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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

How many schools to apply to?

How many private schools should I apply to? How many public schools should I list in the SFUSD lottery? This is among the most common questions parents ask about kindergarten applications. The answers are the same whether we are discussing private school applications or public school lottery.

  • School Popularity. Review statistics on how popular are the schools on your list. Are they only able to fit 10% of kids who want them, 90%, or something in between? The more popular the school, the more schools you should apply to. Schools with preschools or TK classes, both public and private, will have fewer kindergarten slots. No application is 100% -- popularity can increase from year to year, and even an “in,” such as a recommendation from a Board member, is not a silver bullet. More is More in the world of applications.

  • Child’s Sensitivity. Is your child an orchid or a sunflower? Essentially, sunflowers will thrive almost anywhere and are the most flexible kids. Orchids are extremely sensitive and need the right fit to thrive. Look at more options if your kid is a sunflower. Happy kid = happy family.

  • Child Fit. Be honest with yourself of the fit of your child to the program. Does the school look for kids who are quiet and easy, kids who are great at math or building, or kids who are energetic? How does that align with your kids personality? What will the preschool evaluation say?

  • Parent Flexibility. Logistics. How far can you commute for school, what hours do you need, which curricula do you require (ie you must have immersion for a particular language), and how much can you afford to pay for school and aftercare? If you are applying for financial aid, that package will affect your ability to attend a school; even need blind schools do not guarantee to meet the need of every child accepte, nor will they necessarily agree with you on what is your financial need. The more specific your needs, the more schools you should choose that meet those most important requirements. There is always more than one school that will meet your needs. Happy parent = happy family.

  • Backup. Do you have a guaranteed alternative? Some parents have a guaranteed kindergarten spot because their preschool is part of an elementary school. Other parents might move to a suburb with assigned schools. If you do not have a backup, more is more.

  • Public School Caveat. SFUSD does not penalize you for listing more schools. You do not decrease the likelihood of matching with, say your assignment area school, by listing it tenth vs first. For this reason, SFUSD applicants should list their schools in their true order of preference and list enough less popular schools to assure a match in round 1, even if you are willing to try for a higher match in the later round.

  • Summary. I generally recommend applying to at least two schools that are under the radar, and at least two or three schools that are medium popular. In short, parents applying to private schools should include four schools, or at least seven if a few schools are highly popular. For public schools, there is no limit of schools to list, and the time it takes to add more is zero, so listing more is always helpful, in most cases at least ten public school options, but at least twenty or more if some are highly popular.

Need more help?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco in an environment of non-judgment. Her own children have attended both public and private schools, and she believes that each has unique benefits. Email to learn more about her services.

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