When to Start Looking for Preschool
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General guidelines for Preschools
(with their own site, not in someone's home)
Therefore, in 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 Schools & Preschools newsletter.
- Most preschools only accept children
for the two years prior to kindergarten. In other words,
3 and 4 year olds. (They may also have a "bridge" program for 5 years olds.)
- There are a few preschools that also have programs for
- Most preschools form a new class of 3-year-olds each Fall. Openings for 4 year olds, or mid-year,
may be rare.
- Most preschools hold open houses and tours from December through March. Check BPN's Schools & Preschools
newsletter for announcements, or check their websites.
- Most preschools accept applications beginning in January only for children who will be 3
the following Fall. Very few accept applications earlier than this.
Home-based Preschools are often more flexible about ages, and
may accept new children year-round.
See Homebased Preschools.
Our son is going to be 3 years old in 2010 during the Spring,
when should I start applying to preschools? Thanks.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
There are many good preschools that do not have waiting lists.
Figure out your criteria and work from there.
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.
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.''
this page was last updated: Oct 16, 2012
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