How to: NYC Nursery School Admissions

Updated by Angela Tohl from a previous post written by AWNY

Important Dates

Private Nursery School

  • Applications Open: September straight after Labor Day for most nursery schools
  • Applications Close: vary depending on the school, usually by October/November

Public Pre-School (“Free Pre-K”)

Check the NYC Department of Education site for exact dates and sign up for email updates.

  • Applications Open: mid January
  • Applications Close: mid February

Summary of Options

NYC offers the following options for children turning 4 during the calendar year for that school year (which starts in September):

  • Private (Nursery School), and
  • Public (Free Pre-K)

Overview of NYC Nursery School

If your baby is 9-12 months old and you’d like to think about a program for nursery school, Labor Day is the time of the year to begin. Most nursery schools will begin taking applications right after the holiday – and if you’re going to apply you may as well do it on time.

You might have heard stories from friends who wrote six ‘essays’ – or more – so their two year old could sing, paint and glue. Or you might be happily unaware of such boring tales. But it always sounds worse than it is – there are lots of great schools to choose from and the process is really not a big deal as long as you know how it works.

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Photo credit: freeimages.com/Fran Gambín

Selecting the Nursery School

Close to home works for most! But some travel too – either way the best place for the list of all the options is the Parents League and then check out each school’s website for more details on the age of acceptance (usually between 18 months and 3 years depending on the school).

The Nursery School Applications Process

Each private nursery school has their own and 90% are online the day after Labor Day, but some require you to call and request it. Either way, a lot of the questions are basically the same for everyone. They want to understand as much as they can about your family, your child and how you think about education and parenting. It’s worth understanding the school’s philosophy before answering the questions! And if you’re serious about some of the tougher schools to get into, it’s worth preparing the answers before the applications open so you’re ready to fill it out on the day (it doesn’t usually vary much from the year before).

NYC Nursery School Deadlines

All schools will have their own and it’s usually about month or two later, but really the best time to submit them is as soon as possible; even if they have an October deadline they may close it early if they receive too many.

Playdates and Interviews

Once you’ve made it through the “lottery” for the applications, you’ll be invited to an interview and tour for the parents – all of this might sound ridiculous, but actually seeing the school and the teachers interacting with the children helps you solidify your own preferences. Your child may also be invited to a “playdate” so the teachers see how they interact – it’s not to judge your child so much as to try and balance the personalities in the class, so it’s nothing to worry about. And most of the kids seem to love it – an AWNY member shares that her daughter left the first one and had so much fun she asked when there would be cake (she thought it was a party!).

Nursery School Acceptance and Waitlists

You’ll hear back in February where you got in (all on the one day). If you got into more than one school, obviously let the school you don’t want know as soon as possible so they can offer it to another child. If you didn’t get in to the school of your choice, don’t panic, email them immediately and ask to stay on the waitlist. You never know.

Public Pre-school: Free Pre-K (For 4 Year Olds)

Importantly, don’t forget the free Pre-K option available in NYC. Public Pre-K is now available for New Yorkers so if your child turns 4 before December 31st they’re eligible to start a Pre-K program in September of that year. Not every school has them but you can learn about the Pre-K program on the NYC DOE site.

Public Pre-School: Free 3-K For All (For 3 Year Olds)

The City recently introduced Free 3-K For All, which is for children who turn 3 before December 31st. The program is currently available for School Districts 7 (South Bronx) and 23 (Brownsville, East New York, Ocean Hill), with the goal of bringing it to every community school district in NYC.  So check the NYC DOE 3-K For All site regularly for updates.

Have tips to share? Or need help?

Those are the basics but if you have any questions or additional tips, please let us know in the comments section. If you’d like a first-hand perspective, check with other Aussie parents via the Australian Mums & Dads in New York Facebook Group.

Stay tuned as we have more “School Series” guides to come.

Good luck!

 

AWNY Mums and Dads Update, August 2017

Written by Helen McWilliam

It’s been pretty quiet on the Mums and Dads front this month, so I thought I would report on my progress with visiting all the Central Park playgrounds before it gets too cold. To date, I have visited 13 out of 21, six since I started the challenge. It all gets a bit tricky from 14 on as the playgrounds are not as easy to access by subway, but I am committed!

