Hiring an Admissions Consultants For Kindergarten Or Preschool – Smart Idea Or Insanity?

If you live in a market where getting into preschool or kindergarten is highly competitive (i.e. New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C.), hiring an admissions consultant has become more common than you might imagine. In these cities, where getting into nursery school can be tougher than getting accepted to Harvard, having an expert on your side to guide you through this complicated process can be a powerful advantage. It doesn’t mean that you are a Type-A Momzilla who has gone off the deep end.

Finding the right school for your child is a big decision. Unless you’re an educator, what do you know about what each program offers and which would be best for your family and child? Someone who has been through the process many times with multiple families can steer you in the right direction, save you time, and prevent you from making mistakes that might hurt your child’s chances.

Here are some reasons you might choose to hire a consultant:

* Insider perspective. Admissions advisors can talk to you about what you’re looking for in a school and immediately recommend programs that fit your specifications. If you don’t know what you want, they can ask you questions that will clarify your priorities. They know things about schools that you would never learn on a tour or website. That kind of insider perspective can be invaluable.

* Knows what schools want. Advisors can tell you what to do that will improve your child’s chances to get into each program. For example, if you have focused your sights on one particular school, they may know that this school never admits kids with summer birthdays. They can advise you to wait a year or cross it off your list. Often, what you would do at one school for an advantage isn’t what you’d do at another school. How would you ever figure that out without prior experience?

* Loyal only to you. If you are relying on your nursery school director to help you get your child into kindergarten, she is responsible for placing multiple classes of children. Her goal is to get every child a space even if it means you don’t get your top choice.

* Helps you spend money wisely. If you are considering private school, you’re looking at paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition over the next thirteen years. A good advisor can give you confidence that your money will be well spent. Someone who knows the education options in your community might also steer your family to an excellent gifted program that would be perfect for your child and would save you a fortune in tuition.

* Knows how to judge fit. After a consultant gets to know you and your child, she can be very candid with you about the culture and dynamics of each school you are considering. If she tells you a particular school wouldn’t be a good fit, she probably knows what she is talking about.

* A knowledgeable sounding board. If you are a single parent, it is especially important to have someone in your corner to go through the process. If you don’t have a partner going through this with you, it is comforting to have someone intelligent to talk with, bounce ideas off of, and cry with when your child bites another kid during a group interview (not that yours ever would, of course).

Here are some reasons why you might choose not to hire a consultant:

They are expensive. Some will want you to hire them for a full package costing thousands of dollars to take you from beginning to end of the process. Others will be willing to work with you on an hourly basis on just the areas where you feel you need help.

* Admissions directors don’t always like them. Often, admissions directors frown on families that hire consultants. They prefer families that have the “confidence” to go through the process on their own and are suspicious of those that seek help. If you are working with your nursery school director for kindergarten admissions and she learns that you are talking to another “expert,” she will resent the intrusion. My advice is to keep the fact that you’re working with an advisor to yourself. The only exception to this is when you are moving into a market from out of town. Then admissions directors are more open to consultants.

* You can do it yourself. If you have the time and energy to do the research on your own, you can learn enough to make a wise decision. Most families do not hire consultants to help them through the admissions process and they are usually happy with the place they are able to secure for their child.