Forfeit The Enrollment Deposit For A Better School?

Something funny happened on our long and intricate preschool admissions journey. A school we had applied to in 2017 reached out and said they have a spot for our son this fall. Now we have to decide whether to forego an enrollment deposit at another school or stay the course.

We jokingly refer to this school as the “Harvard Of Preschools.” Even one of our wealthiest friends, who regularly donates six figures a year to his children's schools, advised us not to bother applying

“It's impossible to get in. Save your time,” he told me years ago.

Not being one not to try, we applied anyway when our son was only three months old.

A year ago, we got word from the Harvard of Preschools that we had been waitlisted. 80 families had applied for just one non-sibling spot. Oh well. I should have listened to my friend.

The admissions director said we were at the top of the waitlist, but I suspected he was just being nice.

Then recently, the Head of School e-mailed us and said a spot opened up for us this September because a family was leaving. Guess my friend was wrong!

At some point in your child's education journey, they too may also come off a waitlist from a “better school” after you have paid an enrollment deposit for another school. Therefore, I thought it might be useful to describe our thought process to help you decide.

Whether To Forego The Enrollment Deposit For A Better School

Time is of the essence when making such a decision. Let's go through the main considerations to help you make a better decision.

1) Consider The Deposit Amount And Deadline

Like canceling a vacation, there are usually deadlines where you can must cancel by a certain date to get a certain percentage of your deposit back. The closer you are to the enrollment date, the less of your deposit you will get back. This is only fair as schools are businesses too.

If we decide to enroll at the Harvard of Preschools, we would forego at least our $425 enrollment deposit. But where we kind of handcuffed ourselves is we've also prepaid 60% of the annual tuition, or $20,160.

We did so because we didn't want to pay some extra surcharge, wanted one less bill to think about, and were confident we wanted to enroll. Prepaying 60% of the annual tuition was one of three options.

If you're still holding out hope for another school, pay the minimum tuition up front, not the maximum! Even if you aren't holding out hope, you should probably still pay the minimum upfront for the first year. You just never know what might come up.

2) The Awkwardness Of Rescinding

Getting your enrollment deposit back may be the least of your worries.

Having to tell the school's admissions director you will no longer be attending just because your kid got into a better school is difficult to do. It feels selfish and greedy. Therefore, you probably don't reveal the true reason.

On the other hand, telling the school you will no longer be attending due to financial, medical, or job-transfer-related reasons is comparatively easier. You've got to do what you can to survive.

The more time you spend getting to know the personnel at the school and other families, the harder it will be to rescind as well.

It took us two tries to get into our son's current preschool. We met various school personnel four times over two admissions cycles (two info sessions, play date, parental interview). Further, we have met several families over playdates since we learn about our admissions earlier this year.

There may also may be a stigma attached to our son's future school applications. Will other parents and admissions officers find out? Probably. Will the current school he plans to attend find it offensive if we reapply for kindergarten or later? Perhaps.

Not showing loyalty to an organization who accepted you when others didn’t feels wrong.

3) Second-Guessing Your Decision

Too much choice is stressful. Burning your boats so there's only one way forward is one of the best motivators to succeed.

We were all set to attend this wonderful bi-lingual school that goes from Pre-K 3 through the 8th grade. If our son loves the school, we wouldn't have to worry about applying to kindergarten or middle school for the next 10 years. We were excited and happy!

Now, we are thrown a curveball where we're second-guessing whether attending a bi-lingual school is the right choice. What if learning in a second language stunt's his overall education? What if he doesn't get along with his classmates?

At the same time, we now wonder whether he'd love attending the “Harvard of Preschools.” Maybe we'd meet more interesting parents with great future hookups. Perhaps he'll have more fun learning in just English because it will be easier. English is already tough enough.

Finally, what if we decide to switch schools and he ends up hating his new school? What a disaster! We snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!

Choosing a school is a leap of faith. Do as much due diligence as possible and then make a choice. If a better option comes along, it's worth doing more due diligence. The enrollment deposit is hard to lose. However, it is probably the least of your worries.

4) The Allure Of Auto-Admission For Siblings

What's unique about preschool admissions is that if one child gets in, all other siblings automatically get in if the family is in good standing. Good standing means paying your bills on time and not causing a ruckus.

