Perhaps Bribing For Admissions Starts In Preschool

March 12, 2019 is a day I'll never forget. Not only did the college admissions bribing scandal break that morning, we found out our boy got waitlisted by two preschools. Waitlisted is really just a euphemism for rejected.

The first preschool was a Mandarin immersion preschool I'll call PooPoo about 20-25 minutes away. We had to go for an initial one hour tour, then a 30 minute parent interview with the admissions director who was hacking up a lung that day, and then a final play date interview along with 11 other kids and parents.

It was an arduous process that we found unappealing, especially given the commute. Plus, during our application process, the school canceled its 4-day a week part-time program in favor of only 5 full days a week. We found all of this to be too much for a 2.5 year old.

Perhaps Admissions Bribing Starts As Early As Preschool

The school seemed like it was being run more like a business first, and a school second. They had a massive $1 million fund raising goal banner in the entrance. And the decision to go 5 days a week in order to charge their full $31,240 a year in tuition felt off.

We'd also heard from parents of former students that the school really pressures families to donate large sums of money. Instead of a “donate what you can” approach, one parent told us the school's attitude with suggested donations is “you'll find a way to make it work.”

When a school is super money hungry, it makes you doubt if they're really putting the kids' interests first. It wouldn't surprise me if a school with a business-first attitude welcomes admissions bribing with open arms either.

Given these issues, we were not disappointed when PooPoo waitlisted our boy. We had already decided he wouldn't attend. Spending $31,240 a year on tuition for a 2.5 year old felt extremely unnecessary. I speak Mandarin and we could use the money to live in Taiwan for a summer instead.

Another Admissions Rejection

The second school we applied to I'll call PeePee; it's about a 15-18 minute drive away. We liked the school because it had a two day a week program that runs from 9:30am – 12:30pm for $8,500 a year. We thought this was a more appropriate transition for a young toddler first experiencing a school setting.

The only problem with the school is that it's not very racially or socioeconomically diverse. Further, 11 of the 12 available spots for this upcoming preschool year for 2-3-year-olds were already preassigned for siblings. This ensured further homogeneity.

The Executive Director personally reached out over e-mail and told me that 80 people applied for the one open non-sibling position, which meant that they only had a 1.25% acceptance rate.

Given we had no connections to the school, don't look like the majority of parents, don't have any status, didn’t donate any money, and learned the application numbers, we weren't surprised about the rejection, just a little disappointed.

Admissions Bribing Might Start As Early As Preschool

I wasn't told the application statistics by PooPoo because they didn't personally reach out like PeePee. They basically sent a blast waitlist/rejection e-mail. But, I've got to imagine the application statistics are similarly dire.

1.25% would be the lowest college admissions rate by far in the country. If parents were willing to risk admissions bribing and spend $250,000 – $400,000 on average to get their kids into colleges like USC with a 17% acceptance rate, it makes me wonder how many parents bribe their way into the most hoity toity of preschools.

The parents who send their kids to the two schools we got rejected from have very similar racial and economic profiles as the 33 parents who've so far been caught by the FBI. I spoke to many of them during our interview process and learned their backgrounds: bankers, techies, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, executives, etc. Preschool could very well be where this entire bribery culture starts.

Admissions Bribing With Large Donations

But then I started to think things through. Unlike the college admissions bribing scandal, there aren't any tests to manipulate or rowing coaches to illegally bribe.

Instead, you just basically contact the admissions director first. Then you tell them you are willing to donate a large sum of money to the school for expansion or educational purposes. Next you gush about how you want to be a part of the community. You must reach out because preschool is ground zero. That, or the school knows who you are and recruits your family.

With a 1.25% acceptance rate at PooPoo, you'd think I wouldn't know anyone who sent their kids there. But in reality, I know several parents whose kids went there and they are all extremely wealthy. Donating $100,000 – $200,000 for their kid to play with wooden blocks would mean nothing to them.

I didn't bother to ask those parents for a recommendation because I don’t know them well enough, nor did I care enough. Further, I hate asking anybody for any favors, so I don’t.

Legal admissions bribery in the form of quid-pro-quo donations has always been around. And it looks like it'll always be around.

Elite Schools Continue To Stay Elite

Also, I realized that because wealthy people can more easily afford to have multiple kids in expensive cities like SF, NYC, LA, Boston, and Washington D.C., the elite institutions starting from preschool through college will continue to be geared towards the wealthiest people in America who mostly look the same.

