School Admissions? Even the Experts Are Overwhelmed

by Jenny Anderson, The New York Times, 2/23/12

Posted February 28, 2012

It is by now documented fact that winning admission to a New York City private school, or getting into one of the city’s public gifted-and-talented programs, or even securing a spot at a popular neighborhood public school, is no fun. It takes time, epic organizational skills and a load of cash if you choose to prepare your children for whatever battery of tests they will have to face.

Even the experts get overwhelmed.

Bige Doruk, founder and chief executive officer of Bright Kids NYC, a tutoring company that prepares children for admission tests like the E.R.B. (for private school) and the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test, or OLSAT, (used for public gifted-and-talent placement), has to wait until April to find out if her 5-year-old son scored high enough on the OLSAT to win him a place at the district gifted-and-talented school that his older brother attends.

“It’s very stressful,” she said. “It’s a lot of time and effort.”

Ms. Doruk’s son is now enrolled at a public school downtown. He is young for his grade, and Ms. Doruk wanted to make sure that he had options come September.

Those options, she explained, were threefold: keep him at his current school; apply to private schools, where he will have to repeat kindergarten because of his age; or apply to the gifted-and-talented program his brother attends.

Two of the paths required planning. On the private-school front, Ms. Doruk selected three schools — many fewer than the 8 to 10 that most families choose. That meant three applications, three tours, three interviews, three play dates. And he had to take the E.R.B.

To gain entry to the public gifted-and-talented school, her son had to prepare for the OLSAT, where he needed a score of 90 to receive priority for admission over children with adequate scores that do not have siblings enrolled at that school (his brother had to get a 99).

Ms. Doruk is from Turkey and founded Bright City Kids three years ago, when she needed to find a school for her older son and found the kind of test prep support she wanted lacking. She has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

Before founding the company, she worked as a management consultant at McKinsey. She also ran a power company that she sold.

When it came to strategizing about her son, she started by taking her own advice: prioritize. She picked the OLSAT, suspecting the gifted-and-talented school was the best option. Her son was tutored once a week for eight weeks, and then twice a week for two weeks leading up to the test. <read more online>

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