How to Apply to Kindergarten in NYC

Your child has stepped up from preschool or nursery school and you’ve had a good cry at how quickly they are growing up. Now it’s time to think about elementary school. In this post we look at how to apply to Kindergarten in NYC for private school, public school and for the Gifted & Talented program.

In the US, “Kindergarten” refers to the very first year of elementary school preceding 1st grade and is part of the K-12 educational system. There are different approaches to applying for private, public or Gifted & Talented schools.

NYC elementary school kindergarten

Private Schools

Applying to Kindergarten at a private school can be a complex process as it’s unique to each school. If your child is in private nursery school they will help you with everything you need.

But if you’ve just moved and you’re considering private school, you can enlist the help of a school consultant. The city is full of them (use a google search) and they know all the schools (and the schools mostly know them). A quick assessment of your family’s needs will help them guide you to the right places. The Parents League of NY is also a good resource for researching private schools, and they also offer advisory services.

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay on

Public Schools

In NYC the school year starts in September. To start Kindergarten, your child must turn 5 within the same calendar year as when school starts. Your child must be a New York City resident to apply.

When to Apply
Applications for K open the year before your child would start, and are typically accepted from November through January. Subscribe to email alerts for updates on when the application period will open for the year ahead. If you’ve just arrived in NYC, you can enroll your child in person at the school on any day (if they have a place), even after term has started.

How to Apply
The NYC Dept of Education (DOE) site has a good overview of the Kindergarten enrollment process. There are open houses and events, where you can visit elementary schools and learn more. You can choose up to 12 schools in order of preference. An offer is sent in March. In April you accept the offer and pre-register at the chosen school.

What You Need to Apply
Admission into public school requires proof of address (rental agreement, utility bill etc.) and the child’s birth certificate. The DOE site has further details (scroll down the DOE page to section 5: How to Apply) and provides an online application form once the application period opens.

School Zones & Districts
New York City’s roughly 700 public elementary (generally K-5) schools are divided into 32 districts (six of them in Manhattan). The schools within each district are strictly zoned. You can find the schools you are zoned for, by entering your residential address into the DOE Find-A-School page.

Generally admissions priority is given to students who reside in the school’s zone. Some schools still need to waitlist kids who live within their zone, if they receive more applications than they have places available. Conversely some schools are able to accept students from outside their zone, subject to availability of places, so it never hurts to contact the school Principal directly.

The subject of school choices zones and choices is complex and you can learn more in our AWNY guide to public elementary school choices and from the Inside Schools site.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

Gifted & Talented Program

The Gifted & Talented (G&T) program is an alternative to the general education program and is designed for kids who are academically advanced for their Grade. It’s offered only in select schools. The DOE has an overview of the G&T program and we’ve covered it in more detail in the AWNY guide to public elementary school choices.

How to Apply
To apply, students must first sit a test and meet the qualifying score of 90 for District G&T programs, or 97 (but in reality 99) for Citywide G&T programs. Regardless of the child’s score, there is no guarantee they will receive an offer as it’s competitive. Last year over 16,000 kids entering Kindergarten sat the test.

When to Register for the G&T Test
If interested in G&T, you’ll need to register your child to sit the test, in addition to submitting the Kindergarten application. The test registration period is generally mid-October until mid-November. Once registered, your child will be invited to sit the test, which usually takes place in January. You can subscribe to email updates to learn when and how to register for the test.

To Prep or Not To Prep?
In addition to the practice questions in the DOE’s G&T handbook, lots of parents prep their children for these tests via private coaching. You can prep them and they may get in, but they may end up have a tough time once they’re there. So while some preparation along the lines of knowing what to expect is helpful, many educators don’t recommend doing too much more. This is a relief for many parents, because private test prep is expensive and time consuming.

Hunter Elementary…Only in New York?
Finally, on a lighter note…there is Hunter Elementary, a school for gifted and talented students. It’s administered by Hunter College, of the City University of New York. It has a very low acceptance rate, despite the $400 cost to test for it, and you can’t prepare. They take 25 girls and 25 boys in Kindergarten. It’s only open to people living in Manhattan. Famed New Yorker, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton” is a graduate of Hunter College Elementary and High Schools.

Do you have any questions or tips for applying to Kindergarten in NYC?

Let us know in the comments below.

This post was originally written by AWNY in 2015, and has been updated for 2018.

Author: Australian Women in New York

Australian Women in New York (AWNY) sources stories and guides that will help make you win the Big Apple. We also love to profile fabulous Aussie and Kiwi women.

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