Parents Paying $200 a Pop For Admissions Guide to Top Public High School

A publisher has sold out of a new guide aimed at getting kids into an elite Virginia public school.


Parents and students spend thousands of dollars on publications that are aimed at helping kids gain admission to the top colleges and universities in the country. Now, some of those parents and students are putting those dollars to use in an attempt to gain admission to the top public high school in the country.

Aristotle Circle, a New York City-based company, has begun offering a $200 admissions guide for Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Va., which tops the U.S. News and World Report ranking of the country's Best High Schools. The company's CEO says the book is already back ordered because getting into the school is "like winning a lottery."

"It's the MIT of high schools," says Suzanne Rheault, CEO of the company. "Getting in goes a long way to helping [students] get into the college of their choice."

[U.S. News Best High Schools]

Although it's a public school, Thomas Jefferson, a science and technology school, has strict admissions guidelines. About 3,000 students apply each year, fewer than 500 are admitted each year. The high school says they "see a lot of straight A's in the admissions process," and it has a verbal and math section on its admission exam—much like the SAT.

"Our book is specifically for Thomas Jefferson," Rheault says. The company modeled the book's 250 questions from the high school's online practice test and from insights from current and former students. For an additional fee, parents can get their eighth grader tutoring from a current Thomas Jefferson student.

"We have a lot of people busy recruiting more [TJ] students to keep up with the demand," she says.

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The company didn't work with school faculty, although they informed the school of their plans to release the book. A representative of Fairfax County Public schools told the Washington Post that the school system doesn't condone the exam.

Rheault says this is just the beginning—the company has been scouring the country for other similarly-selective schools.

"What we're finding is parents are starting earlier and earlier," she says. "Half of our tutoring is for kids under ninth grade."