On our Zoom call, the Head of School explicitly said that if our son enrolls, our 19-month-old daughter would automatically get in for Pre-K 2. She dangled the carrot!

And if our son did not enroll, we'd have to resubmit an application for her. Ouch. She whipped out her big stick.

The Head of School was focused on filling this one highly coveted spot for the 2021-2022 school year and that was it. We didn't feel any love from her for our daughter.

Auto-admissions for siblings are generally the case for private elementary and middle schools as well. However, it's not the case with private high schools or colleges. As a private high school tennis teacher for three years, I saw many kids not get in despite having siblings at the school. There are just too many applicants for too few spots.

To quantify, I'd give siblings a 30% – 50% greater chance than non-siblings for getting into a private high school. For college, I'd give siblings a 10% – 20% greater chance of getting into a private college over non-siblings. But for preschools, the chance of a sibling getting in over non-siblings is over 95%.

When deciding whether to give up the enrollment deposit for a better school, you must also consider the future of your other children. The earlier it is on their education journey, the more worth it it is to forfeit the enrollment deposit for a better school. It ensures more of your children will be guaranteed a better education for a longer period of time.

5) A More Suitable Curriculum

What's nice about the Harvard of Preschools is that it has a more suitable curriculum for our family. Their two-year-olds go twice a week for three hours each time. Their three-year-olds go three times a week for three hours each time. And their four-year-olds go five days a week for three hours each time.

Now that we've had our son for over four years, we see the merits of this gradual curriculum buildup.

Throwing a two-year-old into preschool five days a week for 6-9 hours a day felt like too much. That's what we did for five months. Then we pulled him in March 2020 once the pandemic began. As two stay-at-home parents, we like the new school's flexibility more.

It would be really nice if our daughter could attend the new preschool next fall (2022) with a two-days-a-week curriculum. If she does not get into the new preschool, she would have a choice of attending the bi-lingual school 5-days-a-week starting in 2023 as one of the oldest three-year-olds.

At the same time, we are OK with not having our daughter attend preschool until age 4. Since she is likely our last child, we want to spend as much time with her as possible. Already, we feel a little guilty not spending as much time with her as we did with our son.

We all learn in different ways. Therefore, a better curriculum could really make a huge difference in your child's ability to maximize their learning potential. Giving up an enrollment deposit for a better curriculum could make sense.

Not Forfeiting The Enrollment Deposit

After much deliberation, my wife and I have decided to stay the course!

We will kindly reject the Harvard of Preschools and stick with the bi-lingual school. The thing is, his current school is also considered excellent. It is a grade school some graduates of the new preschool end up attending.

We will also reapply to the Harvard of Preschools for our daughter for Fall 2022 enrollment. The cost will be $100 and some time.

We think it would be fun to be a part of two preschool communities. This way, we will never be left wondering what it would be like going to either school.

They are two different crowds. I like meeting new people, especially since I don't have an installed network of co-workers to banter with.

Further, we would actually save between $10,000 – $20,000 a year if we go the Harvard of Preschools. They charge less every year given school is only two half-days, three half-days, or five half-days a week.

If our daughter doesn't get in, we will enroll her in the bi-lingual preschool in fall 2023. As a sibling, she automatically has a spot if we are in good standing.

Although school will be five days a week from 8:30am – 3:30pm, we suspect she will be ready because she will be three years, eight months old by August 2023.

We noticed that at around 3.75 years old, our son really started wanting to engage with other children. Before age 3, he was very happy with solo play. Therefore, perhaps our daughter will follow a similar route.

Finally, we decided it didn't make sense for our son to attend the new preschool because we would then have to reapply to kindergarten this fall for next year.

Attending the bi-lingual school for preschool is a great way to “try before we buy.” If our son doesn't do well in a language immersion class setting, we can always apply to a different school.

Choosing A School Is A Leap Of Faith

Despite all the fancy marketing material, high rankings, and positive feedback, there's no guarantee a school will be the right fit. We must do as much due diligence as possible and make the best decision with the information given.

Giving up an enrollment deposit should be the least of your concerns. Trying to find the right educational fit for your children is priority number one.

