Advice about Applying to Preschool
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- When do we start applying to preschools?
- Preschool admissions - I need to renege on oral commitment
- How Many Preschools to Apply To?
- Child will be 3 this spring - when should I apply?
Our daughter has an end-of-year birthday and will be turning 2 at the end of this year. I'm beginning to do research into preschools for her, and I'm quite overwhelmed and finding that information can be very scattered. We've spent a lot of time doing research, reading reviews, and gathering info from various sources (including the archives here at BPN), but still feeling overwhelmed. Since her birthday is at the end / beginning of the year, when do we start applying? What is the average age that most kids here attend preschool? Do most kids go 2-3 days, or do most go 4-5? I come from a state where preschool is automatically offered as part of public school at age 4, so all of these baffling degrees of choices are really overwhelming.
Hi, My daughter has a mid December birthday and we were also looking in Berkeley/Oakland. In my experience, most preschools accept kids that are 2 years and 9 months old in September of the year they start. So you likely want to start looking at preschools this fall. How to start? Get recommendations from people, then go to the preschool open houses which are generally scheduled in the fall. Most preschools require you to apply almost a year in advance for the following fall with applications being due generally between December and March. I really enjoyed the process of looking at different schools and exploring the different teaching philosophies. To try to ensure your child gets into one you like, I would apply to 3 to 5 schools because you won't necessarily get into all of them.
I found that most preschools require full time or nearly full time attendance (4 to 5 full days per week). There are a few schools with part time options out there.
But don't worry! There are a lot of great preschools out there. If you put the time in visiting schools, you are bound to get into a program you are happy with. As you will find, prices vary widely. If the co-op schedule works for you, start there! Oakland Mamma
Many preschools accept children ages 2.9 and older, so next fall would be an ideal time for your child to start. Having said that, my two younger kids started at age 4 and had only one year of preschool each, while my eldest child started at age 2.5 and had a total of three years of preschool. No regrets about any of those choices. As far as number of days, whatever works for your family is fine. My kids never went for 5 days, but sometimes it was 2, sometimes 3 and sometimes 4. Then, you say you are a single car family, but I think you include a too-large geographic area in your search. My criterion for preschool was that we could walk there. So you could certainly narrow your search geographically. We live in a preschool-dense area. But, affordability is a big deal and this will narrow your search quite a bit. So that leads me to my recommendation for preschool: The Model School in south Berkeley. We spent one lovely year there. It's cheaper than many of schools in the area and the hours/days are more flexible than any of the other schools we looked at. They enroll infants as young as 3 months and go all the way through Pre-K. They also enroll year-round, so your child wouldn't have to wait until next fall to begin. They are Montessori-influenced but not dogmatic about it. The teachers are loving and the families kind. Give them a call! Model School fan
My child was admitted into a very desirable private preschool and I would love to accept, but as I calculate the costs again, I realize it is going to be a bit more than I had initially thought and the truth is, I have found good, less expensive alternatives. I had orally committed to accepting a spot if offered one, and so now I feel terrible about potentially turning it down. No deposits have been paid yet or contracts signed. I wonder, has this happened to anyone else - where you say that you will accept if offered a spot, are offered one, and then don't accept? How terrible is this? anon
Hello--I totally did this, and only 2 months ago. Worse yet, it was the night before I took her for the first day, with the contracts in hand to be delivered. We had some miscommunication about the costs. It was $200 more/month than I had expected/planned. In some ways, it was only $200, but in others, I knew it would really harm our financials to spend that. It was hard to communicate that, but I had to do what was best for our family. I was very respectful and apologetic, as that's how I felt, but also embarrassed. Looking back, I'm happy with my decision still. I wish I COULD have afforded it, but so grateful I chose what was best for our family. Good luck! mama who reneged on private preschool, too
It is not unusual at all for families to decline an offer of acceptance. Schools know that a certain percentage will do this. Don't give it another thought. Do what's best for your family. local mom
Not a big deal at all if you have not yet signed a contract; it's pretty common that families will look at multiple schools, and there are many reasons you might opt not to go with your top choice when it comes to the final decision. You say that you have told the school you'd take a spot if one were offered--so it sounds like you haven't actually even been offered a spot yet. If and when you are offered it, you simply tell the school that you have decided on a different program. Particularly if it is a highly desirable school, they will have no problem moving to the next person on the list (and honestly, if it is a highly desirable school they may not even offer you a spot in the first place, so the decision may be moot!) At some of the schools we considered, you had a period to change your mind even after signing the contract, too. The schools want it to be the right fit as much as you do. Mama to another preschool applicant
If the preschool is as desirable as you say it is, then I wouldn't worry about reneging on an oral agreement. Somebody else will happily take that spot and everybody's happy. Good for you for not going into debt for preschool! anon
My son will be 3 next fall and we have begun looking at preschools for next year. How many schools do you really have to apply to, to be sure you get in to at least one of your choice? I am interested in a play-based school with free-flow access so the kids can be outside (or inside) if they want to. I am also looking for a schedule that's 5 days a week from 8-9 to 1-3. I am open to co-ops.
