Peter Braverman, Peter Braverman School Counseling
Featured Professional Series: The second Monday of every month, we feature one of our favorite educational consultants, psychologists, or professionals in a related field. We ask everybody the same five questions, designed to show you why we like them and to help you decide whether they’re a good fit for your needs.
amilies think they want their school placement consultants to have unparalleled experience, but what they really need is for them to speak candidly. Peter Braverman of Peter Braverman School Counseling
has both these traits, which makes him rare and valuable counsel indeed. He knows which aspects of the school search process are important and which just seem important, and he helps families understand which is which in a way that leaves them excited about their future.
How did you get into this field?
I was a school administrator for nearly 20 years, the last 12 as a middle school director (grades 5–8) in a school that ended in grade 8. In that time, one of the most exciting parts of my job was helping anxious families make transitions from one school to another — allowing them to see that the process is just a system for making good decisions on a very specific topic. Since I’m a pretty extroverted guy, I also loved working with admission offices and helping applicants understand how they could adjust the lenses that admission officers see through. I left administrative work on great terms, but it was just time for a change, y’know, and it seemed natural to take this step as the next one on my path.
What do you love about the work?
I love breaking down complex processes into simple tasks that can be understood and completed by almost anybody. I love helping a family find a school that resonates at the same frequencies — a place with the same values that can serve as the hub of their family wheel. I love working with and developing relationships with admission officers and learning about how many different kinds of schools there are in the DC area, not to mention the entire country. Every time I think, “That’s a school just like XYZ School,” they show me another great idea to engage kids in learning, which — pro tip — is unquestionably the key to learning!
Why do people hire you?
I’m the only guy in the area who has extensive experience on “both sides of the table” — I’ve helped hundreds of families choose schools and complete applications, and I’ve read hundreds of applications as a member of admission committees. Professional qualifications aside, families hire me because I’m honest, I’m reasonable, and I work really hard for them.
Last year one of my clients was dead-set on a school at which I thought he had a 50/50 chance. We worked hard on his application (several hours at least), but, alas, he was wait-listed. Over the next two months we collaborated to develop strategies to gain admission. We worked on supplying additional info to the school. We discussed whether his dad should ask a trustee he knew through a connection to make a call. We devised a schedule for the student to maintain and communicate his ongoing interest. I tried my hardest for that family, and they knew it. I can’t guarantee any student admission to any school, but I’ll always try to deliver honest and candid feedback, and I’ll always do my best to help an applicant find the most positive light he or she can stand in.
How do you feel about study skills?
There’s a tautology I like: Practice is the way to improve anything, and anything be improved through practice. I like a study-skills approach because it emphasizes process over outcome, which is consistent with my perspective as well. Study skills are not so much about getting a better grade as developing plans and strategies that will work broadly in the future, outside of school work just as well as in Algebra 2. As they say in basketball, focus on the rim and the scoreboard will take care of itself.
What’s your favorite piece of advice to give students?
There is no One Perfect School, because YOU are more important than everything else. Notwithstanding the example above, I discourage parents and kids from having a number-one choice that’s so far ahead of everything else that it defines “success.” Instead I encourage students to see their success as internally guided and internally influenced. There are dozens of schools in the DC area that offer students more opportunities than they can possibly take advantage of. The secret is not to find One Perfect School; it’s to take advantage of the opportunities in one’s path. There are more successful people who didn’t go to an Ivy League college than who did — so it’s obvious that attending one of eight arbitrary colleges (who happen to play each other in sports) isn’t the only path to success, or even the prevailing one. This work shouldn’t be about One Perfect School.
Oh yeah, by the way, the kid who was wait-listed in the story above? There was no alchemy or black magic or special intervention with the admission office. Developing a sensible process together really gave him his best shot. In mid-May, finally, the admission director called. Our boy is a ninth-grader at his first choice this fall.