Kindergarten Application in New York Decoded - Kid 101

Kindergarten Application in New York Decoded

You think you have all the time in the world to start applying your child to Kindergarten. After all, he/she isn’t even four years old yet. It’s not even the first day of Pre-K. What’s the rush?

Here’s the rush:

You live in New York City.

In New York City, the Kindergarten admissions process starts 18 months before your little darling ever steps foot into their classroom.


Well, to begin with, if you are interested in applying to either private school or Hunter College Elementary , a public/private partnership for gifted children, their applications become available in September.

Some private schools send an application to every family that asks for one. Others limit the number they’ll distribute, so if you request one too late, you risk being shut out.

How do you know which private school you want to apply to?

Do your research the spring before! Some schools offer open houses in May. Yes, that would be the May before the September BEFORE the September your child begins school (see what I mean about starting 18 months prior?).

Some private schools require that your child take a standardized test (click here for a list of which schools require which test), and, at Hunter, an IQ test is mandatory. For Hunter, you only have a three-week window from the time you fill out your application to get your child tested by a Hunter-approved psychologist.

You have a bit more flexibility with private schools, but applications are usually all due by December, which means signing up your child for testing either in the fall, or the summer beforehand. (And remember, thousands of other parents are doing the same thing, so hurry up before the time and date you wanted is booked up!)

Should you prep your child for these tests?

Don’t believe either the schools’ claim that their tests are impossible to prep for OR park-bench gossip that claims EVERYONE is being prepped. They’re not, and they aren’t. But if Hunter, a private school, or a public Gifted & Talented program is vitally important to you, then get your child prepped. Think about it: Do you, an adult, do better on a new task you’ve never seen before, or one you’ve had a chance to practice? Why should kids be any different?

Think you’re done?

Not even close. We haven’t even gotten to public school admissions yet. You may believe you’re all set. You love your local public school and would be happy to send your child there.

That’s great. Except you are not guaranteed a seat at your local public school. In 2015, over 1,000 kids were waitlisted.

To apply to General Education public school Kindergarten, parents fill out a form called Kindergarten Connect where you rank all your choices in order and wait to see what the Department of Education assigns you.

How do you know which schools you want to rank in which order?

Again, do your research. In advance. And if you find a school you like better than the school you’re zoned for, you might consider moving. Which also takes time. You will need to provide proof of residence when you register your child at their local school in April.

If you want your child to attend a Citywide or District Gifted & Talented program, you need to fill out a different form. First, a Request for Testing Form, and then, if your child scores above the 97th percentile (making them eligible for a Citywide Gifted program) or above the 90th percentile (making them eligible for a District Gifted program), a form ranking all your Gifted program choices. Be advised that many, many more children qualify than there are seats available. It is almost impossible to get a Citywide spot with a score below the 99th percentile, or a District spot with a score below the 95th percentile. To keep their children challenged, some parents opt to enroll them in a Dual Language program, where instruction is given 50% of the time in English, and 50% in a language such as Spanish, French, Mandarin, Russian, Japanese, Korean or Arabic.

But you’re still not done!

What if you’re interested in exploring charter schools? Charter schools are schools funded with public money (so no tuition), which are free to set their own curriculum, though children still have to take state tests. You do not apply to charter schools via Kindergarten Connect. Most schools have their own individual applications, though some participate in a Common App .

Different schools notify admitted families at different times. Private schools and Hunter do it in February. Public General Education schools and charter schools do it in April, and G&T placements come out in May.

While you can register at a public or charter school, then decline the spot and sign up for G&T, if you sign a private school contract in February, then find out in May that your child got into a gifted program, you may still be liable for an entire year’s tuition. At worst, they’ll keep your deposit.

Be advised that the above is just a very general overview, there are many nuances to each program. For instance:

  • What’s the difference between General Ed. versus a District G&T versus a Citywide?
  • What are the age cut-offs for public versus private Kindergartens?
  • What happens in a child interview?
  • What happens in a parent interview?
  • How important are a school’s test scores?
  • What’s an unzoned school?
  • A magnet school?
  • Can you lie about your address?
  • What happens if you move out of your school’s zone?
  • Is there bus service?
  • What if your child has special needs?

Interested in learning more?

Check out my book, Getting Into NYC Kindergarten: (September 2016) for details on all of the above (as well as answers to questions you didn’t even know you had), plus insider tips for getting into the school of your dreams without losing your mind – or breaking the bank (a private admissions consultant can easily run you $10,000!).

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