Waiting Lists for Preschools

Parent Q&A

Select any title to view the full question and replies.

  • 1 year old care/preschool

    (3 replies)

    I’m a first time parent and have been given the advice to get on a waiting list for preschool for when my baby (2 month old) turns one. We have care covered by my husband, myself and mother in-law for baby’s first year, but will need care starting at one. Recommendations for daycare locations near Berkeley for a one year old is needed as well as how to navigate the process of getting into our school of choice. 

    We aren’t interested in a nanny or home care. 

    Thank you! 

    I don't think you need to worry about preschool quite yet, as preschools typically don't take children until they're 2 (if not older - depends on the school). What you're looking for is daycare. 

    It sounds to me like you'd benefit from the free, monthly intro to childcare options put on by Bananas. They walk through the options (licensed, unlicensed, center based, family based, nannies) and provide info on how to go about next steps. They also maintain the list of daycare/preschools in good standing, and they explain why so few centers take babies under 2 years old. 

    Good luck!

    Daycare from 1-2 is actually a bit challenging; many more options open up at 2 (due to licensing requirements I believe). It might make sense to get on the waitlist at ECEP (early childhood education program?), UC Berkeley's daycare, as they have three large centers and you get on the waitlist for all with one application/fee. They have good facilities and a great ratio, but they are not cheap.  Hearts' Leap also has good reviews, but is even more expensive.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Preschool waiting lists & when to start looking

July 2014

My son is 16 months old and happy in his daycare; I've been planning to move him to a preschool in the fall of 2016, when he will be 3.5 years. Recently, I was chatting with a neighborhood mom who said her son has been on a wait list for preschool since he was born. That sounded insane, but I called a few nearby schools and the only one that called me back told me that they are full for the next 2-3 years and discouraged me from putting my son on their wait list. The other schools have not returned my calls. I called about 5 or 6, a mix of home-based and more school-like settings. What is going on? Am I calling too late or too soon? When did you start looking at preschools for your child? Joanna

I would start looking now so you have an idea of what you want in a preschool and get on some waitlists as soon as you can. I am also planning on starting my kids at 3 1/2 in Fall 2015, but we have been on several waitlists for over a year now with no guarantee we'll get spots for Fall 2015(I have twins, so I need two spots). One school pretty much told me there wouldn't be space for us in Fall 2015 even though at that point we'll have been on the waitlist since before my kids turned 1! One factor is that I am really interested in a diverse student population and that often means that up to half the spots are reserved for subsidized kids, so if you don't qualify, then there are less spots that you're eligible for. Many waitlists aren't straightforward - if you're number 10 now, you might be number 20 months from now because the schools are weighing multiple factors other than when you got on the waitlist (age, gender, SES, race/ethnicity, etc).

There are more frequent openings at some preschools that I didn't like as much and if we don't get in to one of our top two choices, then I would send my kids to a less competitive/popular one, but I would definitely start looking now to figure out what your top choices are. It took me visits to a handful of preschools to really figure out what I wanted and what combination of things I felt most comfortable with (teaching philosophy, hours/vacations, location, discipline policy, food issues, volunteer requirements, financial aid, capital campaigns, dress code, % of kids that go to public/private kindergarten, the list of considerations is endless!) Good luck! - Been there


Should I have signed up for preschool in utero?

Aug 2002

Dear Parents - need some advice here. Help, a Mom here being tripped up by self-doubts!

My question is - what pre-schools are signed up for pre-birth? I'm new to East Bay and a new Mom of a 1 yr old gal. She's a happy gal and goes to a home daycare p/t.

But recently met a Mom with older kids (nice kids!) who remarked how pleased she was that she had ''done the right thing'' by signing up her kids at XXX school while they were either in the tummy or right at birth. THEN I met another Mom, in Marin, who remarked the same thing about how her kids got into this place that she had signed up for right at birth. What's going on?

