Helping Hands

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for parents who feel overwhelmed by the city's private school admissions process, or just need guidance in a particular area, hiring an admissions consultant is an increasing option-even for nursery school.

nursery school is the place where parents begin to sort out the various educational options available to them, says roxana reid, director of smart city kids (, a private and public educational advising service for nursery through 12th grade. information from friends and chatter from the park bench can sometimes confuse matters, as people tend to draw from their own perspective, which may not be applicable to every parent.

"they're sort of celebrating their own school community," reid says of information a parent may get from friends and acquaintances. "and it's very difficult to discern whether it's the right fit for you. i think an educational advisor helps to clarify that."

reid recommends that parents start the application process a year ahead of when their child would enroll. most programs start with 2s, but some have very specific cutoff dates-2 years and 4 months, for example-so parents should check birthday requirements for programs that may interest them. that also means thinking about what kind of options might be appropriate for a child a year from now.

while many families get into their top choice schools without a consultant, others find that working one-on-one with someone who has firsthand experience with the process provides much-needed support.

"the first thing, and the hardest thing, is making that list and deciding what schools work best," says victoria goldman, a private admissions consultant and author of the manhattan family guide to private schools and selective schools ( consultants like goldman, who are already familiar with the city's schools and what they're looking for in potential students, can help you locate the school that is the best match for your child. a consultant can also help you narrow down your list based on values, budget and overall parenting philosophy.

admissions guidance is not limited to private school applications. robin aronow of school search nyc ( believes it is important for families to know what their public school options are while considering their list of top schools.

"i believe in the public school system," aronow says, "and even if a family has their heart set on a private school, it is not a given."

some private nursery schools now charge more than $20,000 per year, while ongoing schools commonly cost upwards of $30,000 per year.

the founders of peas (private education advisory service;, jennifer brozost and vimmi shroff, are former admissions officers at a top new york city private school. brozost says that while the admissions process for nursery schools typically begins a year before a child is enrolled, parents should consider preparing up to six months before then. this leaves plenty of time to walk through every step of the process, from compiling a detailed list of schools to writing admissions essays to preparing for interviews.

in addition to assisting parents through the admissions process, some companies also offer assistance in helping prepare for admissions tests.

"parents come to us needing some guidance on how to prepare their child to do well in an interview and also to do well in the exams," says harley evans, founder of manhattan edge (, which focuses on both public and private schools. aside from offering tutoring assistance, "we also help decide, by doing an assessment on the child, the type of program that will be the right fit [for him or her]."

it's also important to note that just because you're working with a consultant, that doesn't mean you'll get in, says tammy koen, co-founder of cherry tree consultants (

"someone might think that it guarantees they have an ace in the hole," koen says. "but no one can promise that."


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