Here’s a run down of the six I have visited since starting the challenge:

Diana Ross (West 81st St and Central Park West)
I’m not sure if Diana Ross is aware, but her namesake playground is in quite a state of disrepair. It felt quite unsafe for my two- and four-year-old. A section of the playground had been blocked off with signage stating it was unsafe. I personally won’t revisit this playground until it has been completely upgraded. It’s such a shame, because it is well shaded and in an easy to access area of Central Park.

West 110th Street Playground
This is a perfect playground for pre-schoolers. Well shaded, with a range of activities for different levels of ability.  It’s easy to access by public transport (no lift at either 110th St stations), but there was no close access to public toilets. As an additional positive, no school or camp groups visited whilst we were there.

East 110th Street Playground
What makes this a great playground option is that it is just above the Harlem Weir. It’s worth the trip to visit a very beautiful part of Central Park. The playground was easy to access via public transport (again, no lift at the subway station), but a negative was that it was very busy with school and camp groups. There was plenty of equipment to climb on, however they were a little challenging for pre-schoolers who, like my children, assume they have far greater abilities. Additionally, there was open access to the swings, which can be a little hairy at times with the aforementioned pre-schoolers. I would recommend this playground for ages 5 and above. Another plus for this playground was that it was very close public toilets.

Tarr Family Playground (West 100th St and Central Park West)
Full sun. This playground was hot. It’s a shame because it was a relatively quiet playground with a range of activities for different ages, with plenty of space to run around.  The sprinklers were good fun but it again had no nearby public toilets.  It was quite a hike from the subway, too.

Rudin Family Playground (West 97th St and Central Park West)
Beautifully shaded, but definitely more for younger children.  My 4-year-old appeared bored at this one, while my 2-year-old thought it was amazing.  I did too for the shade. A few school groups came through, but it wasn’t overwhelming.  As with the Tarr Family Playground, there is no access to public toilets and it’s quite a walk from the subway.

James Michael Levin Playground (East 76th St and Fifth Ave)
This was a very small but popular playground, with some sprinklers.  My two children enjoyed playing here, but there wasn’t much play equipment and I don’t think all of the sprinklers were working.  Nice large space though with some shade.  I can’t advise on access from public transport as I walked, but, again, there was no access to public toilets.

Still eight more playgrounds to go.  I could be cutting it close before school starts but I should definitely be able to get it done before it gets too cold.

We’d love to hear what you think about the playgrounds in Central Park, so please contact us through our Facebook page or email AWNY.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and Amanda and I will be back with more events planned for the fall.

AWNY Mums and Dads update, June 2017

Written by Helen McWilliam

May was a quieter month for the AWNY Mums and Dads group after a very busy April.  The warmer weather has been very welcome and my children are loving the more regular sight of sprinklers in the playgrounds.

This month, Amanda and I wanted to include a shout out to the Dads of this group.  The events we’ve organised so far have been focused on the Mums.  We’d love some input from the Dads to see if you’d like our help to organize a Dad’s meet-up, arrange a Saturday playgroup or something else entirely.  Please contact us through our Facebook page or email AWNY. We’d love to hear from you.

With the school holidays rapidly approaching, I wanted to share a day trip idea.  As I have recently overcome my fear of travelling on the subway alone with two children, I am finally leaving the Upper West Side.  Well, if I’m honest there’s still fear, I can just do it without hyperventilating and shouting! The New York Hall of Science in Queens is worth the long subway ride.  I have a 4.5 year old and nearly 2 year old and they were both transfixed for hours.  It would also be suitable for much older children as my two missed a lot of the meaning behind many of the exhibits. All the exhibits were engaging and hands on, however the ‘Connected Worlds’ installation was a must see. There’s also plenty of staff on hand to help the children get the most out of the museum. It can get a bit hectic with school groups but there’s a preschool area where groups aren’t allowed and we were advised that the groups tend to leave at 12-1pm. A few helpful pointers:

1. There’s no lift for strollers at 111th street Subway Station in Queens however, however I found I only had to look towards the stairs and people were offering me help.

2. The café was pretty basic so I would advise bringing your own food.

3. In what I would consider a big win, the shop was easily avoided!

Some up coming AWNY events to highlight: the ‘Working In the USA’ information session presented by Belinda Jackson is on the 14th of June.  It provides expert advice for Aussie job seekers.  Plus, the annual AWNY picnic is one for the whole family on the 24th of June in Central Park.

Photo credit: Helen McWilliams

Enjoy your June and the last few precious weeks of school before the endless school holidays!