the crazy preschool process

First off, let me say that I am so sorry that so many of you are sad. The vast majority of people who are contacting me these days are despondent. That doesn't mean that many, many people didn't get placements. It just means that the ones who didn't, are writing me in the middle of the night.

With that being said, I am now going to give you a little tough love (and trust me I do love you). Everyone starts off the conversation with "this is such a CRAZY process". It really isn't (for the stand alone preschools). You tour and submit an app. After siblings, the school either picks by lottery, first come first served or they fill seats from the pool that is balanced by age and gender. Most schools don't require anything more than your child's name, address and birth date. They may want to know how you heard about them or a brief statement about what you like about them, but that may be for their own information rather than selection. Then you wait. That isn't really that crazy, it is just horribly uncomfortable.

It is a very crowded market and the commodity is your most precious darling. It is as crazy as you make it. I know that this is a bad question to ask after the fact, but lovely readers, did you have a couple "safety schools" on your list? - Larger or newer programs that have a lot of seats to give away? Or were your schools the equivalents of Princeton, Brown, Williams and Amherst (I am not speaking about quality here, only size and popularity). I am not trying to pour salt on the wound, but how realistic where you in your choices? If you went to a college counselor these days with that list (even as a double legacy) and expected to get in, I am afraid that you would be considered seriously delusional.

Not getting in is sad. You feel dissed. Your darling child is awesome. Why didn't they want you? Get real. They don't know enough about you to not like you. If they did want to know more, they would ask. There is not some secret, passive aggressive system, where only the people who lobby hard get in. Those people are often annoying and a school director's worse nightmare. So you played by the rules, followed instructions and you didn't get lucky... yet. The real reason that you didn't get in - it was a bad year for girls or a bad year for boys (too many siblings of one gender or another who get priority, period.) Stay calm. People who panic, drown.

What do you do now? First, notify the school that you have not taken a seat elsewhere, that you are active on the wait list and you will take a seat if offered. Don't write a big sob story about how much you loved them and how unhappy you are. If you got that letter as a director you would feel awful. Guilt doesn't work - it will just make them reluctant to answer your calls. It is preferable to tell them 'why' you love them, not 'how much'. Don't go away. Seats may open throughout the spring and summer. Follow the school's lead. They will tell you the best way to stay in touch. You can't count on it, but in April almost everyone will find somewhere to go that they will end up loving. If you are among the very few who are holding on through June, July or August and a seat does come available, you may be able to snag it - but be forewarned - if you don't have a back up, you may very well find yourself without a seat. Contact other schools now and see if you can get on the end of their wait lists.

Don't worry. It will all sort itself out in the end. You may not have gotten your hearts desire, but sometimes the universe gives you a gift - the school that you didn't consider the first time around is the one where your child finds their best friend for life, maybe it is actually more convenient or suits your budget better, or you just plain love the teachers in the end. We feel compelled to engineer success in NY. Let it go. Modeling behaviour for your child, including taking taking disappointment with grace and courage is a life lesson that they are never too young to learn.