Five Ways to Reinvigorate Your School Search

By Laura Gradman, Chicago Preschool Pro
For Chicago’s families, admissions season is a flurry of dates, deadlines, research and introspection.  The beginning of the process feels exciting and enlightening as families explore the plethora of options that exist in our city, both public and private.  As time goes on, excitement may morph into anxiety and stress and the idea that admissions decisions are out of their hands can make families feel like they are at the mercy of the system.  Letters of acceptance, non-acceptance or wait listing bring with them more emotion.  For many families it’s relief and joy, but for others it’s more uncertainty as they are once again tasked with finding the right school.  At that point, it’s critical that families try to stay positive and keep in mind their ultimate goal of finding the best school for their children.Here are 5 ways to reinvigorate your school search:

1.    Try to understand why the school didn’t see a fit. 
At first, a letter of non-acceptance may feel like a stab in the back.  It’s difficult not to take it as a personal rejection of your family.  Keep in mind that, many times, it’s only indicative of a lack of space or need for a certain gender or birthdate to balance out the class.  That said, it’s also important to consider why the school may not have been the best fit for your family.

2.    Reexamine your priorities. 
It can be difficult to change your trajectory so far along in the process, but take this opportunity to reconsider what is important.  There may be items that initially fell further down on your list that hold more weight than you initially thought.

3.    Embrace the needs of your child and family. 
The admissions process should revolve around what is best for your family.  This is different from what is important for your neighbor’s family.  Remind yourself of what you’re working towards and it will help you to refocus.

4.    Educate yourself on new philosophies of education. 
There are so many schools in the city of Chicago and many of us only focus on 4 or 5 of them.  Take another look at schools that may be new or simply not as well known as others and read their mission statements and philosophies of education.  Ever heard of the Reggio Emilia approach?  There’s a new school called Bennett Day School in the West Loop built around proven progressive philosophies.  Try not to be put off by something you’re unfamiliar with.  You may find yourself excited to pursue something new.

5.    Jump back in. 
Although the process may seem long (and it is!), the goal remains the same.  Keep going until you find the best school for your family.  Trust me, it’s worth it!


Laura Gradman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with ten years of experience as an educational consultant, guidance counselor and teacher. Raised on the North Shore of Chicago, Laura began her pursuit of a career in education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, she promptly started working as a middle school teacher. While she loved her work, Laura never lost her passion for learning. This enthusiasm led her to pursue a Masters of Education in Human Services and Counseling, and subsequently her professional counseling license (LPC). Laura went on to become a guidance counselor for the Academic Center at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, one of Chicago’s most elite high schools. As the only counselor in this gifted program, Laura was responsible for guiding 80 eighth grade students through the high school admissions process annually. This included reviewing applications, keeping track of dates, providing verbal and written reminders, writing letters of recommendation, communicating with parents and following up with various schools regarding application status. Students graduated from the Academic Center and went on to such schools as Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Northside College Preparatory High School, The University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. Now, as a mom of two raising her kids in the city of Chicago, Laura has once again become immersed in the process. Personal experience, combined with countless conversations with other parents about navigating the often-overwhelming task of finding the right school, led to the creation of Chicago Preschool Pro.