students are and how high their sports teams are ranked. Not the case for a kindergarten. Luckily busy New Yorkers have a number of “advisers” who can help guide them through the entire process, with no guarantees, of course. Unlike life where there actually are no guarantees, you’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars no matter what the outcome.

Of course, a more low-tech way is to read what many call the admissions bible, the “Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools, 6th Edition.” And then there’s simply the school’s own website. Now maybe it’s my years of public relations training and my own ability to write spin, uh, I mean good marketing copy…or maybe I’m just a cynic (probably the latter), but after reading the majority of these sites and the bible, I can understand why most parents find very few reasons to not apply their child to every school. But here’s the rub. It’s not that each time you apply you’re paying anywhere from $75-$200 an application or that you even have to tour each of these schools and conduct a parent and child interview. It’s that the likelihood of you getting into any of the schools is well, like winning the lottery. Some schools only have 20 slots for “new families” as the majority of their openings go to siblings and legacies. Get the picture?

Future 4-Year Old Scholars!

I told a friend of mine the other day, also going through the process for her son, that we should start a new reality show. We can call it “The 4-Year Old Scholar.” Why not? There’s a show for everything these days. And besides, who wouldn’t want to watch this crazy process play out on television. I would! It worked for Pregnant in Heels!

Despite my sarcasm, I too am going through the process. If for nothing else than to say I survived (hopefully). In the end I’m confident Jack will get into a school that will best fit his and our needs and all will be fine. The upside to all of this is that by the time he’s ready for college this whole process will be a piece of cake. Hell, maybe we’ll be able to dust off his kindergarten essays and use them again!

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