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‘Black Friday’ is an Actual Term for the Day LA Private Schools Mail Their Acceptance Letters


Even Henry Bass is stressing out

The LA Times coined the term “Black Friday” in 2008, referring to the annual Friday in L.A. when private elementary school admissions letters are mailed.

This is when parents will find out if their kindergartener is admitted to John Thomas Dye, Brentwood, Crossroads, Oakwood, The Center, The Willows, or any other top-tier private elementary schools.

Truffle Notes: This year high school letters were sent a week earlier on March 8th.

Forget earthquakes or traffic on the 405; March 15 is much worse …

Come Friday, parents all over L.A. will be chasing down the mail trucks, obsessively checking email, calling friends with same year kids to re-asses their own odds …. Fights with spouses will sky-rocket, panic attacks will be rampant,  moms will lock themselves in closets, others will skip work, shrinks will phone emergency Xanax prescriptions to Mickey Fines across LA, and worse. Expect sheer and total panic.

Acceptance and rejection letters are a game changer. After all, is an Ivy League college that far away? No, and the right elementary school is essential to get on the fast track to the Harvard, Princeton or Yale.

I know because I’ve been there. We applied to 4 schools for my daughter for kindergarten. It was a stressful, uncertain and an almost surreal process. My emotional health became shaky as Black Friday neared. All my friends were having rumbles of panic attacks, calling each other every half hour trying unsuccessfully to anticipate the outcome … Educational consultants were on standby to counsel existing clients and accept new ones who just figured out they need help.

Elementary Schools Tuition (from Most to Least Expensive)

* Source: Individual School Websites
** Private school tuition rises about 4 percent annually

Once price is settled, the competition is fierce.

I remember chatting “casually” with other moms about the admissions process. On more than one occasion, a mom would say something like, “The chairman of the board at school x-y-z rents our summer house in the Hamptons so I’m sure we’ll get in.”

Jennifer Lopez is currently trying to get her twins, Emme and Max, into  Buckley in Sherman Oaks. Another friend saw Gabriel Aubry (Halle Berry’s baby daddy) on a tour for Oakwood School.


J-Lo, Emme and Max recently toured here

Once Black Friday has come and gone, there is the dreaded wait-list issue … Being wait-listed merely prolongs the process. Wait-listed at JTD? Is that good news or bad news? At some schools, kids get accepted from the wait-list almost immediately (one family’s garbage is another one’s gold). At other schools, wait-list status drags on into the summer months, potentially distracting from otherwise spectacular Cote D’azur vacations because families are waiting for “the call.”

If and when the call comes, recipients gladly accept the spot, forfeiting the non-refundable deposit of about $2000 at the other school that wasn’t their first choice – but will certainly be another family’s best news ever.

We were lucky; my daughter was accepted to 3 of the schools where we applied (my daughter end up at The Willows, a wonderful private school) and I ended up co-authoring a book and blog from the lessons I learned about navigating the admissions process and surviving Black Friday.

One friend of mine who is currently waiting to hear from 3 top schools says she’s taking it “minute by minute” and is upset with herself for getting so caught up in the frenzy. After all, she says, “It’s only elementary school.” Then, she adds, “but what if we don’t get in anyplace?”

Another mom will be “doubling down on Xanax” in anticipation of the big day. “It could be good or it could be really bad. We only applied to 2 schools.”

“If he’s the only preschooler with a mustache, so be it,” said one mom. “We’ll keep applying until we get into our top choice school!”

Christina Simon is the co-author of Beyond The Brochure: An Insider’s Guide To Private Elementary Schools In Los Angeles. She is the mom of a 3rd grade son and a 5th grade daughter who attend The Willows Community School. Christina’s work has been published on, Mamapedia, BlogHer, The Mother Company, Scary Mommy, ecomom, and numerous other sites. She blogs at Beyond the Brochure, or you can find her on Facebook.


Changing of the Guards at Harvard-Westlake

tomthanksL.A. prep school Harvard-Westlake’s long time leader, Tom Hudnut, is retiring. And Groton vet Rick Commons is stepping in. Thomas C. Hudnut came to Harvard (when it was still all boys) in 1987, making an inaugural speech at a special parents assembly cluing them into the way to get him on the phone anytime: “Just mention my dog, Lamont”.

Tom had been at Katherine Branson (now called Branson) before HW. A recent article in the Harvard Westlake Chronicle credited him with leading the effort to combine Harvard and Westlake, building the faculty, improving the athletics, visual arts and performing arts programs to be competitive on a national scale, spearheading development of new athletic, science and arts buildings, and extending financial aid to nearly 20 percent of students.

Our personal notes also want to insert that water polo was not much of a thing at HW until Tom’s son Peter Hudnut came to campus. He was exceptional and went to become a member of the US men’s national water polo team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the process, the water polo team at HW became a major BFD.

The new President of Harvard-Westlake – Richard B. Commons — who most recently was the Headmaster of Groton School in Massachusetts — one of New England’s top prep schools along with Exeter, Andover, Lawrenceville, etc.

Rick was a faculty member at HW in 1992 for five years as an English teacher, college counselor, assistant dean and soccer coach. Rick left HW to become Dean of Students and Assistant Headmaster at McDonogh School, a K-12 day and boarding school near Baltimore, Maryland. He started his career at Woodberry Forest School, a boarding school in Central Virginia. He has been at Groton since 2003.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Rick received his Bachelor of Arts with Distinction from the University of Virginia, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Stanford University, and a Master of Arts from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.

Rick’s wife, Lindsay McNiel (’96), is a HW alumna. They have two children, Matthew, 5, and Clara, nearly 2.

Via HW


Harvard Westlake Film Festival this Friday

Now in it’s 9th year, Harvard-Westlake has been holding a California-wide student film festival at the Arclight each March since 2004. The first year of the festival in 2004, those organizing scooped alum Jake Gyllenhaal ’98 as the guest speaker (check the original 2004 artwork below which includes Jake’s high school year book photo). In 2005, they got Bret Ratner, then is was Jamie Lee Curtis ’76 (2006), then Jason Reitman ’95 (2007), Paul Thomas Anderson (2008), Tom Hanks (2009), Kathryn Bigelow (2010), Jacob Soboroff (2011), and so forth.

This year’s selection of films by high school filmmakers from all over California will be presented this Friday, March 16, 2012, 7 pm, at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Tickets are free and available at the door. The keynote speaker this year is co-chair and CEO of DreamWorks Studios Stacey Snider (parent of a ’15 student), who is one of two principal partners at the studio along with Steven Spielberg — parent of ’94, ’04, and ’06 grads.