My daughter is now in her last four weeks of Kinder 2, and it's only this year that I began my search for her big school. No typo there -- in fact, my daughter took entrance exams only in the last two months. Yes, I know it is a miracle that there's still a school accepting entrance examinees.
I should have started this process a year ago so I could avoid the panic I am feeling right now. I don't know why it took me so long. I don't think I realized this was going to be an 11-year commitment, that I better do good now and not regret anything later.
Well, too late. As I await the verdict on my cramming skills (we are still waiting to hear from two schools -- cross your fingers), one good thing that can come out of this is you can learn from my experience. For parents of preschoolers, I’d like to share these realities with you, so you don't end up sweating at night, wondering if you just delayed your daughter's schooling for a year.
1. You can never apply too early when it comes to prominent schools. My daughter and I should have started applying around September last year. All schools especially the good ones have a fixed number of applicants that they can accommodate. Once those slots are filled, it's application game over.
Since I missed that window, I rode on the second wave of applications in January for one school. By sheer luck, we made it just in time for the third wave of another school we wanted. I found out last February 13 that they reopened for applicants and deadline for requirements was February 20! Now don't think these openings always happen; in fact, they are rare occasions. It will require constant follow-ups in the school's admission office (and no one likes naggers, even admission officers).
2. Putting together the requirements for the applications will take time -- and a lot of paper. Prepare a LOT of copies of child’s NSO birth certificate, baptismal certificate, previous and current report cards, medical clearance, ID photos, and your marriage certificate. You need to fill up various detailed forms provided by the school. Some even require family photos and lengthy interviews with both parents -- all these before the entrance exam. Schools are strict about paperwork, and they won’t accept your application if requirements are incomplete.
3. Be prepared with cash. Application fees will vary from school to school. I only spent P500 in one school. But I ended shelling out P3,350 for another where the medical requirements were stringent. We had to get a pediatrician’s clearance, a visual test from an ophthalmologist and a hearing test from an EENT. My daughter has no medical conditions; this was just a basic requirement. I was able to avail of a health card discount, but doctor’s fees still amounted to P2,200. Then we had to pay P800 for application fee, and we had to submit her a certified copy of her NSO birth certificate (not a photocopy), which cost us P350 (it was purchased online).
4. Most schools adhere to no vaccinations, no admission policy. If your child’s vaccinations are not updated, you will need to set aside a budget for all the shots missed and have them administered by your pediatrician or health care provider before enrollment. When selecting a school, don’t forget to confirm whether this is strictly implemented, so your child is not unnecessarily exposed to dreaded diseases.
5. Find out the deadline of "confirmation" once you receive notice that your child has passed the exam. You want to know the closing date because confirmation here means you need to pay to reserve your child's slot. My initial plan was to collect all the schools where my child passed and select come enrollment time. Not only was that a bad idea regarding application costs, but it was also genuinely naive of me. The reality is you will receive a notice that says: “Congratulations, your child passed! Please confirm your slot on or before (within the next four weeks or so).” If you do not pay the NON-REFUNDABLE reservation fee before the deadline, they give your slot to someone else.
6. If you can, transfer your child to a big school as early as Kinder 2. For excellent schools, they only have limited slots for first grade as the bulk of students will come from their existing Kinder 2 classes. Starting Kinder 2 in a big school also means an easier transition to Grade 1 for your child.
On a last note, there is no need to fear entrance exams. Based on my experience and those of fellow mommy friends, the kids walk out of examination rooms looking like they had a really fun time. So that isn't the problem. What you need to worry about is finding out what your ideal school is like, if there's one near your home, and if you can swallow the amount of money you need cough up quarterly. Good luck!