Getting into Harvard Is Easier Than Kindergarten in Qatar

The average person has a 7/100 chance of being accepted by Harvard University according to the 2013 admission rate.

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Our three year old, however, has a 0/6 acceptance rate thus far for Pre-K 4 in Qatar.

That school competition is fierce is an understatement. Here, in the gently blowing sands, a city bursting at its seams struggles to make room for cars on the streets and kids in the classroom. he Supreme Education Council (SEC), the governing body for primary and secondary schools in the country, has decreed that all four year olds must be out of nurseries by their birthday. With no new schools on the horizon this has set off an all out panic on the part of parents everywhere.

With non-refundable application fees to the tune of 200-500 QR ($60-$200 USD), applying for as many schools as possible and crossing your fingers is an expensive proposition.

And the odds are much worse than Harvard and perhaps even more closely guarded. Anywhere from 500 applications for 105 seats in the pre-k group at the popular international schools.

“She told me he was on the waiting list,” said the other mother in swim class. Our boys were busy ignoring the swim instructor. We were sharing our schooling woes. “I asked her based on what?”

I leaned in, hoping to get insight into the notorious no-man’s land of waiting lists. Mothers around the country were having the same despondent chat online, in coffee shops, during play dates.

“Because you are not a real American, is what she said.”

“Where is she from?” I asked indignantly.

“I don’t know, her family name is Asian, she wears a veil, but she’s got an American passport.”

“The she’s not a real American either!” I said.

But there was nothing more she could do. Causing a fuss would guarantee her child would never gain admission as opposed to a dubious chance at moving up the waiting list.

With hundreds of applications, the schools have their choice of children. And their parents, it would seem, from the requests to list occupations and indicate who is paying the bill (employer or parent) on the entry forms.

I geared up the nerve to drop into one of the schools in our neighborhood, dressing like I imagined a well heeled mother would, rather than a professional who might leave her children to the iPad while trying to meet a deadline. I drove to the entryway, preparing to park my car. A teacher was standing outside the gate, waiting for someone or a delivery. In either case the sight of her put me in mortal fear. I drove away.

“Did you go into the office? Are you calling everyday?” My other friend asked. “You of people were intimidated?”

I shook my head in shame. Between two children, writing and a teaching career, there was barely time to exercise, much less romance admission officers.

“We applied to the German school,” another mother said during a play date.

“Does he speak German?”

She shook her head. “But they’ll teach him after kindergarten. At least he’ll have somewhere to go.”

I couldn’t argue with her logic with the prospect of homeschooling looming on my calendar for next year.

I’ll keep you posted on how we do in the intricate filtering system going on at international schools around the country. Hopefully I haven’t hurt the kid’s chances even further with this blog post.

What about you? Have to give plasma to pay application fees for your graduating high schooler?

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