Finding the Right School

FAQ’s: 20 Questions NYC Parents Have About Applying To Kindergarten – Answered!

There is no nice way to put this: The Department of Education’s Parent Portal is an unmitigated disaster. Since it opened, I have received literally hundreds of emails from frustrated families who are having trouble registering, getting confirmation, or even logging on.

Their calls to the DOE are going unanswered, requiring multiple hour wait times, and then receiving contradictory information depending on who picks up the phone.

In the hopes of making life easier for NYC parents already at the end of their ropes (and the admissions season still has multiple months to go!), I’ve compiled the 20 most commonly asked questions about applying to Kindergarten – and answered them!

Public General Education Schools

1) How old must my child be to start public Kindergarten?

Your child must start Kindergarten the calendar year when they turn 5. Yes, this means up to one-fourth of children will begin while still 4 years old. Exceptions are very rare.

2) Do I have to attend my zoned school?

You may apply to up to 12 different public General Ed schools, including unzoned ones. You are not required to rank your zoned school. However, if all your other options are full, you may still be assigned to it, against your will. Conversely, if your zoned school is full, you might be sent somewhere else.

3) What is Kindergarten Connect?

Kindergarten Connect is a form that comes out in mid-December and closes in mid-January where you rank your 12 public General Ed options. It does not include Gifted & Talented programs or public charter schools. This is your official application. (Learn more here.)

4) How do I apply to a Dual Language program?

Dual Language programs are ranked on Kindergarten Connect. It is critically important that you enter the code for the program, and not just the school. If you are applying to a Dual Language and a mono-language program in the same school, they will take up two slots on Kindergarten Connect. (Learn more here.)

Public Gifted & Talented Schools

5) How does my child qualify for a Gifted & Talented program?

Parents need to sign their child up in October to take a qualifying test in January. Students who score above the 97th percentile are eligible to apply to Citywide Accelerated schools and District Enriched programs. Students who score above the 90th percentile are eligible to apply to District Enriched programs. (Learn more here.)

6) If my child receives a qualifying score, are they guaranteed a G&T seat?

No. Over two-thirds of students qualified for Citywide and half of those qualified for District programs do not get a seat due to their being more applicants than places.

7) If my zoned school has a G&T program, do I get priority?

No. Enriched G&T’s are open equally to students from all across the district.

8) Can I test for a G&T program after Kindergarten?

Students can test again for 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade entry. Scores do not roll over, and there are many fewer seats as you go up in grade levels.

Other Gifted & Talented Schools

9) Is Hunter College Elementary School a public school?

No. It’s a publicly-funded school. It doesn’t cost families anything to attend, but it is not under the Department of Education, it does not follow the state curriculum or take state tests. For parents who are committed to a public school education, Hunter doesn’t qualify.

10) How do I apply to Hunter College Elementary School?

Applications come out a full year before your child would start Kindergarten. Applicants take the Stanford-Binet IQ test administered by a licensed psychologist, then the top 300 move onto a Second Round. Ultimately 25 boys and 25 girls are accepted. For Manhattan residents only. (Learn more here.)

11) Is The Special Music School a public school?

Yes. It is a public/private partnership where students receive a conservatory-level musical education alongside traditional academics. It is open to residents in all five boroughs.

12) How do I apply to The Special Music School?

Students are assessed for musical, not academic, giftedness. The child does need to know how to play an instrument beforehand. (Learn more here.)

Public Charter Schools

13) How old must my child be to start charter Kindergarten?

Public charter schools follow traditional public school cut-offs, but have been more flexible with holding children back or accelerating them based on aptitude rather than age.

14) Do I have a zoned charter school?

Many charter schools admit via district and borough priority, but will accept from all over the city if there is room.

15) How do I apply to a charter school?

Families apply to charter schools directly. They do not go on Kindergarten Connect, and you do not need to rank them against each other. It is possible to receive offers to more than one charter school. (Learn more here.)

16) Can I apply to a charter school in any other grade?

Depending on seat availability, many charter schools accept applications for all grade levels, and sometimes even in the middle of the year.

Private Schools

17) How old must my child be to start private Kindergarten?

While most private schools list a September 1 cut-off, many will ask summer birthday children, who they don’t feel are emotionally or academically ready to start school yet, to come back the following year when they are six.

18) How do I apply to a private school?

The process beings right after Labor Day the fall before your child will start Kindergarten. Private schools require a tour, as well as a child and parent interview. Some may also ask for application essays, standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation. (Learn more here.)

19) Do private schools offer financial aid?

There is a staggering amount of financial aid available for families the schools really want to recruit. Some offer sliding scale tuition based on income.

20) Can I apply to private schools outside of NYC?

Yes. Some NYC parents opt for private schools in New Jersey or Long Island. This works both ways, as families commute into NYC for private schools as well. There are no geographic residency requirements.

Got more questions? Comment below and we just might answer them next time!

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