Getting into preschool

Yes, it’s that time of year again, folks: thousands of New York City parents will begin what’s called the “preschool process.” If you’ve read the blogs, watched a documentary or two, or listened to other parents talk about preschools, you’re probably terrified, or at the very least, anxious.

Admittedly, the preschool process is not easy. It’s time consuming and can become emotional for many families. At the end of the day, a school is either going to accept or reject your child, and that can be hard to take. So, is getting into preschool as hard as they say it is? No.

With some planning, patience, and a little luck, your child will get into the preschool of your choice.

How do I know this? I have been where you are now — twice. The first time we applied to preschool we only applied to one school. That was our first mistake, but it was our first-choice school. We didn’t get in. We re-applied the following year and got in, along with our other top schools.

It wasn’t easy going through the process twice. Needless to say, I was discouraged after the initial rejection and experienced all of the emotions many of you are experiencing now. That said, we were successful the second time around and learned a lot along the way, which I want to share with you now.

First, don’t take this personally. Preschool admission is largely a numbers game. Many schools even use a lottery system.

More importantly, schools generally choose 10 to 17 children for each class based on their age and gender (most schools try to have the same number of boys and girls in a class) after they have guaranteed seats to siblings and legacies.

Second, acceptance to a school (or not) is not a judgment about your child or your child’s abilities. Preschools do not test your child and are not looking for “stars.” In fact, most of the preschools will not ask to meet your child, so don’t worry about turning your child into a prodigy between now and then. Getting into preschool will largely come down to your child’s age and gender and how many seats are available.

The basics:

1. Preschool applications are generally due the year before your child enters preschool. Some schools have rolling admissions, but most will require you to apply a year in advance.

2. Parents of older children (3 and over) will have an easier time getting into preschool. There are more schools to choose from for older children (not all schools have a program for kids under 3) and the class sizes are larger. So there are more seats available.

3. When creating your list of preschools think about the school’s:

• Location. You generally want a school that is close to home. Remember, your child won’t just be going to school there. He will also attend play dates there, birthday parties, etc.

• Teaching philosophy. Think about whether the school’s teaching philosophy matches your expectations and values. Most schools are actually a blend of the various philosophies, but it is better to apply to those schools whose philosophies line up with yours. Some of the teaching philosophies most talked about are Progressive, Montessori, and Reggio Emilia.

• Religious affiliation. You should know if a school on your list is connected to a church or a temple. Generally, schools that are connected to churches or temples prefer families that are a part of that community, so getting into one of these schools may be more difficult if you are not a member. Finally, don’t assume that a school is connected to a church or temple simply based on its name. Do your research!

4. Ideally, families should apply to about eight schools to better their chances. Parents of twins should apply to about 10 to 12 schools. Parents of triplets (like us) should apply to 15 schools or more (if you can handle it).

5. Visit the schools’ websites and know when and how to get an application.

Now, if you really want to get into a school

• Get to know parents whose children are attending the school. Ask them to write you a letter of recommendation if they have a positive relationship with the school. Schools like families that have ties to their community.

• Send the school a letter expressing your interest in the school after you have visited. The Independent Schools Admissions Association of Greater New York no longer permits “first choice letters,” but parents are still allowed to send letters expressing their interests in a school.

• Consider re-applying if you don’t get in the first time around. My kids were 15 months old when I first applied to preschool. They were too young for most schools and barely made the cut-off for our first-choice school. The following year, they were older, so we had more schools to choose from. This increased our chances with all of the schools we applied to, especially our first-choice school. Preschools will often accept you the second time around because re-applying demonstrates your interest and commitment to the school.

Good luck with your applications and e-mail me with any questions at You can also read more preschool tips on my blog.

Notoya Green is a parenting expert and former Family Law attorney. You can read her blog at You can also follow her on Facebook at and on Twitter @NotoyaG.