Five ways to reinvigorate your search for a school in Chicago

By Laura Gradman Chicago Preschool Pro

For Chicago’s young 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 morphs 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 five 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 birth date 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 four or five of them. Take another look at schools that may be new or simply not as well known 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 this proven philosophy. 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!

For more information on Bennett Day School, call (312) BENNETT (312-268-7383) or email

Laura Gradman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 10 years of experience as an educational consultant, guidance counselor and teacher. 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.

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