For those who don't know, younger siblings basically get preferential admission at private schools. This applies to preschool, elementary school, middle school, and high school. Wherever their brothers or sisters attend, younger siblings are basically automatically in too so long as they aren't a screw up and meet a minimum academic standard. The preferential treatment decreases with each schooling level, but it's there, even in college.

Legacy admissions is the biggest affirmative action policy of them all.

But I understand the sibling preferential admissions policy because you want to maintain continuity in the family. Schools build relationships with families and thus it would be extremely awkward to reject a sibling. But such rejections do happen.

However, due to the nature of homophily, people of a certain class and race tend to hang out and support each other. We know that all parents want the best for their kids, so I don't blame these schools for accepting the same types of children year after year.

Don't Worry About Us

Although we got rejected by two schools, we got accepted by one I'll call WheeWhee! A 33% hit rate ain't too shabby.

The school we got accepted to came highly recommended from my wife's ex-coworker and one of my tennis students at the high school I currently coach at. It was the first school we visited and applied to a year and a half ago.

What's great about the school is that it's diverse, not rigid, super friendly, and is only a five minute drive away. The short commute really is a blessing.

Having to drive to the other two schools made me feel like I was driving to work. With WheeWhee, it feels like I'm just going down the hill to my neighborhood grocery story for a bagel.

The tuition at WheeWhee is not cheap at $1,800 a month for five full days a week. But we have the option of going half days each day or three days a week for $1,400 a month. Further, we can go month-to-month if we decide to go on an extended vacation in the future.

The admissions director told us they get on average 200 – 260 applications a year for 12 spots. Only three of the spots are reserved for siblings. An acceptance rate of 3.5% – 4.5% is still quite low.

Our lucky break for getting in was when we started to get to know one of the teachers randomly at the California Academy of Sciences where we take our son three times a week. We started bumping into him at least every week for at least a year. As a result, he felt comfortable recommending us to the admissions director.

Decisions, Decisions

We've now got a decision to make.

Do we put down a deposit for the spot? Or do we give it up so we can remain free to relocate? We aren't entirely sold on the necessity of putting our son in preschool before three years old since we are both full-time parents. We also might end up in Honolulu and send him to preschool there if the summer works out well.

We'll probably put down the deposit and ask for a refund if we change our mind. They won't have trouble filling the spot anyway with over 200 applicants a year. Besides, the school year starts in August, so we'd have at least two months in Hawaii before having to come back.

The preschool application process requires you to be on the ball. Given the amount of demand, any missed deadline will eliminate your chances of getting in.

You've got to interview well, write a comprehensive application, and consistently show your interest by attending events and following up. Even if you do everything right, the chance of admission is still low in many big cities.

But don't worry too much. Every kid will get in somewhere if they apply to enough places. Some spots open up randomly throughout the year as well. It might not be the ideal school, but so long as the children are loved and kept safe, that's all that really matters.

It's just preschool after all!

Update: In 2020, we ended up sending our son to WheeWhee! and he loved it. We loved it too. The community, field trips, holiday activities, recreational actives, art projects, and amount of outdoor play was wonderful. Alas, the pandemic cut his time at the preschool short and we switched to homeschooling. Perhaps we'll re-enroll for 2021/2022, but we're still waiting things out.


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Related: Navigating The Preschool Admissions Process

Readers, do you think there's a lot of legal bribing at the “prestigious” preschools in your city? Why do people care so much about where their child goes to preschool so long as they are safe and learning? What do you think about admissions bribing in schools? Is there any more educational research you would like me to do and write about?

74 thoughts on “Perhaps Bribing For Admissions Starts In Preschool”

  1. I’ve read your and other people’s articles with great interest questioning the value of private schools and their associated expenses. I can relate as a product of public education. On a related matter, I also question the value of investing so much in kids’ activities.

    I’m a few years ahead of you in child rearing. It starts with the “right” daycare/preschool and after that it’s a slippery slope to private school. We tried the public schools for two years but opted for (a cheaper) private after that. It’s marginally better for an extra $13K x 2 per year.
    By high school, it will be $20K per kid on the cheap end.

    We have friends who were also staunchly anti-private but now enrolling their kids in a private middle school for $32K per year. The public schools are poorly rated, no one wants to move and we can afford the private education (despite being ideologically opposed).

    As much as we disdain spending this amount of money on our kids (costlier than any college education that we received), we’ve all fallen into this trap. When one achieves a certain level of wealth and otherwise quite frugal (no fancy cars, houses, meals), its difficult not to invest in our kids even if the returns are questionable.

