6 Tips from an Admissions Director on Getting into a Private Pre-Kindergarten Program

WR - cropped asian pre-k boysIf it’s your first time applying to private pre-kindergarten programs for your son, you may be worried about choosing the right school, or how to best present your son as an applicant. Not to worry, first-timers – as a parent, there is plenty you can do to help support your son’s application to a pre-K program. We recently spoke with Margaret Kelly, Director of Lower School Admissions here at The Fessenden School, about her advice to parents when it comes to navigating the application process for the first time.

Margaret recommends six tips to help parents who are just starting to investigate pre-K programs:

1. Realize That Your Son’s Learning Style is Just Emerging

Everyone, including children, has their own learning style. Some of us like to learn by reading, others by observing , while others prefer hands-on learning through trial and error.

At the tender age of four, your son’s approach to learning may not have become fully apparent yet. Moreover, he will have no educational track record to review. All of this means you shouldn’t make assumptions about how you think a specific teaching methodology will cater to your son’s preferred way of learning – because it’s not set in stone. Look for a school that’s able to adapt and work with a variety of learning styles so you can partner with a school that can work with whatever may emerge.

“Instead of teaching to fit each child’s style, teachers should be aware of different styles, help students become aware of different styles, and encourage students to use as wide a variety of styles as possible.” – Dylan William, Educational Expert

2. Remember, No One is Perfect

Try not to “oversell” your son’s strengths. By all means discuss them, but don’t shy away from sharing your son’s challenges, too. Remember, the faculty truly want to partner with your family when it comes to educating  your son. Being transparent about where he needs support will give them more insight into how they can help.

3. Keep an Open Mind

When touring pre-kindergarten programs, it can sometimes seem that things have changed a lot since you were in school and feel almost unrecognizable. This is nothing to worry about. Education has evolved in a positive way and methods and models have diversified.

Try to keep an open mind when touring. Understand that each school has its own practices and methodologies.

While it’s extremely important to ask questions and thoroughly evaluate a pre-K program, there is a difference between critical appraisal and hunting for flaws. Your visit will be more productive if you seek to learn why a school holds certain views than pointing out areas with which you disagree. Try to be constructive and receptive to the benefits of different pre-K approaches, you may learn something new!

4. Visit a Variety of Schools

Similar to “keeping an open mind,” Margaret encourages parents to go so far as to actually visit schools even if they don’t think it will be “the one.” Sometimes you may learn about what qualities and aspects are part of your “perfect” school by clarifying what you don’t like. You might be surprised to find aspects that are important to you, even in schools you weren’t seriously considering. Remember, visiting schools and talking with admissions staff is an educational process for all parties involved.

5. Wait Another Year

WR - LS boy #1Here at The Fessenden School, we do sometimes find ourselves telling parents their son is not quite ready for our Pre-K program. All children mature and develop at different rates, so while your son may meet the chronological age requirement, he might not yet have social and emotional readiness to allow him to flourish in the pre-K environment and beyond. We believe, that readiness and comfort is every bit as important as other cognitive skills. We want boys to establish a strong friend-base and be able to fully integrate into the classroom community. It’s important for your son to establish these connections so he’ll feel comfortable and confident to start stretching himself in the program – stepping beyond his comfort zone – allowing for real learning to happen.

In those situations where we don’t see that level of “readiness,” we encourage parents to let their son enjoy another year in preschool to allow him to grow and mature before applying again to the program. Often the extra year is a real gift for the child. It allows him the time he needs to come into his own.

6. Ask the Right Questions When Visiting Schools

If you’re starting to visit local pre-K schools, you may be wondering how to make the most of each short visit. Our Pre-K & Kindergarten Private School Visit Checklist is free and contains useful information to help you evaluate pre-K programs, including who to talk to and what questions to ask.

Download the Pre-K & Kindergarten Private School Visit Checklist

3 Responses to “6 Tips from an Admissions Director on Getting into a Private Pre-Kindergarten Program”

  1. Rachel Finn

    I am glad to see that waiting another year is one of the tips here. We had our hearts set on my daughter starting pre-K at an early age. We toured lots of schools and chose one we liked the best. However, after really looking at the age requirements and the social readiness factors, we decided she just wasn’t ready. Waiting another year was the best thing we could have done for her.

    • Margaret Kelly

      Rachel, it sounds like you made a great decision for your daughter. I think when parents’ guts tell them to wait, their instincts are generally spot on. Of course, so much depends upon the composition of any given class and that can vary year to year, but if you have insight to the mix of children and the program expectations and recognize a relative “youngness” in your child … why rush? Often, it’s not an easy decision, but I haven’t met a parent yet who has regretted making it.

  2. Henry Killingsworth

    I like how you mentioned that it is a good idea to ask the right questions when visiting private schools. My wife and I want to send our daughter to a private school. We are going to have to create a list of questions that we want to be answered.

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