When we started on our children's educational journey in San Francisco, several people told me something reassuring. They said, “Everybody gets in somewhere. Everything tends to work out in the end.”

Places like San Francisco and New York are hyper-competitive cities where the most gung-ho people come to build their fortunes. Therefore, as a household where neither parent works or holds a position of status, I was worried whether anybody would ever take a chance on us.

Thankfully, three preschools have, including one of the hardest ones to get into. To be frank, it feels great to get accepted by a school that even a centimillionaire said was impossible to get into.

Therefore, I no longer have any insecurities about being a nobody family in a big city anymore. If you feel your family doesn't have enough status, I wouldn't worry either.

The Desire To Be Somebody Again

Before I had kids, I enjoyed being a nobody. All I selfishly cared about was being free with my wife. However, after having kids, I began to think about their future. I began to worry how being a nobody could negatively affect them.

Would my kids feel as mortified by our lack of status as I did as a 13-year-old being driven somewhere public in my dad's paint-less 1976 Datsun? Perhaps. Would being nobodies hinder them from opportunity? Probably in subtle ways.

I was considering being a somebody again until we got the preschool acceptances this year. Having a minimum amount of status matters. But now, I'm not so sure it matters.

At the end of the day, so long as your child is learning in a safe and nurturing environment, that's what matters the most.

I'm sure there are multiple schools out there that are a great fit for your child. Go with the best school for your money. Once you've made the decision, don't look back.

What If You Go To Harvard And End Up A Nobody?

Private Or Public Grade School? Giving Up $1 Million For Private Is A Lot

Readers, have you ever had to give up your child's enrollment deposit because you changed schools? How did you go about letting the school know you were changing schools? Would you give up an enrollment deposit to go to a potentially better preschool or elementary school? Or would you only do so for college?

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48 thoughts on “Forfeit The Enrollment Deposit For A Better School?”

  1. Hi! I think you’re referring to little school and Presidio knolls. We are having a dilemma of somehow being accepted to both schools! Would love to hear your experience at Presidio knolls. Are you happy there? Our daughter is 2.5 and will be 3 in the Fall and we are really struggling with this decision! Thank you!

    1. Congrats! I wasn’t a fan of PKS due to the location and its focus on fundraising. I’m on the west side of the city and didn’t want to cross market. Here is my review. But if the location works, then it’s probably great for you guys.

      Here’s my review of TLS as well. Nice facilities, but very homogenous. I like their 2-days a week part time program.

      Have you considered CAIS? And may I ask what do you think were the qualifications for you to get in to both schools? TLS is especially hard. But my friend got in, but he’s the CEO of a public company.


      1. We didn’t consider CAIS because our child didn’t meet the age requirement for this year. We were very lucky to get into the Little School (don’t have legacy and didn’t get a letter of recommendation). I know families who applied for the same program/year and didn’t get in even though some of them are CFOs of public companies. We both have jobs in the finance industry (nothing exceptional). Ultimately, I think it may have come down to fit and the description of our child in the application (we agonized and spent hours writing this). We ended up going with Little School and absolutely love it and highly recommend it to others!

          1. Agree with your post. Part of our getting in was that we met a minimum level of status. Certainly there are many other families that are richer than us, but I think we checked just enough boxes to get in.

            We aren’t sure yet what our plans for the future are! We still like the idea of a bilingual school, so would love to hear your thoughts on that if you stick with it!

  2. As a mother of three, one college graduate one still in college and one about to be a senior in high school, all I can say is this. Do what you feel would benefit your child the most even if you have to change it up down the road. In other words, be flexible. My older two neither went to preschool went to public schools the whole way through and got into many universities. My youngest was only went to preschool for 6 months previous to Kindergarten it was a Montesorri preschool and K-6 I wish we had kept her there she learned so much more and if I had left her there we would have had less struggles all the way through until about 9th grade. The Montesorri model taught her so much more than she learned in kindergarten. Best of luck I’m a longtime reader and first time commenting, I have learned so much from your website!