    I predict that, like us, you will continue to struggle with this question for many more years.

    1. I agree.

      I’d love to send my son To private school in Honolulu where it’s only $24,000 a year in versus here in San Francisco or you have to spend about $35,000 a year for middle school and $45,000 a year for high school. Even though $24,000 a year is a lot of money, it feels like a bargain. Plus, we get to live in Hawaii. Not bad.

  2. Stefan Meyer

    Thanks for the fun post. The child care situation in bay area is pretty amazing isn’t it. Was very stressful finding a place for our 2.5 year old as well. If you ever need a play date in the peninsula, let me know! :) . Probably this is too far away for you, but if you are on the peninsula, Curiodyssey is a great little place for a 2.5 year old. Part zoo, part exploratorium, its just right size for a 2-5 year old vs the larger museums.

  3. Gee – I thought that gettting into private schools in Sydney was tough. We put our sons name down at two school when he was 6 weeks old to secure places for high school. We got rejected from one on the basis we were too late (12 years in advance!) despite a long family history with the institution. Private education is the biggest rort.

  4. No Name Guy

    Am I the only one wondering why there aren’t a lot more preschools given the demand and prices?

    Sam, I’d love to see you do the business case on one of these 31k / year / child places. My goodness. What kind of staff / child ratio’s are we talking about?

    1. There are alot of regulations for running a daycare. Square footage per child, teacher child ratios, added fire safety. Those are big deterrents. I’ve built four of them. Two where in high income neighborhoods and did well. One was right near the highway with easy on and off ramps; that one did well. The last was 15min or some from the highway, poorer more rural neighborhood and that one went under.

  5. There simply isn’t any way to base admission on merit with two-year olds. That just seems to be a matter of supply and demand. Short of public schools offering this kind of thing to everyone there simply won’t be a way to meet demand unless supply increases or demand decreases.

    As for the colleges? Let’s just remove most of the temptation for shenanigans. Drag it out in the open. Make the admissions process completely merit based and ensure there can be no favoritism or discrimination. Separate names, genders, and photos entirely from admission packages under review.

    If you get admitted on merit you still got to come up with the money or the scholarships.

    If you don’t get admitted on merit, you can STILL get admitted, but someone has to cough up enough moola to put ten other kids through the school on full scholarship, in addition to you (this figure might need to be adjusted).

    Little incentive for bribery then, unless it’s to try to shave a few bucks off the price for a denied applicant.

  6. I would put the deposit down and put your son in preschool…if the deposit is refundable. Since you will have in there part time, it’s a benefit for everyone. You and the wife have some free time for yourselves and your son with get to interact with kids around his age on top of the learning he will get. And plus if you guys move out of SF before the preschool year starts you can get your deposit back if its refundable.
    I’m currently in a preschool dilemma myself. We applied to 2 preschools and got wait listed for our top choice and got accepted for the 2nd one. Thinking like you did and assumed that waitlisted means rejected we put down a deposit for the 2nd preschool and fill out all the required forms and our 3 year old will start preschool in the summer. About a week later, the first preschool contacts us and says that they have a spot for him now since a couple of parents declined the acceptance into the preschool. We would prefer the first preschool since it’s closer to the grandparents house and they can pick them up from preschool. With the second preschool I would have to drive there after work to pick him up. I get off at 5 and the preschool closes around 6 so they’re might be some days I might get into downtown SF traffic and not make the 6pm cut off time. If that happens they will charge an extra fee picking him up late. On top of that, the deposit we put down already is non-refundable so if we opt for the 1st preschool, that deposit will go to waste.
    We still have time to decide on what to do since it won’t start until summer but it’s a tough one to make.

      1. Hi Sam,

        I suggest if waiting is a possibility then do so. We live in the Inner Richmond. Waited until both children were three before sending them both for three days a week. My oldest is in K at great public school. So happy be done with private tuition.

  7. I was doing some research on this a couple days ago, thought I would share. My oldest started preschool at 4 months and my younger started when he as a little under 3. I would agree that around 3 is a nice sweet spot for kids.

    “Up to the age of three, home is best. Little kids do best—less stress, fewer behavioural problems, better health—if they’re cared for at home, and a parent can be home with them a lot of the time.
    After three, preschool has many benefits. Children older than three can benefit from attending good preschools or junior kindergartens.”

    1. Great article. I think I read it before. It makes sense, and given we are two stay at home parents, it feels EXTRA BAD to send our boy to preschool before age 3 since we know we’ll provide him the most love and support now.

