Fact: My son turned two last month and won’t be three for another year…yet, I am forced to dive into the preschool process now- a full year in advance.
Fact: Despite what anyone tells you, the preschool process in New York City is a lengthy process that reminds me of the college admission/application process. Yes, the process starts with phone call mania the day after Labor Day (September 7, 2010) and lasts until March, 2011 when acceptance letters are mailed out.
You may have heard the horror stories about getting busy signals on the phone just trying to get an application … to the parent that applied to 20 different preschools to ensure they get in somewhere … to the parent who hired a consultant for hundreds of dollars to ensure a smooth admission process.
The best advice that I have received thus far is TO GET EDUCATED ABOUT THE PROCESS. Like any other important decision you make in life – do your homework, read up on the schools you are interested in, and have a plan. This should hopefully minimize the stress. Let’s face it – the law of supply and demand in New York City demonstrates that there are a significant amount of preschool age children in each neighborhood with only a limited supply of available slots. This strong demand is what drives some of the hysteria.
Not having gone through the entire process yet, I am unable to offer you much infinite wisdom on how to crack the code to get into your #1 desired preschool. Consequently, I am able to offer you a few tools to GET EDUCATED and possibly reduce your anxiety level.
1. Lots of local organizations offer parenting workshops on the preschool process as well as the philosophy of preschool.
– For example, I am attending a free workshop this Thursday, August 26 from 6:30pm – 8:30pm. Evening Talk: The Challenges of Toddlerhood and Preparing for the Transition to Preschool: ReziClass & City Mommy are presenting an evening with Nancy Schulman and Ellen Birnbaum of the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, who will discuss their book, “Practical Wisdom for Parents: Demystifying the Preschool Years” a must-read bible for parents of toddlers and preschoolers. Whether you’re feeling challenged by your toddler and/or preparing for the major transition to preschool, the talk and the book are sure to be a great resource.
– Join The Parents League of New York. For $130, their experienced advisors provide a place to start in your search for the right school for your child and will help explain admissions procedures and guide you through the process. Members applying to preschools may attend a Preschool Admissions Workshop, call anytime to get answers to your questions, and will receive the Guide to Preschools and a workshop booklet which includes an admissions timeline. They have frequent preschool admissions workshops including one today from 12 – 1:30pm
– New York Family Magazine has been known to set up panel discussions including the directors of several quality preschools so you can hear from the real source what the process is like.
– the Parenting Center at the 92nd Street Y offers a workshop, Planning Your Child’s Early School Years – Learn the appropriate age your child can begin preschool, what programs are available and how to observe a preschool. The next workshop is Tuesday, September 7, 2010.
2. Talk to parent friends who have been through the process that can offer tips and best practices.
3. I have had the chance to attend a few preschool information sessions this past year. Here are the links to my notes:
A. Notes from the discussion at the 92nd Street Y
B. To Preschool or Not to Preschool – a discussion with Marsha Greenberg. M.S. on the philosophy of Nursery School
C. If you would prefer to get a real taste of what the process was like for 5 different families in NYC from different socioeconomic backgrounds, check out the powerful documentary, Nursery University.