  3. I live in an affluent area of Southern California and have a 15 year old. Everyone in our area insisted that the fancy expensive local preschools were the only way to go to be successful later in our high achieving local schools. We went with our gut and picked a not at all fancy or expensive preschool in a neighboring working class city that was convenient because it was on our way to work. Our kid ended up being one of the most prepared in kindergarten and through elementary and was miles ahead of the kids who went to the expensive preschools. And after about a month into kindergarten no one even cared or asked where any of the kids went to preschool. Bottom line go with your gut and where your kid will fit in best regardless of prestige.

  4. Hello,
    Recently I joined your community and I am learning more about investments for outside of 401K.
    As I was reading your posting and responses fm others I reflect on my past decisions & how I could changed some of decisions regarding my children’s education courses.
    As single mom with 2 high schoolers, I could save more (spend less on kindergarten/secondary schools) because now I may have to pay really a lot for colleges that my kids will attend (private schools) because of my middle-class income makes too much fm colleges eyes (pls note being a single parent & the only financially responsible parent between 2 parents, schools do not give any extra “financial help”, to a divorced parent. What you may heard fm others are not true, that a single patient get extra financial help)
    So plan the further end of education expenses, colleges (estimate how much colleges will cost for your kids) and think twice about pre-school & kindergarten expenses because you will need that money for the college.

  5. Exactly! I work in Tech and can tell you that most individuals in this sector didn’t get a degree in this sector. I honestly thing the system is flawed if we think 18 year-olds know what they want to do right after high school. I know many in the 40’s that still don’t, LOL.

  6. Hey Sam,

    As a father of two with older children than yours. We are about the same age. I can tell you that your 2nd child will probably be more social than your first since she has had a built-in play pal with your son. Also 2nd children especially girls do mature faster in the early years. Both my wife and I are the youngest in our family and we both excelled faster as we had the opportunity to learn from our older siblings progress as well as mistakes. Both of my kids went through private school their entire lives and my Daughter just graduated this past May from Highschool. It goes fast so hold on.

      1. Even though she was accepted to several Universities that Mom and Dad can and would afford she opted to stick close to home and do her 2 years at a Community College first. Very proud of her for making that decision on her own. We received several calls from her $36K a year Preparatory High School inquiring with us on our Daughters decision to not go off to a University. Apparently they keep track of their statistics as part their sell to future families/kids about their acceptance rates into Universities.

        1. Hopefully this doesn’t hurt with our Son who wants to go the same Preparatory School she did but we have a 1 year gap there so maybe they will won’t have a memory for it. Like you, we ponder these things we don’t completely understand and will never really know how decisions are made 100%.

          1. Frank question. Why the interest in going to the expensive prep school given everyone can attend a community college after for free?

            I think it’s great your daughter is trying to figure out what to do with her life in CC. However, the annual cost of private grade school seems like a lot for CC.

            Thank you

            1. Fair question. From my perspective we’re sending kids to private school for the better experience for both them and us parents. College is not part of my calculation.

  7. Congrats on the acceptance, and on finding peace with your choice to stay the course at your existing school. My oldest is in a dual language immersion elementary school – it was very challenging for him and me in the first few years, but by his third year he became surprisingly proficient.

    My personal experience at a really good, expensive, full day preschool was that it provided us access to a nice group of parents and it was a safe place for our son to interact with other kids from good families, but my own kid did not learn well in a group setting at that age, so he learned to read and do basic math at home, not at school.

    At school he socializes with other kids under the supervision of caring adults, sang songs, did some really awesome art projects, and learned about other cultures and geography, etc. I loved all the extras the school provided, which was so helpful for working families (for example, they offered karate, ballet, yoga, ice skating and skiing (we live in a mountain town)). It was all the extra activities that made it worth it (starting at about age 3 they are old enough to take advantage of the extras).

    1. Thanks! It does feel good to be accepted. I’ve often wondered how things would play out for parents who exit the workforce early.

      For example, borrowers are dead to banks once they no longer have W2 income. I’m glad jobless parents are not dead to schools!

      After about age 3 is about right for preschool IMO. It was at age 3.5-3.75 where interaction with other children became of great interest.

      Fascinating to observe and support our children the best way possible with so many unknown variables.

  8. I can tell you the sibling auto-admission is clutch in the DC/NOVA area. On the one hand you feel bad about it until you are in the system, but once in – it’s the best.

