After pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, vaccinations and sleep training the next important milestone to get ready for the is the dreaded preschool application process. Those that have heard countless stories on what a nightmare this process probably think “Where do I start?”
Since my own experience was trial and error, I have learned firsthand how to successfully navigate this important milestone to find the perfect preschool by following these five steps:.
Step 1: Determining what’s important
Start by thinking of what will work for your family.
1) Location: Do you need something close to home? Work? Or in between?
2) Schedule: Do you need Part time (half days or full days couple days a week), Full time (everyday typically 9 am-3pm) and/or Extended care (before 9 am and after 3pm)?
3) Program type (Montessori, Spanish Immersion, play based, academic) All are great. Which is most important to you?
4) Cost: This can range but make sure you add EVERYTHING up. Some schools include everything while others have an ala carte menu. To budget properly be sure to ask what’s included and what’s extra. Extra costs could include: lunch, extended care, summer programs (not all schools are year round), potty training.
Step 1 Tips:
- “It’s the best school” is a relative statement. What you think is the “best” may differ from your “know it all” neighbor’s opinion and when it comes to preschools, it can get philosophical, competitive and expensive. My advice is keep it simple, remain open minded and concentrate on finding what’s best for your family.
- If you think you need to hold a spot while waiting to hear from another preschool, factor in the non-refundable deposit into your budget. This deposit can be expensive, anywhere from $200 to one month’s tuition to 10% of year’s tuition.
Step 2: Finding preschools that fit into your criteria
1) Recommendations and Referrals: An established community can help but keep in mind what works for your friends and family can be very different for your family.
2) Books, Seminars, Local Preschool Fairs
3) Online: Community forums can help you find local preschools. There is also SavvySource.com and Greatschools.org. Google and Yelp are an option but do not have much depth when it comes to preschools.
Step 2 tips:
Other online resources are popping up such as KidAdmit (in San Francisco) to help you search and manage the entire preschool admissions process. Disclosure: I am the Founder & CEO and created the site based on my own frustrating experience of enrolling my son into preschool. Our hope is to help all parents feel supported and confident through the important, but nerve-wracking, process of preschool enrollment.
Step 3: Visiting the preschools by yourself and with your child
Many preschools require that you attend a Parent tour or Open House as well as schedule a visit with your child (often called a Child Playdate). This is a great opportunity to meet the staff, learn more about their philosophy and most importantly, get a feel for the environment. The Child Playdate is equally important. It is a great way to introduce your child to the concept of preschool.
Step 3 Tips:
- Make sure BOTH parents attend all preschool visits because they pay attention to this as part of their decision making. Do not be on your phone during these visits.
- Try scheduling Child Playdates in the morning so your child is rested and fed. Be attentive to your child as the preschools are watching how you interact with your child.
Step 4: Application
Submit each preschool’s application, along with a non-refundable application fee (varies by each preschool) by the specified deadline, which will commonly fall towards the end of the year (December). Many preschools take applications year round too.
Step 4 tip: If you are really interested in a particular preschool, make sure they know this and stay in touch in case a spot opens up sooner. Don’t spread the love too much as Preschool Directors talk and will know if you are not being genuine.
Step 5: The Decision(s)
Preschools usually make their decisions as spots open up which can make the waiting process difficult. It can be costly if you want to hold that spot (see Tejal’s special Tip above). After preschools send out their decision letters, you will have to make the final decision on which preschool is the best fit for your child and family. Be sure to let all the preschools know your decision quickly and professionally. Once you commit, you will being the enrollment process. This requires a signed contract and a deposit to hold the spot for the beginning of the preschool year. Deposits are generally not refundable but may be applied towards the tuition. State regulated forms will follow with the enrollment packet.
My Final Tip: Remember nothing is set in stone and change is always possible. Once your child is enrolled and for some reason it’s not working out, don’t worry. Just go ahead and reach out to the other preschools you were interested. Just be honest about the situation and they will try to help.
What are you looking for in a Preschool?
Tejal is the Founder of KidAdmit, Inc. (www.kidadmit.com), a site dedicated to streamlining the preschool admissions process for parents and preschools. KidAdmit is creating a better experience for parents and preschools so both can effectively communicate throughout the admissions process. Previously, she co-founded Peninsula Wealth, an independent wealth management firm. Tejal has an engineering degree from University of rochester.
She has 10+ years of professional experience and has built successful businesses in engineering and finance. These experiences, along with the birth of her fun loving boys has led her to the startup life, which is both awesome and hectic! Connect with Tejal: @KidAdmit and @tejaltshah and https://www.facebook.com/kidadmit.