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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

First Choice Letters

As we wrap up the last applications, thoughts are turning to first choice letters.

What is a first choice letter?

If you have a clear first choice, this note will commit to one school, and that you would accept their offer for admission. If you are applying for financial aid, it commits you if the school meets your financial need, as schools understand that someone who needs substantial aid cannot pay full tuition.

To be genuine, a first choice letter will include why you like the school. The letter will be as personal as possible. The best timing is after your final interview and tour.

Only send one first choice letter.

When is a first choice letter helpful?

In any scenario, first choice letters help a school fill their class with families who want to be there. For schools that are up-and-coming, it helps them fill their class with families who want to be there, and not those who are applying as a backup. A first choice message may also help a school allocate their financial aid budget effectively.

For schools that are extremely popular, it helps them judge their yield, or the number of students that will accept their offer. In other words, for entry years, schools offer more slots than spaces because they know that not all offered a position will accept. Sometimes, more families accept than anticipated, resulting in a capacity issue. We’ve seen schools add an extra class of kindergarten or hit up against their total facility capacity.

Some schools love first choice letters, and other schools ask that you not send them.

How should we decide which school to send a first choice letter?

Key questions you might ask:

  • Where will my child be happy?

  • Do I feel welcome, a sense of belonging, at this school?

  • Can I envision the commute to this school for many years?

  • What are our odds of admission?

Want more input?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco in an environment of non-judgment. Season packages include a discussion to review key decisions, such as which school to choose as a first choice, and review of the letter. Her own children have attended both public and private schools, and her elder is also in the process for high school. New clients can email to learn more about her services, or see her website to learn about her season packages.

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