      The conclusion I’m coming up with is that preschools, especially those accepting 2.5 year olds is a BUSINESS DECISION first. It’s also for working parents who have no other choice.

      We have a choice, and it’s best to do what’s best based on what the research says.

      1. Yeah we have a similar situation with 1 stay at home parent in socal. So we were thinking are we crazy for sending him to pre-school, but in the end we decided to send him off and he’s been doing great. 2 years of pre-school seems like a good amount to set up our kids for success.

        anyways it definitely is a blessing to have the choice to decide.
        good luck!

  8. We just got waitlisted/rejected from every preschool and daycare we applied to in Chicago. Not exactly sure where we go from here.

  9. I think there’s TREMENDOUS value in preschoolers getting exposed to a variety of topics, variety of individuals, in those “prestigious” preschools, and you can tell (and there are numerous that support the importance of early development) that there are few precocious kids that will benefit if they’re guided and be placed in an environment that’s challenging.

    However the reality is that most kids are just ordinary. Parents deceive themselves into thinking that their kids are uniquely special, but in reality – kids all measure up differently early on but for the most part balance out.

    The misconception I think is where the problem is IMO. Parents are willing to spend a lot of money to give their kids the best because they think their kids have this special talent worth cultivating, but guess what? They end up disappointing the parents because the parents established an unrealistic and misguided expectation based on their misconception.

    But above getting intellectually challenged at an early age, kids just need to be in an environment where they’re encouraged to share their feelings, are taught how to adjust to social cues, and guided to respect and love each other. These skills are extremely important because it’ll be a skill that will carry on until they die. Educational and artistic forms of skills are something most kids will end up discovering and honing mostly on their own. The benefit of being “rich” is that if your kid exhibits signs of interest in an area – you are able to provide resources when they ask for it to maximize their opportunities.

    The whole I spend $450 – 600 a week to send my kids to the best preschool notion is mostly ridiculous. And when my peers talk about how their kids are in this school with low acceptance rate, I just nod my head and wish for them to get the best outcome. But that’s just not for me. In fact for my kids, my wife and I chose the schools where the teacher put an emphasis in developing socially and emotionally above educationally. A 3 or 4 year old reading and writing 99% better than their peers is great and all, but it is my opinion that those skills will eventually all intersect and balance out. Soft skills on the other hand are so much more difficult to correct if they’re not taught those skills at an early age.

    1. I like your way of thinking. A breath of fresh air. The anxiety over finding the “perfect” preschool in many urban areas is gut wrenching to watch. Read daily to your children and have them play outdoors without hovering. Both will go a long way.

  10. Articles like this make the lady and I never want to give up the DINK (dual income no kids) lifestyle.

    1. Sounds good. You won’t miss what you don’t have.

      We got everything out of her system before having kids. Today when I came home to my family felt like the best thing in the world. Just to be able to play and hug my son was priceless after several days away.

  11. If you had more than one kid you would appreciate the siblings admissions policies. Pick up and drop off at more than one school would be a huge PITA with multiple kids.

  12. My son has been in daycare and preschool since the age of 6 months. My wife could not be a stay at home mother longer than that, and my salary being better than hers, I could not be a stay at home dad. I would have no problem doing it if her salary was there or we had saved enough when we were younger.

    We were primarily concerned with my son being in a warm caring environment more than anything. We wanted him to be around other kids, and to learn as much about being in a group as letters and the rest. I am confident he will learn that over time. The core emotional and interpersonal development has been our priority. The one bad thing about all of that, though, is all the germs. The annual, and sometimes twice annual, vomit virus that goes around the schools just sucks. There are some parents that just wont keep their kids home when they should, and then the whole room gets sick.

    In our case, they are teaching the kids some Spanish which my wife and I like as we both know some. Still, I think my son will be ready for kindergarten this fall, and that is the most important thing.

    Your experiences with the crazy preschools is exactly why we left Manhattan, and moved to a suburb with good schools. We like the fact the the school district is the center of the community, and most of the town’s events revolve around it. NY is just too crazy with that kind of thing even in the public schools. You have to work hard to even get your kids into the correct school at every level. That’s not how we wanted to live, and in fact is why my parents left Brooklyn in the 70s in the first place! Life is too short for that kind of struggle.

    1. Tell me about the vomit virus! My boy got it the next day after visiting a preschool tour for just 1 hour!

      We went to the ER to hydrate him. How do you guys treat your child when the virus comes?

