I could have written much of your post. Although DD has passed Nonsuch and now Wallington and Tiffin is her first choice, I have very mixed feelings about all of the schools. We live Clapham/Balham and I struggle with the travel aspect of these schools and the impact on making new friends ie will they all live much closer to the school, will they be unable to meet up at weekends. She is extremely sporty and I know will get involved with all the necessary after school clubs. Add on top the travelling and homework and I really do wonder if it is right thing for her. She is adamant that the travelling is not a problem and that she is looking forward to it (if she is successful).
The problem is there aren't great schools in our area. We have Graveney but it is a very large school and DD really wants a single gender school.
I guess it works as the kid across the road goes to Wilsons but I am still having huge doubts, 1 week before the CAF has to be submitted.
I don't stress about things normally but this has to be the most stressful thing I have ever experienced.
It's so tricky isn't it, and so dependent on the child. I also think there is an element of boy/girl difference. Boys seem to compartmentalise much better. DS has school friends and home friends and doesn't seem that bothered at all about the fact these two groups don't merge much if at all. As he gets older and more able to travel that may change, but his better school friends live about the same distance away from school as we do, just in the opposite direction, so whilst we are about a half hour drive from school they are a good hour trip from us on a good, traffic free, day.
DD is much more friend orientated. They matter a lot to her and I could see plenty of grief on the horizon if we said she couldn't go and meet up with friends at the weekend and holidays by going on the bus to Cheam/Wallington/Kingston when she's allowed to go on her own to school.
We are also very lucky that we have a single sex and very respected school on our doorstep as a valid alternative. That has a number of benefits, not least that some girls around here who do get into the selectives chose not to take up their places, and many decide not to go through the stress of bothering with the tests to go with their existing friends resulting in that school having a very strong upper end worth tailoring their teaching etc for.
It's a tough call and I wish you all the best with your decision. I've struggled with it for a couple of years, and I am, as I said, relieved that what I suspected was the right decision has been made for us.
We wil try Tiffin. My personal thought on that is that the best case scenario is that she passes but does not get a place. A boost to her confidence without the ramifications the next 7 years could bring or me having to stress about the decision!