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.


Photo credit: 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!


How To: NYC Kindergarten Admissions

Updated by Angela Tohl from a previous post written by AWNY.

Overview of NYC Kindergarten

In this post, we’re looking at the admissions process for Kindergarten in NYC.

Firstly, let’s clarify the terminology.  In Australia, “Kindergarten” (aka “Kindy” or “Kinder”) depending on the state, can either refer to the year of pre-school preceding prep/reception at primary school or the very first year at primary school. In the US, “Kindergarten” is part of the K-12 educational system and refers to the very first year of elementary school preceding first grade.

There are three different approaches depending on whether you are looking at Kindergarten at private, public or gifted and talented schools.

Private Schools

Kindergarten at a private school is a whole other ball game. Your nursery school will help you with everything you need, so this part will be brief. But if you’ve just moved and you’re looking to start at a private school, the best thing to do is find a consultant. The city is full of them 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. They’ll also know where it might be possible to get in. This is one – – but there are plenty of others if you google them.

Luckily, if the process, cost and everything else that goes with it isn’t your thing, most of the city has fantastic public schools.

Public Schools

Important Dates For 2018 Commencement:

  • Eligibility: To commence Kindergarten for 2018-19 school year, your child must turn 5 during 2018 calendar year, i.e. your child was born in 2013.
  • Applications Open: Tues Nov 28, 2017
  • Applications Close: Fri Jan 12, 2018


The NYC Dept of Education site has a good overview of elementary schools admission. The DOE offers open houses and events, where you can visit elementary schools and learn about the admission procedures. Applications are accepted between Nov – Jan. You can choose up to 12 schools in order of preference. An offer is sent in March. In April you can accept the offer and pre-register at the chosen school.


Photo credit: Baumann


Two years ago, Ella Colley of Inside Schools wrote us a post covering An Inside Guide to NYC School Applications. Not a lot has changed since this guide was published, and Inside Schools is the best website that goes into great detail on each school. They have photos, info and all the stats, ranging from how the kids do in tests to how much the parents and teachers recommend the head of the school.

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.

Generally admissions priority for a particular school is given to students who reside in the school’s zone. However some schools will still need to wait-list kids who live within their zone, when 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. An AWNY member personally knows of a few families who fall into this category, so it never hurts to contact the school Principal directly.

The subject of school zones and school choices, is complex and extensive, and we are planning a follow up story on this. If you have any questions in the meantime, drop AWNY a line via email or Facebook page DM.

Admission into any public school requires proof of address (rental agreement, utility bill etc.) and the child’s birth certificate. The high demand schools – like 234 and 41 will take admissions from the previous November. But you can walk up to any admissions on any day and enroll your child in the school (if they have a place), even after term has started.

Gifted and Talented Programs

Important Dates for 2018 Commencement:

  • Eligibility: children entering K through Grade 3 in 2018 can sit the test
  • Request For Testing (RFT) for G&T Test Opens: early Oct, 2017
  • Request For Testing (RFT) for G&T Test Closes: apply online by 11.59 pm Mon Nov 13, 2017.


The NYC Department of Education site has a good overview of the G&T (Gifted and Talented) program.  The G&T program follows the same curriculum as the general education classes but at a possibly accelerated or enriched pace.

The program is available for students entering K through Grade 3 in 2018. In order to be offered a place in the program, the child must sit the G&T Test and meet the qualifying score.

District G&T programs: are located within district elementary schools (i.e. there will be a G&T class for students enrolled in the G&T program, along with classes for all other students taking the general education curriculum). These programs give admissions priority to students who live in the school district.

Citywide G&T programs: are located within a school dedicated to the G&T program (i.e. all students at this school are enrolled in the G&T program). These programs give no admissions priority to students who live in the school district. The Citywide programs are highly sought after and there are five schools: three in Manhattan – Anderson, Nest+M and TAG. There is also one in Queens – 30th Avenue School, and one in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry.


The process begins at the G&T website. In mid-October, registration opens for testing (RFT) and it closes mid-November. You need to register your child to be tested, and you want to do it early to get a convenient test centre. Testing takes place largely in January.

Students scoring 90 or more can apply to District G&T Programs.  Students scoring 97 or more can apply to District and Citywide G&T Programs.  However in reality it’s more like above 99 to get into a Citywide program. There is a high demand for places in the G&T program and regardless of the child’s test score, there is no guarantee a student will receive an offer.