      1. Hmmm… doesn’t matter much which preschool you pick. Since he hasn’t gotten exposed much to other kids’ germs yet, expect him to be sick for most of the next 6 months plus as he picks up everyone else’s germs.

        1. Someone told me that daycare is much worse than preschool regarding children getting sick. I’m assuming it’s because parents don’t care as much and need to drop them off in order to work.

  13. Alway interesting to read your experiences. The big cities are so removed from normal society. We went Waldorf for our kids preschool. It was amazing. When I read your experiences I can see why we get so many new families moving to where I live from big West Coast cities.

    1. How do we know big city life is not normal? Half the American population lives in a big city. Perhaps this is normal and your lifestyle is not?

      In reality, all our lives are normal.

  14. Take the spot.
    The pricing and location is very reasonable and they provide good flexibility.

    My daughter is slightly older and turning 3 soon and loves preschool. She loves the interaction with other kids.

    The preschool isn’t fancy but my daughter loves it and is learning a ton there. Also watching older kids does a lot to encourage learning.

    You found a place you like. Money isn’t an issue. Although you are two stay at home parents, you can’t replace interaction with other kids. This isn’t a super expensive bribe your way in place but a good place that is a good fit.

    Please take it. If you decide to move, you can easily forfeit your deposit and let someone else take their spot. I think of it as good Karma. If your geoarbitraging puts the daycare in a rough spot, fulfil your end of the contract.

    1. It makes sense. There is little downside, because there is no law that requires you to lock in a one year commitment like a one-year rental lease for an apartment.

      We feel very thankful that our neighborhood preschool accepted us.

      Let’s let’s see how Hawaii treats us this summer.

  15. Congrats on getting into at least one school and it looks like that school would have been first choice in my books anyway.

    Mad respect you didn’t use your celebrity to try and get any favoritism in the application process (curious if you think that letting them know you were financial samurai would have pushed the application into the accept pile).

    I am still sticker shocked with the tuition for preschool. There is nothing that they can say that possibly justifies that cost unless they are allowing kids to play with faberge Lincoln logs

    1. Not sure if telling them beyond being a HS tennis coach would help. I’m really nothing special in the SF community. There are a lot of big hitters here and I’m definitely not one of them.

      But the funny thing is, I do have influence to help our hurt the view/reputation of whatever I write about. But I don’t want him to get in bc I carry a big stick. More gratifying to try and get in on merit, even if what u do is a big part of merit!

  16. That sounds like the perfect outcome.

    The price translates to AUD 123 a day which is close to the price here in Canberra (we pay AUD 110 but that is low) and lower than in expensive parts of Sydney, which would compare with SF. OTOH we can get a government subsidy of up to AUD 7500 a year, which going 4 days a week reduces our cost to AUD 72 a day.

  17. The one thing that I hope comes out of this scandal is that hiring practices stop weighting people on where they went to school (or connections) and hire people based on their technical knowledge of their field.

    I’ve been hiring software engineers in the bay area for roughly 12 years now (~6 years as a peer interview, ~6 years as a direct hiring manager) and when I first started my bosses would definitely take candidates schools into consideration when ranking candidates against each other. I found that to be a dumb tie breaker, in reality we should have had better screening (I was still newer to hiring at the time).

    Now when I’m hiring, I all but ignore what school candidates want to. I just try to give tough technical interviews to find the best person that fits both technically and personality wise. I can’t say that completely ignore their education though, it’s on their resume, I read it. But I do like a good underdog so that may tell you how I lean when it comes to educational background. I would have been considered an underdog.

    1. This will happen. I spent someone at a company called Handshake, where their business is growing because they are finding people from lesser-known schools to give them a chance at landing the best jobs here in the bay area and around the country.

  18. Hi Sam – applying to preschool in Manhattan, as silly as it sounds to a lot of people, was a very stressful process for me and my wife. Like a lot of other things in life, the harder the preschool made their admissions process to get in, the more we wanted to get our kids into the school. A lot of other parents feel the same way.

    We went through the application process, essays, interviews and play dates a number of times at various preschools. Each rejection hurt – who wouldn’t love our kid?!?! But there are numerous options in Manhattan. It is very similar to applying to college in the sense there are dream schools and safety schools at the preschool level. Apply to a safety or two just in case your kids don’t get into your dream school (not their dream school since they are too young to be selective).

    My kids were lucky enough to get into a very selective one. But the whole application process was a big turn off for me and my wife. We opted not to repeat that process again and went the public route for grade school.

