So you’ve finally decided which schools you want to apply to, and now the anxiety about the entire process is mounting. First make sure that your child is within the age range for the schools you are considering as sometimes preschools will specify a cut-off birth date. Getting an application itself may well be one of the hardest things to do for some preschools. Most schools will begin giving out application after Labor Day which means frantic parents glued to their phone lines for that week. Some schools have decided to avoid the hysteria and prefer to give out applications a week before or after Labor Day or some other determined date. This by no means implies that these schools are any less competitive or easier to get into. I remember it took me 2 hours-4 days of constant dialing on the phones to get all the applications I wanted for my daughter. It’s enough to give anyone carpel tunnel!
Some schools also have the additional step of conducting lotteries. This means that after days of calling up the schools and applying for the lottery you could very well end up not receiving an application. From personal experience I suggest that for every lottery school you apply too you should get an application for another school you prefer as backup. That way even if you don’t make the lottery at least you have not reduced your pool of preschools where otherwise applications may have finished if you wait for the results of the lottery. So a good way to go about the process is to get as many as 10 applications and then reduce your pool.
Once you have called in for your applications you should be ready to fill them in and send them as soon as possible. Some schools process applications on a first come first serve basis and it is always best to be prompt in returning your applications. Most schools applications are fairly straight forward while others may require you to answer a few questions about your child. It is always a good idea to talk to other parents to get an idea about essay structures and provide information that may be helpful for the school in understanding your child. A basic rule is to write about your child accurately as all schools require a child visit where they evaluate their behavior and personality. This may seem strange to parents but all schools maintain the stance that seeing the child is just a basic prerequisite and their only aim is to determine if the child is in fact developmentally ready to attend preschool.
Once your applications are submitted you will be required to set up schools tours or attend open houses. School tours are usually in small groups and give the parents an opportunity to experience the school and ask questions. A lot of the schools require both parents to take a tour although they do not have to take them together and children are not allowed to accompany the adults.
School tours generally last up to an hour and are a fairly simple exercise where you meet with the director or a few teachers who show you around the school and visit classrooms. A few good questions to ask during a school tour are: What is a routine day for a toddler? How does the school handle discipline? What is the amount of parent involvement in school activities? What is the frequency and mode of communication between parent and teachers concerning their child? How does the school define itself? (Traditional or progressive) All of these will give you a precise idea about the philosophy and atmosphere of the school.
Some schools also encourage parents to give a first choice letter. This is somewhat controversial with parents although the schools that advocate them feel strongly that this is a positive step as it enables them to give offers to families who truly want to be a part of their school community. Others feel however, that such a letter is restrictive and forces them to make a choice before they are able to hear back from other schools.
At the end of the tours most schools will have you set up an interview date with you and your child. This may be a week or 3 weeks later depending on the number of applications they have received. This is also the time for parents to re-evaluate the schools and decide which schools they are most interested in so they can determine if they want to send a first choice letter to any school (if option is available).
Once the school tours are over you have completed half the journey so it’s time to relax a little before taking on the next hurdle. Hopefully things will work out the way you want. Good luck!