12 Questions (and Answers) about NYC Preschool Admissions

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Maybe you've heard this question on the playground or at the watercooler: Do you have your preschool list together? You may be wondering why people are talking about preschool admissions so early in the summer. The NYC preschool application process begins more than a year before your child will start preschool. It can be surprising, but we are here to help you get organized and ready for the fall admissions season! Here are the answers to the most common questions parents ask our expert school advisors when they start to compile a list of preschools:

What age do kids start preschool?

Some preschools have classes for 2-year-olds. Many of the Twos programs are for “older” 2’s, which simply means your child needs to be 2 years, 6 months (2.6) or 2 years, 9 months (2.9) at the start of school. A child who is 2 years, 1 month (2.1) at the beginning of school is considered a “young” 2. Some schools start even earlier. For fall enrollment, your child generally needs to be at least 1.6 years old by September 1, 2020. Use this age calculator to determine your child's eligibility.

What are the different preschool age groups?

Preschools are generally grouped into the following age groups: Infants; Toddlers, Twos and Threes; Fours or Pre-K; Fives or Kindergarteners. Infants refer to children ages 6 months to 1 year. Toddlers, Twos, and Threes refer to children 1.6 to 3 years. Fours or Pre-K are 4-year-olds, and Fives or Kindergarteners are 5-year-olds.

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What is an “ongoing” school?

Ongoing schools serve children beyond the preschool years. Ongoing schools can go through 5th, 8th or 12th grade. Some ongoing schools have a preschool program. Preschools that are part of an ongoing school often start when children are approximately 3 years old.

When do I apply for preschool?

You apply the fall before you want your child to attend. However, it is a good idea to begin researching and developing your list of schools during the spring and summer of the year you are applying so that you are ready to file your applications in September.

How do I choose a preschool in NYC?

Start by looking in your neighborhood or close to where you work. Become a member of Parents League and come to one of our Preschool Admissions Workshops (included with membership) where you'll receive our booklet of preschools arranged by neighborhood. Read the descriptions in our Guide to New York City Preschools which you will also receive when you join. Check the school’s website. Talk to your friends and neighbors. If the school interests you and has hours that meet your needs, put it on your list of schools you want to see. As a member of the Parents League, use our School Advisory service. One of the most valuable services we offer is reviewing your list of schools with you.

How many NYC preschools should I apply to?

Six preschools is a general rule—a few more if you have twins or are considering moving and want to look at two different neighborhoods.

How do I apply for preschool?

Preschools generally distribute their applications after Labor Day. The particular day and process differs for each school so check the website for each of the schools on your list. For example, one school may require you to download an application and send it in the mail, another school may offer an online application, and still another may ask you to call the school to request the application.

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When do I get to visit the preschool?

After you submit your application, the school will schedule a time for you to visit generally in October, November or December. However, a few schools will schedule a tour first and then you submit an application.

What are the schools looking for in my child?

At the preschool level, age and gender have quite a bit to do with the admission decision. In addition, schools want families who understand how the school has chosen to run its program and want to be a part of its community.

When do I hear if there is a place for my child?

Many of the schools follow the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) guidelines and notify families on a common, specified date in late February.

Is there financial aid for preschool?

Not all preschools are able to offer financial aid, but quite a few do.

Are there enough spaces to go around for the number of children who are applying?

Despite what you sometimes hear or read, the up-to-date, accurate answer is “yes.”

Not sure if your list is complete? Join Parents League and call our office at 212-737-7385 to get started with the NYC preschool admissions process.