  19. It’s just crazy out there and I’m so far removed from this that I just find it dumbfounding. So I went back to look for current tuition at my son’s preschool in Austin. He’s 27. Sadly, his preschool is no longer. But a few other current compares show that it is well over $1000 per month. I remember when he was born dismissing all of those reports on how expensive it would be to raise a kid. In our case I can say … we spent far, far, far more than those estimates. Wouldn’t trade it for anything though. Time with him continues to be priceless.

  20. Tiffany Larson

    As you will start to learn as your child gets older, most of the school and sports politics is about the parents’s ambitions and not about the children. If you can keep your focus on the long game (the character traits your child needs to develop to be HAPPY and successful), you will find yourself staying out of the BS that ruins kids today.

    1. Will stay aware.

      I just came back from a trip with some very powerful parents that would probably use Adam singer’s service.

      I felt their angst and concerns. But I also feel good that they recognize the bigger picture.

      The thing is, once you develop influential friends, you don’t want to lose them. Friends help friends. It will always be this way.

  21. Boy, am I glad our kid is in elementary school now. We interviewed with a few preschools too. We got waitlisted at a nice co-op preschool and was invited to attend the following year.
    I don’t think the kids really care where they go as long as it is safe. It’s not like they’re learning much at 3. It’s mostly so the parents can network, IMO.
    Our kid didn’t like the co-op preschool and went back to his other preschool.

  22. “The Fancy Shoes with the belt to match!”…That’s what goes with a high (COL) location! You get access to the high income opportunities but your zip code(s) are littered with other capitalists searching for high ROI (i.e. High end Restaurants, shopping, pet boutiques, Grocery stores, preschools and Private schools). Imagine this, these preschools are also feeders (i.e. Bribe) for the privates as well. Why do you think the tuition fees are set up that way? The $1400.00-$1600/m spent for preschool in a large Texas Metro…Just to get you comfortable with the eventual $28-30k/yr private tuition if you choose to go that way, thus showing you won’t need financial aid.

    No complaints, but there’s a cost to convenience when living in the more desirable areas. Drive out the suburbs and cost get slashed almost in half but your commute becomes unbearable and you have less time at home. Then once again, if the parent or the city wears “the fancy shoes”, you better believe the kids or local amenity costs will be the “matching belt.”

  23. ParentofTwo

    Here’s a comparison from Cupertino in Silicon Valley. A Bilingual Chinese-English preschool, when my kids were at that age a few years ago, was around $1400 a month for non-potty trained kids and $1200/month for potty trained kids. And there’s enough supply here that kids generally get admitted unless they do disruptive stuff.

  24. So I definitely agree with your point about the wealthy and donations. But I can’t get on board with the sibling thing. Our oldest goes to a charter school here and his sibling gets preferential treatment to join him. However for our first child to get in was a random lottery.
    I don’t see this model as anti diversification. As a parent of two kids it’s more about reality. Taking your multiple kids to multiple locations in the morning would be a nightmare over the long run. With a 9-1230 schedule you might spend all your time out delivering kids. Any school would hopefully recognize this. Now that’s different at the college level where the parent is not a driver.

    1. From the post

      “But I understand the sibling preferential admissions policy because you want to maintain continuity in the family. The school has also built a relationship with the family and it would be extremely awkward to reject a sibling. But such rejections do happen.

      However due to the nature of homophily, people of a certain class and race tend to hang out and support each other. We know that all parents want the best for their kids, so I don’t blame these schools for accepting the same types of children year after year.”

      Sibling preference is like legacy, just guaranteed legacy. The level of legacy goes down as education levels increase, but it’s still there with college legacy admissions.

      I’m explaining why these schools all look alike. Siblings definitely has something to do with it.

      1. If it’s a random lottery for initial entry though is it homogeneity? My kids school looks like a cross section of my local area, both in economic and race. The only lack of diversity you get there is more examples of multichild households.

        Our other child goes to a private preschool (where his brother did not go). It is certainly not diverse.

        1. Where do you live and is the preschool considered one of the elite ones in your city?

          There are plenty of preschools that will accept more kids and be more representative of the overall location’s population.

          1. Delaware, basically due to busing a place where few kids go to public school. The preschool is moderately prestigious. I do not believe a prestigious preschool makes that much of a difference. We chose it for proximity rather then being elite. It’s across the street from our older child’s bus stop.

