When to Start Looking for a Preschool
See also: Applying to Preschool
General Guidelines for Preschools
In general, the January before your child will be three, start researching preschools in your target area, and find out when you can tour the schools from their websites and/or from the BPN Announcements and Events.
- Ages: Most preschools that are not in someone's home enroll children for the two years prior to kindergarten, so 3 and 4 year olds. Some also offer a bridge program for 5 years olds, which adds a third year. There are a few preschools that also have programs for toddlers and two-year-olds but this is rare because of licensing requirements for younger age groups. There are many home-based preschools that are flexible about ages.
- Start Date: Most preschools form a new class of 3-year-olds each Fall. Openings for 4 year olds, or mid-year openings, may be rare, depending on the school.
- Researching: Preschools hold open houses and tours from December through March. Check BPN for announcements, or check the school's website.
- Applying: Applications are usually accepted beginning in January for the following Fall, for children who will be 3 by then. Very few preschools accept applications earlier than this.
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I'm a new parent and am just curious about how far in advance we need to start looking for a preschool. I've heard stories about needing to start a couple of years in advance but I'm not sure if the Bay Area is like that. Are there usually waitlists or is that only for certain preschools? We are interested in a Spanish bilingual preschool like La Plazita. Thanks! Anna
Here's what I wish I had known before Preschool. My child has a Feb Birthday, and I thought we would like to ideally start preschool somewhere close to his 3rd birthday. I assumed year round enrollment, but I was wrong. (though there are a very few that do enroll year round). As a result, I ended up paying for an extra year of infant child care which turned out fine, but was way expensive. Preschool enrollment follows the traditional academic year: Apply in about January for a spot that starts in September (this is due to the timing of the older ones moving on to Kindergarten). Many preschools have information available for prospective students in the Nov-Jan timeframe, so now is a good time to inquire and visit a few. Good preschools with low-to-moderate cost often have waiting lists. Some of the more expensive preschools seemed to have more openings and shorter wait lists. Granted my experience was in 2009 when employment was suffering, so an improving economy could change that dynamic somewhat. There are some very good preschools that you have not heard of because the spots are filled by great word of mouth, therefore they don't really need to advertise (for example in this BPN newsletter). Some good ways to learn about preschools near you are: On weekends, play at the park that is closest to your home, and talk to parents of kids that are preschool age and older. Talk to your friends, neighbors and co-workers. Look in BPN Marketplace newsletter and Announcements newsletter for preschool fundraisers such as fun fairs and yard sales. Patronize those events and learn a little about the school in the process. And, if you get on a waiting list for a preschool that you are excited about, check in regularly (every 1-2 months) to find out where you stand and let them know you are seriously interested.
My first child just turned 1, and I'm wondering at what point do we begin researching pre-schools? Is it as crazy as everyone says it is - do we need to begin looking NOW if we want him to begin pre-school next year? His birthday is in October; how does that factor into it? Having never done this before, I'm welcome any advice as to how to initiate this daunting process! Thanks so much katie
I would start in January. However, you should know that most preschools require that your child be 2 years, 9 months to start. So, yours may not be ready until the following fall. In any case, I found it helpful to start making calls the January prior to the fall that my son began. Good Luck!
Some schools do have waiting lists, but we found that most local preschools enroll children in about December through March to begin attending in August/September. Larger schools, of course, will tend to have more openings than smaller ones, so it won't hurt you to start thinking early about where you'd like your child to go, but you won't be shut out of the process if you start later. Given your child's October birthday, you might want to wait another year (starting him when he is not-quite-3 rather than when he is not-quite-2) since most preschools will not enroll children younger than 2 (sometimes 2.5 or 3), or you could look for a spring opening instead of starting him in the fall. anon
Amazingly enough you really do have to start researching preschools now for next fall. Many schools will be full up by January. The Neighborhood Parent's Network does a preschool school fair that could help you get the lay of the land. They also publish a preschool guide you can purchase. Not all preschools in the area are listed. Check Parent's Press for info on Open Houses and school fair dates. Good luck!