I'm a product of public schools and did well, 7-sisters undergrad...but when it comes to private schools for tots I admit to being a novice. Moreover, I don't know the N. Cal area that well so have no clue what schools she could possibly mean? I'm not pushing private over public, but i'd be curious to at least see what the big deal is all about. Can you share the answer to this? Thanks! Cassindy

I did not find a problem with preschool waiting lists. I found my daughter's preschool when she was about 18 months old by looking in the Yellow Pages and calling around to check if schools fit my basic criteria: location, cost, operating hours. Then I scheduled a school visit. I was prepared to wait 6-12 months for her to start, but I found one that took her right away. There are many good preschools that do not have waiting lists. Figure out your criteria and work from there. Liz

I think the deal here is that N.California is now a hyper- affluent place where lots of parents feel they need to pay for fancy pre-schools to get their tots on the right track to Yale. You'll pay twice as much for half the time you'd get in a good, loving family daycare. My daughter is ahead of the kindergarten curve thanks to her wonderful daycare provider, Sandra. I sometimes wonder if I'm in the minority of parents here because I think academics are wasted on the under-five set, and that kids really do thrive under a regular, play-based schedule. If you want to keep up with the people in the million dollar (three-bedroom) houses, then go ahead and sign up for that expensive, elite pre-school. And get yourself a Land Rover while you'e at it. Your child would be just as fine in a good daycare, but then you don't get bragging rights. A regular local mom

Some preschools have a long waiting list--years long--but these are few. For example, there is a Spanish Speaking preschool, El Centro Vida (I think) that has a waiting list that is years long. But others, like Duck's Nest on 4th street, or Children's Community Center, on Walnut, start taking applications at the beginning of the year, for September. You HAVE to sign up early to get in. At the Duck's Nest, the toddler room fills up right away, so if you wait until the summer or fall, there are no openings. Many preschools have open houses, and you can enroll then. Call the schools to be sent the information. The Parent's Press has a preschool list every year. You can also call around and visit various schools. Been there, done that

When I first moved here and was early in my pregancy, a friend suggested that I plunk down $20 to ensure a spot on the list at Step One school. I did so. When it came time to look at schools I decided Step One wasn't for us, but I was glad I had put in the application ''early'' so it would be there for us if we decided to pursue it. I believe most preschools don't have this policy of letting people apply ''in utero.'' The Neighborhood Parents Association publishes a preschool directory that gives an overview of policies and fees. In the fall they hold a Preschool Fair where you can buy the directory and visit with representatives from area preschools. My main piece of advice, having just been through the preschool admission process, is apply early and often--and be patient. I fixated on one school, thought I applied early, then found out they only had one opening for next year. I then spent two months rushing around looking at schools and applying, only to be put on endless waiting lists. After almost accepting an offer at a school that really didn't meet our needs, I got a call from the school I had wanted in the first place. A few people had decided to leave the area unexpectantly, and we got in. Maria

I read the reply from the person who recommended a good family based daycare over the expensive elite preschool, unless you feel the need for the status. I did the elite route and far from taking offense, I agree with what this person said 95% (the part I don't agree with is the Landrover :). Save your money and do the family daycare thing. And put the money you save in the college fund for Yale.

I went the co-op route with my kids and was very happy. Most co-op preschools seem not to have years-long waiting lists. Often you can enroll your child just before school starts, or even in the middle of the year. The preschool I have heard the in utero comment about is Step One. Although my kids did not go there, I know a couple of people whose kids have, and they were extremely happy with the school. In fact, it has a large number of glowing recommendations on the Parents web site. So, it is probably a very good preschool. On the other hand, there are so many other options in Berkeley and the surrounding area that you almost can't go wrong. Like a friend of mine said, it's hard to pick a bad preschool in Berkeley, so pick one that's convenient for the parents!

Even with expensive, prestige schools, you'll be fine if you start looking and putting in your applications 18 months in advance. And I have heard many stories of children being admitted at the last minute because families moved or needepd to change their schedules. You may also want to keep in mind that these preschools tend to have crazy rules related to age, physical coordination, and potty training. (Can anyone predict when their unborn child will stop needing a diaper?) On the other hand, there are plenty of high-quality schools to choose from. Just give yourself about a year to research and submit an application. I think that when you are about to give birth there are more important things to worry about than getting your child into ''the right school.''