    Our previous daycare which we completely lucked into cost about $22k/year per kid. This was in addition to activity fees for science classes – $1-2k/year per kid, and horse riding and petting zoos, etc., and other things. We also paid an additional fee for advanced exercise classes and tumbling classes for the kids. Roughly $500/year per kid. Never thought I would be paying more than my college tuition for pre-schooling.

    We originally got into the school by chance because our friends who were in the system told us the school was “secretly” building another location. We hounded the owners and found out about it, and then offered to pay the full first 2 months to ensure a spot. Originally they were going to put us on the wait list, but apparently the up front cash talked – cash is king. So, we got spot 23 of 24 booked. We had also previously applied to 4 other places of varying ranks – aka the safety schools. One other “reach” school – potentially the ivy of the group didn’t get back to us until about 2 years after we wanted to get into the pre-school. By that point we had already been so engrained in our current school that it wasn’t worth switching. I wonder how many connections may have been missed by attending the “wrong” pre-school – ha!

    Overall I believe we lost out on about $2,500 in tuition payments, and deposits on schools until we found the one we wanted. Seems crazy looking back on it now, but I guess we will do anything for our kids.

    Anyway, when baby number 2 came along, it was such a relief to know we could skip the line. I walked into the office and said my Daughter would be joining, and the director said, good thing you have your son here already. There is a 25 person waitlist for the spot, but it’s yours. I felt bad for all the other names on the list – but not bad enough to forgo our auto-admission.

    Also the second kid provided a sibling discount for the other as well – small offset – 5% I believe, but better than nothing.

    In the end it was probably overkill and more expensive than it needed to be, but what’s the point of making money if you aren’t willing to use it to better those around you.

    1. Thanks for sharing! The auto admissions makes sense to keep continuity and community for the children and parents when they are so young.

      The auto admissions is definitely a perk for families with many many children and can afford the tuition. And yes, I was bummed to hear 80 families applied for only one non-sibling spot.

      Your $2500 datapoint makes me feel better for not being alone about our situation. I think we ended up spending almost $1000 on 7 preschool admissions fees.

      We figured we were so low on society’s social status rung that we had better apply to more schools than less.

      I’m always impressed when I hear parents say they just applied to the one school they wanted to go to and got in!

      1. Applying to only one school is either ballsy or naive. I would like it to be that kids and families can find the place for their kid and get into whatever location, school, etc. that they want. However, it just doesn’t work that way.

        I would suggest for those out there who haven’t started the process yet – jump on it! Most of the schools we talked with required a pre-meeting aka interview as well as a non-refundable deposit. In some cases the deposit was required before you could even schedule the interview. I guess the school wanted to make sure you were serious. Also, don’t be surprised if during the interview/site review they show you all the cool things about the school and the teachers first, then hit you with the wait list or lead time for access. I recall one such place who we called and talked with before hand knew we needed to get in within 5 months. We paid the deposit, scheduled the interview everything went well. They said our son would be perfect and they would be glad to have him. They would be ready for him to start in 24-28 months. Believe me I was pissed. Not so much about the lead time, though disappointing, but more so because they knew we were looking for 5 months out. Kind of annoying to waste both of our time – and my money.

        Interestingly enough, I did do a calculation a few years ago about a specific daycare and their non refundable deposits. I recall coming up with roughly $500k/year on non refundable deposits alone. Now some of those people likely got in, but for 85-90% of the people I would imagine it was just funds they would never see again. Then you add in the actual tuition and the number of students in the school and you will see just how much money these pre-schools are really bringing in. I’m convinced – real estate and child care are two viable options to FI.

      2. Hi Sam, though we are in Cambridge, UK the school situation (local social pressure re private schools) is the same! Go with your gut feeling, don’t regret deposits! We lost £750 deposit and went for the free local option! No regrets at all, happy about the school and its’ diversity & ethos! Our headache now is secondary (middle) school, but we are collecting data already (3yrs to go) and we’ll do what we believe is the best, not what our friends want us to do! Sticking out, standing up for what we want, not letting others influence us with their insecurities, & often they feel guilty about the high tuition fees, hence they want everyone else in the club! … Sticking out is not always easy though! Cheers!

