“All good things must come to an end.” Because the Early Childhood Center ends with pre-K, there comes a time when you should start looking into the next step in your child’s education: kindergarten. The time to start looking is in the spring before your child’s 4-5’s year.
Applying for kindergarten in New York City is a unique process. The process differs for both public and independent (private) schools and even differs from school to school. Many parts of the process change frequently so be sure to check with individual schools for the most up to date information.
The process described here is meant to provide an overview of, and some general information about, what to expect. It is not intended to be an official guide. In addition to the information provided here, there are numerous resources available to help you figure it all out. For websites, be sure to check out the Parents League and the Independent Schools Admission Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY) as well as the many individual school websites, which are posted on the ISAAGNY site. In addition, there are a variety of books on both public and independent schools that can be helpful. Finally, the ECC holds a workshop every spring for current families on the kindergarten admissions process.
If you reside in Manhattan, you are zoned to a neighborhood public school, which is known as your catchment. Most ECC families are in the catchment area of PS 199, PS 87, PS 452, or PS 9, all in District 3. To find out information about your catchment and your District, call the NY City Hotline at 311 or visit schools.nyc/gov.
To attend school in your catchment, you should first attend a tour of the school. (Call in September to find out when tours begin.) A general registration application is due to the school in January. Although the general rule is that your child has a right to attend his local neighborhood zoned school, many schools are overcrowded. If there are more applicants than places, a lottery is held.
If you wish to attend a school that you are not zoned for, and you reside in District 3, you may enter a lottery and rank your choices.
The cut-off birthdate for admissions to public schools in Manhattan is generally December 31.
In addition there are two categories of special public school programs:
Schools for Gifted Children
Hunter College Elementary School (a lab school of Hunter College): K-12
Hunter College Elementary School requires testing by an approved Stanford-Binet V tester. For more information about the admissions process for Hunter, go to hces.hunter.cuny.edu.
Gifted and Talented Programs: K-5th in District 3
Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs are one way that the NYC Department of Education supports the needs of exceptional students. G&T programs aim to deliver accelerated, rigorous, and specialized instruction aligned to Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS).
There are two types of Gifted & Talented programs. Admission to these programs is based on your child’s test score:
District G&T programs are offered at district elementary schools. They prioritize admitting students who live in the local communities served by the school. You are only eligible to apply to these programs if you score a 90 or above.
Citywide G&T schools accept students from all boroughs. There is no admission priority given based on where you live. You are only eligible to apply to these programs if you score a 97 or above.
Students entering kindergarten through third grade are eligible to participate in G&T admissions. Children must pass an assessment to be eligible to apply to G&T programs.
To read more about this process, please visit the New York City Department of Education website.
Although the admissions season for independent schools officially begins the day after Labor Day, many schools post valuable information on the web over the summer. The process is as follows:
Formulate a List of Schools
The spring or summer before your child’s Pre-K year, you should begin to formulate a list of schools to which you will be interested in applying. Some of the resources that can help with this process include:
The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools, by Victoria Goldman and Catherine Hausman
Once a preliminary list of schools is determined, you can meet with the director to discuss the list.
Attend Tours and/or Open Houses
Open Houses and/or tours provide an opportunity for parents to learn about different schools before the application process starts. These events will generally include a question and answer session, a tour of the school and a program overview. Additionally, they provide the opportunity to meet with school administrators, faculty and parents of children enrolled at the school. Because of limited space, most schools request that each family reserve a place by calling the Admissions Office.
A significant number of schools offer tours in the spring for information-gathering purposes. Many parents choose to attend spring tours to ease the burden of touring schools in the fall.
Most independent schools no longer require or will even accept the ECAA (Early Childhood Admissions Assessment). There are some schools that require the AABL (Admission Assessment for Beginning Learners). If you are applying to a school that requires either test, you can have your child tested at an ERB office.
Prepare Applications and Attend Interviews
Each school has a slightly different application process, including different deadlines. The process normally includes an application, a parent interview, a child visit and submission of school records and test results.
The application typically includes essay questions asking parents to describe the family's educational objectives and to portray the child's personality and learning style. The application will typically include an application fee. Although some schools make their applications available online over the summer, all have them available either online or by mail by the early fall. Once the school receives a completed application, parent interviews and child visits are scheduled.
The parent interview may be individual or in a group and will discuss the family's educational environment and objectives. Many families send a thank you note after the interview.
During the child visit, most schools will have the applicant join a group of children who will meet with admissions personnel for approximately 45 minutes. Some schools, however, may have a slightly different interview process.
To authorize the release of your child's school records to a specific school, you must bring to the ECC the school's form. The ECC completes the form and sends it directly to the ongoing school.
Most schools will not review your child's application folder until all the required information has been received. In January, you should contact each school to which you are applying to confirm that all required information and documents have been received.
You are also encouraged to meet with The director in mid to late January to touch base on the process and the status of all materials.
Admissions decisions for Kindergarten are released in February.
In recent years, ECC students have attended the following schools:
Abraham Joshua Heschel School
Bank Street School for Children
Birch Wathen Lenox School
Cathedral School of St. John the Divine
Churchill School and Center
City & Country School
Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School
Ethical Culture Fieldston School
Hunter Elementary School
Horace Mann School
Little Red School House
Manhattan Country School
Manhattan School for Children
Manhattan Day School
Riverdale Country School
Rodeph Sholom School
The School at Columbia University
Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan
Trevor Day School
United Nations International School