Friday, February 6, 2009

High School Application Primer

I mentioned in an earlier post that we have been traveling the road to high school with our oldest spawn, C. Peevie. It's a stressful and time-consuming process--and at the end of the road, our child either receives an offer to attend one of Chicago's top tier public high schools, or I will end up selling my own flesh by the pound down on Rush Street in order to pay for private high school. You can guess which option we--and, let's be honest, all of Chicago's residents--prefer.

CPS reports that every year they receive applications for selective enrollment high schools from more than 12,000 students--but they have only 2,500 slots available. The pressure is on!

Here's where our process has taken us to date:
  • Researched the selective high school options. Some we eliminated as possibilities because of location, others because of the extreme unlikelihood that C. Peevie (I just typed C. Poovie by accident--hee!) would gain admittance based upon the thousand-point scale.
  • Researched and discussed how to rank the selective high school options for the application form. If you aren't careful, you might rank yourself right out of a selective enrollment option because you aimed too high or too low. Many of the selectives, we heard, would not put a student at the top of their admit list if they listed the school as anything but their first choice.
  • Completed and submitted the selective enrollment application, indicating Jones, Whitney Young, and Lane as the top three choices.
  • Meanwhile, C.P. also completed a separate application for the International Baccalaureate program at Lincoln Park High School (LPHS), which is "designed for students who are highly motivated and desire a rigorous academic program." This highly regarded program received silver medal status from U.S. News and World Report in its Best High Schools report in December 2008. The only question is, is C. Peevie highly motivated. Motivated to play? Yes. Motivated to watch Frasier and Angel on DVD? Yes. Motivated to study for four hours a day? Not so much.
  • Nevertheless, we still decided to continue in the LPHS/IB application process. The next step was a three hour test on a Saturday morning.
  • The application process for the three selective enrollment schools also included a three-hour test.
  • Then we went to open houses for each of the four high schools he was interested in.
  • In addition, C.P. attended a half-day shadow day at Whitney Young.
  • Also, C.P. and I attended a three-hour IB tour at LPHS, where we learned about the IB curriculum in great detail. We were really impressed with the fact that the teachers were excited to be teaching at LPHS, and very proud of the IB program there.
LPHS has one of only three Arabic programs for high school students in all of CPS. The Arabic teacher walked into the classroom and said, "Salaam 'Alaykum!" There was silence, and then one brave and brilliant mom replied, "'Alaykum As-Salaam!" It was me, of course. C. Peevie and I were both impressed with and interested in the Arabic program.
  • Unfortunately, this good experience was followed up with a bad one. C. Peevie was invited to do a personal interview at LPHS; here's how it went:
Interviewer, handing CP a list of activities: What extra-curricular activities do you like?
CP: Baseball, basketball, football...
Interviewer, interrupting: Good, good. What kind of books do you like to read?
CP: Fiction, and...
Interviewer, interrupting: Good, good. Keep reading fiction. What is your favorite subject?
CP: I'd choose two, social studies and literature.
Interviewer: Literature, huh? Well, you didn't do well on the essay part of the exam.
CP: Um...
Me: Grrrrr...
Interviewer, oblivious: Do you have any questions?
Me: Where do your students go to college?
Interviewer: Everywhere.
Me: Oh. That's helpful.
Interviewer: Well, thanks for coming in.

I'm not sure what the purpose of the interview was, except perhaps to see if C. Peevie would even show up--because the interviewer, who I believe is the primary decision-maker, did not learn anything about C. Peevie that would inform her decision one way or another. In what possible way was it constructive for her to tell us that he didn't do well on the essay? Like I said: oblivious. Which is not a really great characteristic for a dean of admissions.

So now we wait. Letters go out on February 20 to let students know where they've been accepted. After that, I think we have two weeks to make a decision.

This whole crazy process is more complicated and stressful than the college admission and application process, and I cannot wait until it's over.

Salaam Alaykum!

Update: We're in!


jill said...

man, that is CRAZY! i was thinking the whole time reading the post that it was easier to get into a masters program at the university of chicago...but then i remembered that i was forking over obscene amounts of cashola for the priveledge of attending said institution, so i guess they can afford to be less choosey =) Good luck!

E. Peevie said...

Jill, I know, right? Except for the minor issue of the cash outlay, HS is way worse than college. It was not this difficult when I went to HS back in the mezozoic age.