        1. A parent’s insecurities are real! And it is fascinating to see some parents really try and guilt others into doing something.

          I’ve delt with parent insecurity by doing a lot of research and writing, which has helped.

          I’ve also spent as much time as possible with my kids every single day, so that if they one day stumble, which they will, I won’t feel that guilty that I didn’t try my best.

          No downside and preparing three years ahead for you guys! I prepared 14 years ahead by becoming a high school boys tennis coach when my son was born! :)

  9. If you have 20k to piss away on preschool every year, I think you can afford to give up the 12k deposit.

    1. This is the most out-of-touch post on this website.

      I don’t have kids. But parents shouldn’t have to pay for preschool or care so much for a young child’s education.

      To debate between giving up an enrollment deposit for a better school or not is not reality.

      1. Maybe if you had kids you’d understand these situations do happen.

        Maybe if your parents sent you to preschool you’d be a better-adjusted human being.

        In fact, the responses by you and Mike are great arguments for why going to at least one year of preschool is important for human development!

      2. Why is it considered out of touch to care about your children and your finances? The more you care about something, generally, the better those things turn out.

      3. John, you lost me at “I don’t have kids.” Clearly you don’t.

        I agree we “shouldn’t have to” pay so much for education, but who am I supposed to complain to? By the time the government provides high quality subsidized childcare my kids will be someone’s ancient ancestors.

        Please don’t insult the author, especially when you know nothing about a topic

    2. Some say the first five years of life is the most important time for development as the brain grows to 90% of its adult size.

      A good education in the earlier years helps with patience, problem solving, and the ability to process new perspectives.

      If this is true, perhaps providing a preschool education is worth it. Especially if it’s cheaper than college

      Did you not send yours kids to prrschool? How about yourself?

      1. I’m assuming no preschool for this guy.

        He’s also too sensitive about you jokingly calling a preschool the “Harvard of Preschools.”

        Some people are just too wound up.

    3. Did your parents neglect you when you were a kid?

      The first five years of a child’s life is the most important part of development. It sets the foundation for the rest of one’s life.

      A lot of people have social and financial problems in part because they didn’t have a nurturing upbringing and proper education growing up.

  10. MacArthur “Roth IRA” Wheeler

    I wonder how bad most public schools are in SF. If it took you this long to get in, what chance does a normal person working 50 hours a week or a single parent barely getting by have of their child getting in.

    Shouldn’t schools in such an affluent locale all have quality teachers and curriculum? Without extra money or politicking?

    We live in a medium cost of living 18 hour city. Our schools are safe. They have quality teachers and curriculum. We had to jump through no hoops and pay no money other than taxes in our area.

    Very few people can afford or take the time for pre-school/kinder/elementary greasing of the wheels.

    1. Not sure. I think parents do what they can for their children. Education and time spent with their children are probably the two most important variables.

      I don’t think it’s that hard to apply to schools. Instead of watching a basketball or football game, that time can be spent applying to one school.

      One just needs to be diligent and follow deadlines. Once you’re in the school application mode, applying to multiple schools is straightforward.

      I’m not aware of free preschools available to middle class families in SF. There’s an income maximum requirement, so most families send their kids to preschools that cost money.

      I may seem more thorough than average because I write out my thoughts.

  11. As the mother of 3 adult children, and having taught in all types of schools both private and inner city, and at all grade levels, I always notice that few parents check the credential status of teachers at their selected schools.
    It is very easy to access the California credential site at and this will give the status of all California registered teachers. If I cannot find a teacher, I always wonder why. Usually it’s because the school hires the cheapest teachers they can get. Teaching effectively is not easy and, in my experience, in admittedly wealthy Orange County, the main public school districts are every bit as well run as most of the private schools. And the teachers are very qualified.
    I remember many years ago when we moved to a UK area with no private schools and our children had to go to the village school (which they all loved), the headmaster told us not to consider schools that won’t let prospective parents visit them in person. I took this to heart and always let prospective parents drop in to my classes at any time. The Administration and parents loved this approach and I had so many visitors, even during the vacation if I was there.
    Do your homework thoroughly on schools of your choice. If you feel bad vibes, run away as fast as you can, always trust your gut.

