It’s October and my almost 4-year-old daughter is enjoying her second year of preschool. Now that she is in school five days a week, it gives me the opportunity to take my 16-month-old daughter to a class on Fridays when I’m off from work. It was in this class that I recently overheard a few stressed out moms talking about the NYC preschool application process and I was immediately brought back to a time during the fall two years ago when I was going through the same thing.
Preschool was literally the only thing I spoke about with my mom friends. We’d compare notes on the structure of the playdates, obsess about the scheduled interviews falling during our child’s nap time, and complain about how many mornings off from work we had to take for the tours and interviews. When I heard these moms speaking, all I could think was thank goodness I’m not going through this with my youngest daughter. Since she already has a sibling enrolled at the preschool, we only have to go for a playdate there.
From someone who has gone through the process and has a different perspective now, here are a few tips for parents to help ease the preschool admissions process now.
Relax – Try to enjoy this very exciting stage of your child’s life where they are getting ready for preschool. Getting anxious before the playdates will only make your child nervous. While at the interview or playdate, let your toddler be a toddler and know that school directors are very familiar with the developmental phase. Don’t be the crazy parent directing your child from the sidelines. Remember, the school directors and teachers are watching you as much as they are watching your child.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear – Ok, if you want to prep your child for the playdate, read Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle with your child. Obviously, there is no way to guarantee that the school will read this book, but at least three of the schools we applied to did and I remember wondering why my daughter wasn’t repeating out loud, “I see a yellow duck looking at me!” Also, practice having your child sit in a little chair at a table and have a snack. Almost every school had this as part of the playdate.
Location, location, location– While you may fall in love with a school 20 blocks away, your life will be so much easier if the school is in your immediate neighborhood. Getting a toddler out the door in time for school is not easy on a good day, let alone when there is snow and sleet! Not to mention, many school programs are only 3 hours or less, so by the time you drop them off, it feels like you are doing pick up again. Also, think about future siblings in the process. When we applied for school, I didn’t have another child but by the time my daughter started, I had to drag along a 3 month old. Trust me on this one!
Dress for the occasion – Whether the school directors are looking at what you wear or not, most parents step up their wardrobe for the day. I was going to walk out of the house in a nice top and jeans for the first preschool tour we took, until my husband said he was wearing a suit. I was thankful I had changed my outfit when I showed up to find everyone was dressed in nice pants, skirts, and suits. Whether you are going straight to work or back to crafting with Play-Doh at home with your toddler, make sure to dress to impress.
Your child will get in – As stressful as the process is, your child will get into a school. Out of the eight schools we applied to, my daughter got into four and got wait listed at the other four. Even if your child is wait listed, keep in mind that wait lists move. Schools can’t admit every child initially until they hear back from some of the parents who are declining the offer. I have no doubt that my daughter would have moved off the wait list from a few more of the schools if we didn’t withdraw our applications after finally deciding on one. Remember that you will find the right school to send you child, so try not to get too anxious.