Since October, we’ve visited more than half a dozen middle schools, compared notes and listed our top five choices in order. We care a lot about education and choice in our family, so we laid out a fairly ambitious schedule of tours, questions and considerations. But we fell down on the job.
I can’t help but think about all the parents in the city who simply did not have time for tours, questions and soul-searching. Or the single parents who had to go it alone.
Some may have simply opted for their zoned school, where admission is guaranteed. We never even visited our zoned school — Baruch — because the location wasn’t right and the size — 1,043 — seemed daunting.
We never got to Salk, a school high on the list of many of my son’s classmates, simply because the day starts at 8 a.m. and the commute would involve two subway switches. If we couldn’t get there on time for the tour, how would my son manage on a daily basis? (Okay, we slept through the alarm clock that day, truth be told).
We missed the truly beloved East Side Middle on York Avenue, reasoning again that the commute would be too far. We didn’t tour highly regarded Robert Wagner on East 76th for the same reason, along with its overwhelming size — 1,400 students.
Parents who applied for out-of-district or specialized middle schools (with a tryout, like the one my son did for the Professional Performing Arts School) or their own admissions criteria and exam (like the highly competitive NEST+M) had even more extra homework.
Those applying for private schools had additional tours, day long school visits, admissions exams, tutors and letters of recommendation. And with chances slim of snagging a spot in these vaunted institutions, they went through the public process as well.
If it seems a little overwhelming, it is. And this year, we’ve been told our children will likely be interviewed and take admissions tests at their top two choices instead of just their first.
My son came home last night with a list of interview questions he might be asked. He had to describe his strengths and weaknesses as a student and as a person. He is 10. I wasn't surprised when he told me had trouble falling asleep.
There is a danger these kids will be burned out when it comes to finding a high school and tired of touring. They may, however, be savvy pros by the time they tackle college admissions.
Let's just hope they have also developed a love of learning about something other than what to look for in a school.
Read all of Liz Willen's Middle School Muddle