    1. Great advice on checking the credentials of the teachers. I always do this before I invest in a fund – thoroughly read the bios of all investment committee members.

      We did the same with all schools we’ve applied to.

  12. Abdullah Idris Makarfi

    You Know I like how you didn’t listen to your friend’s advice and just went all in. It’s always better to try and fail than never try because you’ll never know what might come out of it. Not to mention the guilt that would haunt you for not trying. And what do you know? Your kid did get accepted after all. It is true that trying to find the right educational fit for your children is and should be the priority number one.

    1. Indeed. I hate feeling regret for not having tried.

      I felt this way as a middle-class kid who went to public high school. Because I felt I had no chance of getting into a top 10-15 university, I didn’t bother applying.

      I’m glad I ended up at William & Mary, that o lt cost $2,800 a year in tuition back then Vs $25,000 for private tuition. But now I wonder what if.

      And the thing is, it tends to all work out in the end. Hence my final message of not sweating a decision.

  13. This hardly rates as a conundrum. It simply doesn’t matter whether your kids go to the Harvard of Romper Room or the closest public school. Its the quality of your parenting that will have the greatest impact on their adult lives. That and the huge factor you can’t control at all, their free will choices. But the good thing is the quality of your parenting is amazing, you are a great dad, and by all accounts your wife is an equally good parent. It comes through in almost every post you make. I think you are sweating the small stuff too much, but getting the big stuff right. I suspect you are raising awesome adults because you are committed to it as being so very important, which it is.

    1. Thanks. I really enjoy thinking about the details, because it’s free to do, and also I find that I missed some things in retrospect.

      I am sure there are other parents and students out there who will face the same dilemma of forfeiting an enrollment deposit to attend a different school or not. So I thought it be useful to go through a mental model.

      And what if you do come off the wailers from Harvard university, and you sent in your deposit to Columbia University, Brown University, Berkeley, William and Mary, Duke, etc. What does one do?

      Different and interesting scenarios abound!

  14. Ugh I can sympathize with this. Dealing with private schools is no fun…theres’ lots of money at stake and ultimatley you can never predict how well a given shcool will work for your kid. When we applied to several private elementary schools for our son, we were lucky enough to get into our top 2 choices. As it turns out, we chose the wrong one for our son (and there are other things about the school we chose that we’ve come to really dislike). Of course, it’s almost impossible to get into that other school now. As someone who grew up with public schools, I find private schools to be opaque and frustrating.

    1. Sorry to hear. What were some of the things and issues that made the school you guys picked a suboptimal school? How do you think the other school would have been better? Thx!

  15. Richard Harrell

    That was the long way to get to the right answer. All the considerations were relevant. There was an allusion to consequences if the Harvard Of Preschools became the choice. The one thing that maybe I missed was the issue of commitment. That is a parallel consideration to the money and the benefit for the kid. Did I commit to a course of action with another person or group? If I did, why would I not keep that commitment? If I decided to bail on the commitment, why would I not tell the truth about it? That could have adverse consequences on my relationship with the other school. Like I said, you got to the right answer.

    1. It was a long way of going about it because it took me writing this post to make a decision and come to the realizations. Like therapy.

      Loyalty and commitment is huge! Something better may come along. But staying loyal to the people who took a chance on you is very important.

      1. Richard Harrell

        That makes sense, using the post as a kind of therapy or sorting process to get the elements out there to look at.

        I hope your son enjoys the school you have chosen for him. It is not always a transparent situation if the parents are really positive about a situation, the child may mask a high level of dissatisfaction fearing that having an opinion so different from the parents’ position would be a potential source of tension — or more likely in the child’s mind a source of rejection. I missed that with my daughter’s elementary school experience and really regret it. In retrospect, she gave me all the information I needed to see that she was in a bad situation. I didn’t listen well enough.

        BTW, your daughter will be totally different from your son. Enjoy discovering a brand new universe in her.

        1. Good point about being open to change and listening to our children’s feedback.

          We are 100% flexible of doing whatever for the right educational experience. Homeschooling is also a possibility.

          We secretly want him to want to travel and go to international schools or homeschools so we can travel.

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