Free Pre-K for NYC Kids: How to Apply for Pre-Kindergarten in 2015

New York City Department of Education Pre-K Applications 2015

If you have a child born in 2011 listen up! The NYC Department of Education just released info about how to apply to free pre-k for fall 2015, and there are some really promising changes. For the first time, there will be one application for pre-k programs in both public schools and community-based early education centers, which means less paperwork and (hopefully) less confusion. Even better, schools chancellor Carmen Fariña has promised that there will be a seat for every age-eligible child.

Of course, you'll still want to do your research before you hand in that application. Here's everything you need to know about applying to free pre-k this fall.

Who can apply to pre-k?
Any child born in 2011 who resides in NYC.

How do I apply to pre-k for my child?
Beginning Monday, March 16, you can file your pre-k application online, over the phone at 311 or in person at Family Welcome Centers. The form isn't yet available but once it is you'll find it on the DOE's website. Parents can rank up to 12 pre-k choices on the application, both at public schools and community-based early education centers.

When can I apply to pre-k for my child?
The application period runs Monday, March 16 to Friday, April 24, and each child is matched with one program. Acceptance letters will go out in late May and parents can register in June.

How do I find the right pre-k program for my child?
The DOE is hosting a series of pre-k information sessions in every borough in March. In addition, you can search this map for pre-k programs near you and in later February, the city will publish a new pre-k directory (you can check out last year's online). Of course, nothing beats seeing for yourself, so it's best to call each school you're interested in to find out if you can attend a tour. If possible, it's also worth trying to connect with current pre-k families on local parenting listservs to get their take on the program. Wondering what to look for in a pre-k? The website has a great checklist.

Is my eligible child guaranteed a pre-k placement that works for my family?
Not exactly. Thanks to Mayor Bill de Blasio's universal pre-k initiative, there will be more seats than ever before, and schools chancellor Fariña promises that all kids born in 2011 will be offered a placement somewhere. But not all pre-ks are the same. Some are only half day, and even many full-day programs don't offer after-school care, which is still tough on working parents. So take these issues into consideration when ranking your choices.

What do I do if my child doesn't get into a pre-k that works for my family?
If you don't get the program you want, ask to be placed on its wait list. Each school and early education center will handle its own. And it's always good to have a backup plan (a sitter, a private daycare) in case pre-k doesn't work out.

How can I find out more about pre-k?
The DOE has a dedicated pre-k page and you can even sign up for email alerts about pre-k.

My child has special needs. Does that change how we apply to pre-k?
It's the same process but check the DOE's page about pre-k for students with special needs for additional info and assistance.

For more education options for young children, check out our Preschool Guide.