NYC Firm Schools Are Discounting ‘First Choice’ Letters

by NYC Firm Schools on September 29, 2008

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Creative Commons License photo credit: gcoldironjr2003

It used to be, if you wanted to get into a private school in NYC then you had to pledge allegiance to the school’s philosophy and core curriculum. What are called ‘first choice letters’ were the norm. They still are to a certain degree, but less so than yesteryear.

A ‘first choice’ letter is a letter that a parent writes to the administrators of a private school and essentially says that if you select my child in the admissions process then your school will be our first choice for attendance. It used to gain an edge with many schools because it proved to administrators that parents were really interested in that school. Nowadays, it just means you’re sucking up and many administrators will simply dismiss your letter and not consider your child. That adds a little kink in the garden hose.

An article in the New York Sun in January of this year covers this dilemma pretty well. One New York private school administrator said he would disqualify those letters and it sounds like he means immediately:

Mr. Nelson said his school always received the letters “with the appropriate twinkle in our eye and grain of salt.” “If somebody says I love your school more than hot fudge, and if you give us the great honor of offering a place in your brilliant institution for our child, we will be forever grateful and we will lavish you with wealth and love — that would probably be a disqualifying letter,” Mr. Nelson said.

This is leaving many parents confused as to whether or not to send ‘first choice’ letters. Truth is, now it depends largely on the school and their philosophy. The first thing you should do is check the school’s website to see what their policy is. If no policy regarding ‘first choice’ letters is stated then ask other parents whether they submitted a ‘first choice’ letter to the school and how well it worked for them. If it worked for other parents then the chances are higher that it will work for you; if it did not work for other parents then it probably won’t work for you. Make your decision accordingly. Finally, if you are no position to ask other parents, call the administrator’s secretary and discreetly asking if the administrator likes such letters or not. The secretary will know and getting a clue before you embarrass yourself could save yourself a lot of trouble in the end when searching for the right NYC private school for your child.

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