So far, I'm interested in CCC, Monte Verde, and Dandelion, but I've heard stories from so many parents that they've applied to up to 6 schools and only got into one!? I do not want to send my son to a school that I am not enthusiastic about. Do I really have to apply to more schools than those 3? I'm also planning to look at El Cerrito Co-op. What can I do to ensure that my son gets in to at least one of the schools that we like? Our family structure is mom and dad, and we are white, so we don't have any diversity to speak of (except that we're creative types). Thank you for any insight, fellow parents who have already traveled this road. Jane
We applied to three preschools for my almost 3 year old and got into all of them --- I too was really worried about not getting a spot but it turns out it wasn't an issue. But I think it is key that we started our search early and went to lots of open house and info sessions (winter 2012 with plans to start my son fall 2013) as some of his daycare friends who didn't start looking until Spring had a more challenging time. We also ended up enrolling him in the school of our choice during the summer instead, to take advantage of an opening at that time, rather than waiting for September when more kids may have been starting. We were looking at Montessori programs in El Cerrito/Albany/Berkeley ---- it may be more competitive in other neighborhoods or for other program types. So my advice is start early and be flexible about your transition time-frame. Good luck! I survived the preschool application process
I have experience with 3 different preschools in Berkeley. We applied and got into all 3, easily. Two of the three were excellent preschools, the third has since closed (but my boy was mostly happy there). We have three kids, with a large age spread, and lived in different parts of Berkeley for each of their preschool years, hence the not sticking with the first excellent preschool we attended. So, first, don't buy into the hype and don't assume that a preschool with a long waiting list, or lower acceptance rate is superior. Ask each of the three schools you are interested in what their acceptance rate is. If they are all close to 80 or 90 percent, then I'm sure you would be fine applying to just those three. I actually don't know anyone who applied to more than that. By the way, my youngest just started kindy, so my experience is not outdated! Preschool x3
Hi Jane, It's a great question ... we applied to 5 and got into 1, so the numbers can be daunting. I would invite you to check out Montclair Community Play Center's Toddler Playtime program (for kids 18 months to 3 years) as it would give you a chance to spend some time at that school and see how it feels to you. They accept students to the preschool purely by lottery and it can be tough to get in if there are a lot of returning siblings but people who take the Toddler class get an extra pull in the lottery, so that can be of help. My son attends MCPC now. The days are a little shorter than you're looking for (9-noon), but they have an extended program on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 3pm. When you're looking at schools, I recommend asking what your chances are of getting in and trying to have a frank discussion ... there are so many variables I think the answers change from year to year (and then sometimes in Sept people find their choice is not a good match and then an opening occurs ...) Here's the website for MCPC: mcpckids.org. Best of luck! There's no ONE right school, but I understand and empathize with your concerns about getting in somewhere! Julie
You seem to be missing a school that meets the criteria you have described - Skytown (http://www.skytown.org/) We also have a toddler program that is open to kids from 18 months+, which is a nice way to introduce kids to the community. As for applications, we only applied to a few that we felt very comfortable with. Admittedly biased 5yr+ Skytown parent Mike
Our son is going to be 3 years old in 2010 during the Spring, when should I start applying to preschools? Thanks. -anon
I'm assuming you're talking about Berkeley? I know this is crazy: From our experience and what we've been told by many Berkeley parents, you should start now. Like, today. Put your name on as many pre-school waiting lists as you can. There definitely will be a pre-school for your son, though it's possible you may have to go out of Berkeley to find one. There may be (?) less of a wait list for all day schools: we needed one that is open for 10 or 11 hours a day. Good Luck! Carey
Now. Seriously as soon as you're thinking about it, start researching. I used Savvysource.com for basic info - but be aware not all schools keep their data up to date. However you should at least be able to determine which schools are within a reasonal drive for you, have the schedule you want, and are in your budget. Then you need to call and confirm the tuition, and make appointments. Confirming the tuition will save you a lot of time as I wasted two tours only to find out the rates were higher than posted on Savvy Source - in one case, significantly higher.
You didn't say when you want your child to start preschool - in the new year, or next fall? Either way I would start looking now, as you will have a lot more choices that way. We ended up with just one that fit our criteria (not because I'm so picky but because we couldn't afford most of them) and were on the wait list for over half a year before being admitted, just due to demand, not any competitive process.
For fall I think most schools will start taking applications in January. Some schools may allow your child to start in January if that's what you want. Start asap.