It's kindergarten application crunch time in New York City. Kindergarten Connect, the relatively new form that New York City parents need to fill out either online, on paper, or by phone in order to apply their children to kindergarten for the 2017-2018 school year, must be filed by Friday, January 13 (although that deadline has been extended by the Department of Education in the past). It is not first-come, first-served, so when you turn it in doesn’t matter, as long as you do it by the deadline.
Perhaps it seems you sweated through preschool options and the pre-K decision just moments ago and are once again feeling overwhelmed at the options—the process. As the author of Getting Into NYC Kindergarten, I realize that there is a great deal of confusion about what goes on Kindergarten Connect, and what doesn’t, as well as the optimal way to rank your options to raise the odds of getting into your top-choice school, including a popular zoned kindergarten. So I've put together some simple tips to demystify the process. Relax, it's not high school—not yet!
First some basics: Everyone needs to apply to kindergarten to get their assigned seat. Don't assume you'll have a seat where your child attends pre-K. Your child is eligible to attend NYC kindergarten in the year they turn 5 years old. For 2017-2018 that means kids born in 2012. Most likely you've already researched the schools and maybe attended the open houses, but if not, you can find your zoned school, as well as search for other schools, on the city's School Search page and borough directories.
So now that you're staring down that application in the final days before the deadline, what next?
How To Rank Your School Choices
Rank your schools. Do not try to game the system. There are 12 spots on Kindergarten Connect. You do not need to fill in every single one of them, but if none of your listed choices are available, you can and will be placed in a school you did not rank. That’s why I recommend listing as many options as possible, because a school you like a little, still beats a school you were sent to against your will. It is untrue that you must be given one of the schools on your list, so don't just put down one and presume you will be placed in it via default. This is a park-bench rumor.
Genuinely rank the schools in the order you prefer, because you will be given your first available choice. And, if you are not given your top choice when the decisions come in the spring, you will be automatically wait-listed for all the schools you placed prior to it. This is important, because wait-lists move through the summer and into the fall. So go ahead and register for the school you were placed in (unless you absolutely would never darken its door under any circumstances), and continue calling all the schools you were wait-listed at through October, when the rolls officially close. They are managed by the schools, which means a visit, a smile, and an explanation of how your family will be a perfect fit, can go a long way toward getting you off that wait-list. This year, of the families I consult with, one got off a waitlist the Friday before Labor Day, and two others received calls in October with an offer of a spot! There is always a bit of switching around in the fall and that's OK.
Know that you are not entitled to a seat at your zoned school. You are, however, guaranteed a kindergarten seat somewhere in the city. You can apply to any school in the city—outside of your zone, outside of your district, even outside of your borough. But when it comes to priority admission, you will be placed behind all those who are zoned for the school, and also those who live in the district and borough. Set your expectations accordingly.
RELATED: 5 Things to Know Upon Entering NYC Kindergarten (Kids and Parents)
What Schools Should Be Listed on Kindergarten Connect
List general education public schools, both zoned and unzoned, on your application. Dual-language programs within schools can also be listed, but make sure that you list the code for the dual-language program, not just the code for the school. They are separate, and a school like PS 84 on the Upper West Side, which has a dual-language French, a dual-language Spanish, and a mono-language general ed program, will take up three spots on your Kindergarten Connect application, if you are interested in all three programs.
Magnet schools also go on Kindergarten Connect, and often accept families from out of district and out of zone.
What Schools Should Not Be Listed on Kindergarten Connect
Gifted and talented programs and schools do not go on Kindergarten Connect, even if the school you are ranking has a gifted program. That is a separate process that takes place in May/June. At that time, you'll rank your G&T choices, if your child qualifies, on a separate form. The ranking strategy outlined above applies here too.
Charter schools do not go on Kindergarten Connect. You apply to those separately, and it is possible to get into both a public school and a charter, but, in the end, you can only register to attend one, and your latest registration nullifies everything that came before it. So don’t think you can register for a general ed school, a G&T school, and a charter school, then spend the summer making up your mind. The last registration is the only valid one.
Hunter College Elementary School does not go on Kindergarten Connect. It is not a public school. It is a school that is funded with public money, which actually makes it closer to being a charter school. It has its own, separate application process. You don't select them, they select you.
Private and religious schools do not go on Kindergarten Connect either. You apply to each of those individually, and can get accepted into more than one. You can register for private school and for religious school without losing your spot in either, but if you change your mind and want to attend public over private at the last minute, the private schools may keep your deposit, and/or tell you that you owe them a year’s tuition, if you signed a contract to that effect.
For parents looking to apply their children to a public school for a grade higher than kindergarten (but before middle or high-school), that process does not go through Kindergarten Connect. You must contact every school you are interested in individually, or visit a Family Welcome Center to find out which schools have spots for your grade level.
Good luck and don’t worry–you are not the only one confused. Just follow the steps, and don't miss the deadline.
Photo by Mommy Poppins.