            1. Chalky Dawg

              We have the same issue at a really good charter here in Georgia that has an initial random lottery admission, followed by sibling preference. Both my wife and I work and getting the kids to school already requires a 5:15 alarm. If the sibling preference wasn’t there, it would be impossible. Also the school requires parental volunteer hours at the school throughout the school year and there are only so many hours during the day/year so it would be impossible juggling multiple schools.

  25. Sam you crack me up- Poo poo, pee pee and whee whee preschool pseudonyms. Aaaahaha love it and oh how toddler appropriate! I couldn’t stop laughing.

    The local preschool sounds very promising and so much less stressful being close by. Traffic in SF sucks and anything to avoid it is a win imo.

  26. norugratsforme

    This is why I am extremely happy with my decision to not have kids. There’s a giant can of worms that I will never have to open. Whether rich or poor, parents have to face the most ridiculous issues in order to raise their kids well and there is still no guarantee of that. I see so many highly educated, wealthy parents basically giving up their entire lives and identities to be the ‘perfect’ parents. Nowadays, being a parent is almost like being a slave, imho.

    No thanks! Instead of spending all my waking hours worrying about kids, I can spend all my free time pursuing my own interests and living a low-stress, meaningful, happy life. To all those who chose to be parents (or accidentally became parents), good luck!

    1. Cool. Conversely, I would give up everything just to have and be with my son.

      I wish I had him sooner. Biggest joy of my life by far.

      To each their own. It is worth listening to the feedback from parents though, as we were once childless.

      1. norugratsforme

        I’ve asked many parents if they regret having kids, since by my observations, it seems like they should. I’ve mainly gotten the socially acceptable answer of ‘I wouldn’t trade them for the world’. I know this can not be 100% true all the time, it’s just that it’s not kosher to admit it.

        So finally, when my sister got pregnant accidentally and decided to keep the baby, I asked her, when her baby turned one year old. She said that she does not regret the decision to keep the baby (and she’s a great mother, once she made her decision, she was all in), however, if she could go back a little further in time, she definitely would’ve used a condom! lol

        My sister has the closest personality type and worldviews as me, compared to all the other parents I know. So I would trust her opinion over anybody else’s (even if 10,000 other parents tell me kids are the best). I enjoy reading most of your articles, but I can tell that your personality is almost the exact opposite of mine. In the past, I would have FOMO and try to do the things that most people consider to be good. I’ve since learned that they don’t make me happy. And since kids are non-refundable, I am not willing to risk my current happiness level for the slim chance that they would make me a tiny bit happier. My sister is one of the best mother’s I know, but she can openly admit that she was happier and that her life was much better pre-kid. I just wish more people could admit that. Maybe you can write an article or take a poll on this subject. I’m very curious about the actual % of parents who secretly regret having kids.

        1. I don’t doubt a certain percentage of parents regret having kids. A certain percentage of the population probably should not to be allowed to have kids. Most people are not 100% certain either way and certainly not 100% certain 100% of the time–much like finding a spouse.

          My wife and I spent decades avoiding a pregnancy because we weren’t ready to have kids. Once we did, I’ve had no regrets even with the unexpected health challenges they face. They are a time and money suck, but it’s not like I would be working on solving world hunger if I didn’t have kids.

          1. norugratsforme

            Yes, I completely agree that some people should not be allowed to have kids. For people like you and me who have thought long and hard about having kids, whatever we end up choosing, I think we will be satisfied with our decision. It’s the people who jump into parenting accidentally or without any thought or preparation that are more likely to regret it.

            I get that you don’t regret having kids. That’s cool. But here are a few other questions. Is your life happier after kids compared to before kids? How often do you wish you could go back to your pre-kid life? And knowing what you know now, if you could go back 20 years, would you still go down the parenthood path? I am just genuinely curious and want to learn from other people’s experiences.

  27. nofreelunch

    Judge a local science fair and ask the kids who did the project. Most will openly say their parents, while the parents deny it. The parents really want that award to put on their kid’s accomplishment list for the next education level. Kids start out honest, but eventually get corrupted to be like their parents. The real world after education is full of different ways to get ahead, but you usually get ahead by co-working with others, who usually distance themselves from those they find cheating to get ahead. On graduation day, it’s too bad parents can’t undo those bad habits their kids learned by example.

  28. Dr. Remoulak

    Sam – glad you’re taking this all in stride. The last line of your post “It’s just preschool after all!” sums it up.

    As a parent to two middle schoolers, I went through the phase of worrying about every small decision when they were very young and feeling guilty if I didn’t think I was giving them the ‘best’ advantage for everything.

