Getting Into Preschool In New York City
Getting Into Preschool In New York City
As a former admissions advisor in Manhattan, it was harder to get children into nursery school than any other entry point. The most popular NYC preschools are still as competitive as Harvard. Often, New York City parents are so concerned about whether or not the school would accept their child that they don’t consider whether or not the school is a good fit for them. While it is important to know what you can do to increase your child’s chances of getting in, it’s just as important to consider whether or not the school is right for your child.
1. Ask yourself, “Is my child ready for preschool?”
Early childhood experts agree that children under two-years-old who are developing normally and have loving, supportive families don’t need to be in school. If you are actively involved with your child, talking to him about things you do together, visiting parks, exploring the world, reading to him, and bringing him up in a stimulating environment, school is not necessary at this young age. You may have your own reasons for putting a child under two in school, and that’s just fine. Just know that it isn’t necessary. Three-years-old is an ideal time to send your child to school because most kids are more independent at that age, they’re able to separate and handle the physical demands of going to school. Check the age requirements for nursery schools that interest you. They are usually very specific. In New York City, you don’t want to wait too long to send your child because all the kids who started at age three will move up to the fours class and there won’t be many openings for four-year-olds if that’s when you choose to start your child.
2. Stay in the neighborhood.
It’s very hard to schlep a little one far from home, especially in the winter or on rainy days. Plus, if you stay in your neighborhood, your child will make friends with kids who live nearby.
3. Choose a convenient time.
Length of programs and morning, afternoon, or all-day availability varies. What fits your work schedule best? Does your child still nap? If so, you may not want to put him in the afternoon program. If you work and have a babysitter, afternoons might be better because you won’t be rushed in the morning. Afternoons are less popular among parents, so if you are willing to take them, your child will have a better chance to be admitted. You can usually switch to morning the next year. We sent our kids to the afternoon program because we knew it would be easier to get in. To our surprise, we loved it and stayed there throughout nursery school.
4. Find a director you click with.
Do you like her? She really sets the tone for the school. Do you sense she will be easy to work with if there is a problem? And trust me, problems do come along. If you’re planning to send your child to private kindergarten, what is her track record for getting kids into the ongoing schools that interest you? Ask about the school’s ex-missions process when you visit. Talk to friends who know this director and trust your gut.
5. Assess the quality of the teachers.
Do they have degrees in early childhood education? Are there assistant teachers? What is the turnover like?
6. Is the school affiliated with a church or temple?
If so, how much religious instruction do they offer? Are you comfortable with that?
7. Are you comfortable with the class size?
Sizes of classes is usually licensed by the state. For example, the state may mandate that in a classroom of three and four-year-olds, there can be fifteen students with two teachers (a head and an assistant teacher). Some schools will offer classes that are smaller than the law allows.
8. Assess the quality of the classroom.
The room should be bright, clean, light and cheerful looking. You don’t want it to be so neat that children are inhibited from expressing themselves. It should be arranged in a way that children can move around and retrieve the material themselves. Do you see this as a space where your child would be happy going each day? It is important that you see all the classrooms a school offers. I remember considering one downtown school for my daughter that had beautiful classrooms for the youngest students, but the older ones were located in a dark, unattractive basement.
9. Are you comfortable with the outdoor space?
Ideally it will be located right next to the school. One school I considered used a local park as their playground. Children took a van to get there. Although it wasn’t far, I was very uncomfortable with that arrangement. Make sure the play area is well designed, safe and clean.
10. How much does the school cost?
Can you easily afford it? Do they offer scholarships for which your child would qualify? If it isn’t expensive, are they cutting corners that you aren’t comfortable with?
11. What is the parent body like?
Does the school encourage participation? Is it a socially conscious community, a wealthy one, a community where most moms work? If most moms stay at home and you work, will you be comfortable? In nursery school, if you feel at home with the community, your child will, too.
12. How hard is the school to get into?
Some schools are in high demand. You don’t want to apply only to these schools. Make sure you apply to a few that you really like that your child has a great chance to get into. You will apply the fall before your child would actually start. Many schools require you to call the day after Labor Day to get an application. Call ahead or check the school’s web site to see if this is required. Most schools will observe your child during a group playdate. They are looking to see if your child is where she should be developmentally. Many will interview you as well. At the nursery school level, parents will be a considering factor more so than in kindergarten and beyond. The director may be assessing whether or not you’ll be reasonably easy to work with, you’ll want to volunteer, and if you have donor potential (although, don’t bring that up). Send a letter to your first choice school telling them you would accept a spot if offered. Many schools do consider these when choosing children to accept. In Manhattan, the nursery school admissions process is very similar to the kindergarten admissions process. You can read more about this process in my book, “Testing For Kindergarten.”
13. Will the school prepare your child for kindergarten admissions testing?
Whether you choose to follow preschool with a private kindergarten, a gifted and talented program, or public kindergarten, your child will be tested. This will be an IQ test for admissions to private school or a gifted program and a readiness test for ability placement for slow, average, and advanced groups in public kindergarten. Children who attend Montessori or traditional nursery schools do best on IQ tests. Kids who go to progressive, Waldorf, or Reggio Emilia schools may need extra support to get ready for testing. Frankly, in my opinion, it isn’t wise to trust that your preschool will have prepared your child for testing in a market as competitive a as New York City. If you’d like to see my reviews of all the test prep products available for preschoolers today, visit www.kindergartentestingwithouttears.com.
14. What does your gut say?
Finally, when choosing a preschool, listen to the feeling you get from the children, teachers, the activities you see taking place – your overall gut reaction to the school. Trust this.
Karen Quinn is the author of Testing For Kindergarten, a parent’s guide to getting your preschool child ready for ERB, Stanford-Binet, WPPSI-III, OLSAT or other IQ tests for private school admission or gifted and talented program qualification. She is a former kindergarten admissions advisor from NYC and is the inventor of IQ Fun Park, an IQ test prep kit (that feels like play) for children ages 3 to 6. Visit her at www.testingforkindergarten.com.
Filed under: Preschool Marketing
Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!