In addition to the practice questions in the G&T handbook provided by the DOE, lots of parents prep their children further for these tests. It’s totally up to the individual – you can prep them and they may get in. But if they don’t get in on their own, they may have a tough time once they’re there. So while some test prep – so they know what to expect – is important, lots of the educators don’t recommend doing too much. Which sounds good to me, it’s expensive and time consuming so I’ll take the advice!

And then, of course, last but not least there is Hunter Elementary which is a school for gifted and talented students, 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, with more admissions in high school. It’s only open to people living in Manhattan. Famed New Yorker, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of “Hamilton” is a graduate of Hunter College High School.

And that is it!

Do you have any NYC Kindergarten tips or tricks?

Let us know in the comments section, and enjoy the school year!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in our “School Series”.



AWNY Mums and Dads Update, October 2017

By Helen McWilliam

This Month

I have two things to tell you about this month. The first is something every parent must get—the IDNYC. And the second is a recap of our October event, the superb Sunday supper at Burke and Wills.


Procrastination is what I do best.  At least 10 people during my time here have told me how brilliant the IDNYC is and how easy it is to apply for.  Finally after two years here, I now have my IDNYC.  It’s actually a very straightforward process:

  1. Fill out an application online
  2. Make an appointment online. You can choose one of many locations dotted throughout the city.
  3. Collect your ID and proof of residency. There’s an online document calculator, which helps in the process.
  4. Show up on time for your appointment. Mine was done in 25 minutes and your IDNYC generally arrives in the post within two weeks.  Job done.

Additionally my appointment was at a very kid-friendly location, the Grand Central Library.  There’s a comprehensive list of benefits on the website but for example you get a year’s free entry to the Natural History Museum, Central Park Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art which is enough value to make the appointment time worth while.  As I had it pointed out to me, the list of free memberships can also act like a bucket list for your time in NYC.


Burke and Wills Sunday Supper

What a great turnout we had for our Sunday Supper! Burke and Wills is an Australian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In addition to our own party of 20, quite a few of our fellow diners were (unsurprisingly) also Australian. It was a really fun night with familiar and new faces.  Thankfully the bar upstairs, The Manhattan Cricketers Club, wasn’t open, otherwise the school run on Monday would have been a challenge.

Amanda and I are always keen for venue options outside of the UWS so please let us know if you have any ideas for future functions; especially the upcoming Christmas dinner.  Either contact us through the AWNY website or Amanda or myself through Facebook.

Future Events

For our next events, we’re working with the producers of Women of Letters for a group booking as well as our annual Christmas party!  So please watch this space.


AWNY Mums and Dads Update, September 2017


By Helen McWilliam

Last Days of Summer

And just like that, summer is over.  When I returned to New York for the start of the school year, it made me realise how important respite is when you live in such a big city. We take the beach and trees for granted in Australia.  I had a wake up call when my four year old was terrified of a fly. Don’t get me started on our trip to the Butterfly Conservatory at the American Natural History Museum—sheer terror! It was definitely time to get out of the city. Now we’re glad to be back and ready for the school year. Over the last few months, I found a few things that I thought were worth sharing:

Crybaby Matinees

I wish I’d known about this when we first moved here. There are parent and newborn baby screenings at cinemas here in New York, called ‘Crybaby Matinees’.  I used to attend them regularly in Sydney with my firstborn. I loved them because everyone’s baby is crying so it doesn’t matter if yours is too! Wednesdays at 11am at the E86th Street City Cinema is one location I am aware of however I am sure there are screenings in cinemas across New York. Definitely worth looking out for if you have a small baby.

53rd St Library Movies…

Another thing I wanted to share was a great children’s space I came across during the holidays—the 53rd Street Library, which has been open for just over a year in Midtown and is across the road from MOMA.  I came to know about it as I attended a free movie screening with my children. With a library card, the library provides you with a listening jack/headphones and you are welcome to bring food. It was a great and free way to see a movie with children.  

…and Kids’ Room

My two year old got tired of listening after a while so I took him downstairs to the children’s room, which is an enclosed space, so you can sit down and watch your children explore the room.  The children’s room also had Lego, toys and of course many books, as well as staff on hand.  They also had change tables and it just felt very child friendly.  In addition to the movie screenings, there are also numerous story times, coloring clubs, Spanish lessons and even a children’s improv hour.  See their website for more details.

Coming Attractions for Aussie Mums and Dads in New York

Finally, as the kids are back at school, Amanda and I have more time to ourselves so we are back to organising events!  The next one is a beauty and will be on October 22 at Burke and Wills for their $30 Sunday supper special. Please check out the event up on the Australian Mums and Dads in New York Facebook group.  We have a few more events planned over the next few months so please watch this space.

Helen and Amanda

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.