When should we start looking for a pre-school?

Our son is only 3 months old, and we have daycare ironed out until 3-K begins, but we've heard all kinds of stories about the need to start looking for a pre-school VERY early.  Are these stories exaggerated? When should we dip our toes into the schooling pond? Thanks for your advice!

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Most preschools accept applications about a year in advance of your child’s start, and many preschools are on an academic schedule so usually the application process occurs in the fall for admission the following fall. I don’t think you have to worry about it this early but it can’t hurt to do some research now on which schools you might be interested in and confirm that this is their process. 

I think that, at least in the East Bay, these accounts are exaggerated. When looking for preschools, you want to have an idea of your son's temperament, and what kind of preschool will suit him best. Would your son benefit from a mixed-age classroom common in a Montessori preschool, or would he benefit from a school with different rooms for each age group. Would he prefer more structure, or less? There's no way for you to know that with a 3 month-old, and you can't substitute your own preferences. I'm in North Oakland, and we started looking at preschools in North Oakland/Rockridge/south Berkeley area in the fall of 2017, for September 2018 start date (when our son was 3). We were offered spots at 3 great preschools, and are very happy. Take a breath. Don't let the hype stress you out! 

I think it is worth looking the year before you plan to apply just to see what's out there and narrow your list. But the vast majority of preschools don't accept applications until the fall or winter before you plan to attend. The main thing you'll want to know is which schools you need to apply for when. Some might not start till age three, while others start at age two. Some might have fall application deadlines, while others might have rolling admissions or running waitlists. If you plan to keep your child where he is until age three (so intend to start preschool in Fall 2022) then I'd start your research in the summer of 2021. If you think you might reconsider and want to start him at age two, then just bump that back a year. Definitely don't worry about it now, or anytime soon--you'll want to know more about the person your child is growing into and what kind of a child care rhythm works for your family before getting your feet wet.

I'd start looking around 1 year prior to the school year you're trying to start. For example, if your preschool starts in August, start getting in touch w/ your preferred schools in September or October of the year prior. They typically do tours in November, and enrollment is often complete by the end of the year. Of course, if there is anywhere you're really set on, call them now and get their advice as to when to get back in touch! I'm sure each school knows exactly when to enroll or join the wait-list, etc.