    Then I learned about the research around the importance of “grit” and how much more important and reliable an indicator of success it is (short synopsis

    Like you (and many other successful, and more importantly, happy people I know), I ‘earned it’ on my own, reached FI at 40 (although at 48 am still working because I largely enjoy it and would drive my wife crazy if I was home all day!), and my kids are happy, responsible and well adjusted.

    They may not get an ivy education (and based on personal experience and the recent news I’m not sure I want them to) but I’m going to continue to do my best to find the right balance between supporting them and not depriving them of the value and satisfaction of fighting through adversity to forge their path.

  29. Sometimes Sam I read your articles and I wonder if I’ll ever make enough money to think about affording the kinds of things you discuss. I know that wise money management is pretty much the same all the way down to the smallest income, but still. The cost of it all seems so high from down here.

    1. Dr. Remoulak

      David, if I could humbly suggest you don’t worry (or more importantly, feel guilty!!) if you can’t give your kids the ‘best’ of everything. Love them, support them, *challenge them*, teach them to be accountable, honest and respectful and I’ll bet you your kids will do just fine (and likely, even better than many of the kids who have all of the ‘advantages’)

      1. Christine Minasian

        So true! My husband went to multiple community colleges before finishing at a local private college (they give the most scholarships). He was totally on his own at 18 (parents ugly divorce). He worked his butt off to start a business and now employs over 100 people and does work all over the world. Grit is the key. Which leads to “give your children very little” so they can have that grit.

    2. Where are you based? You don’t have to send your kids to preschool at all actually. I am there are free public schools which are just fine.

      One of my goals is to really share the other side and highlight a cost benefit analysis.

  30. All this seems a bit crazy to me! Of course I grew up in a small town in Northwest Iowa and we all went to basically the same public schools. Wow, the things parents go through these days to place there children where they think they need to be. This is certainly an eye opening article.

    1. Fun right? I love chronicling this new journey and sharing the twists and turns like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

      Everything is fascinating to me as well. I sometimes feel like an undercover agent or reporter on assignment.

  31. YES SAM, TAKE THE SPOT–This place sounds like a good fit. It will be piece of mind for your family.

    As for being SAH parents, everyone needs a break some time. With my extra 6 hours a week, I have taken up swimming and can now guarantee that my floors are at least occasionally cleaned to my standards. I even get to go to the grocery store completely unsupervised from time to time! (Oh, it’s a glamorous life! Please, no pictures, no autographs)

    My kids are just slightly older than yours. I’m really looking forward to your analysis of schools in the coming years.

  32. I thought of your previous daycare article when the college bribery scam story broke myself! It definitely starts early, but I think these parents are wasting a lot of time and resources. Children need to develop discipline and learn to consistently apply themselves. They need to fail, understand why they failed and try again. These elements are crucial for success no matter what you want to be and having money won’t teach you these things. Your kid can skip the fancy preschools, go to public school and still get into Harvard – in my case, TWICE. I now have 2 children under 4 years old and I would never push them toward a level of academic success that they were not naturally inclined to achieve. I know that greatness comes from developing your own natural gifts. Calculus and biochemistry might not be your thing, but perhaps you love speechwriting or cooking – you can change the world with these talents too. I think my job as a parent is to understand who my children are and encourage them to be their best ‘organic’ selves!!

    1. Christine Minasian

      You said it SOO well!!!! We have 3 teenage daughters- one in college now, you are absolutely correct- LET THEM FAIL and also accept they will NOT be perfect!!! The best learning tool you can give your kids. They will grow exponentially if you let them do it their way.

    2. I didn’t go to a fancy preschool. I went to public schools all my life. I was a decent student, but not great. I got into every college I applied to. Although, it may not have been Ivy League, I still used my skills and hard work to leverage a good job. Regardless, I saved and invested my money over time. Then as work became less hectic and stuff got paid off ($20k personal loan, $30k car loan) I started a blog to help folks learn about money. It’s not about what you’ve GOT, it’s about what you do with what you’ve GOT!

    3. “own natural gifts”
      do you perhaps live in a disney movie? not everyone has “gifts”, lady. then there is just a job.

  33. In Thailand it is the same way. The top international schools are known to charge “tea money”, particularly to the locals- I’ve heard the going rate is $65k USD on top of the $15k tuition and $6k registration fee and $15k deposit for a development fund. That’s a lot of dough but when it comes to children people will pay for what they think is the best.

    Even with these fees there is a huge waiting list, so one could argue they could put up the prices further without trouble.


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