In New York City, children begin pre-K in the calendar year they turn four. If you have a child born in 2017, you will apply to pre-K this winter and your child will begin pre-K in September 2021.
Watch the Pre-K Admissions Video Series!
- Learn about pre-K programs with MySchools.
- If you missed the virtual Elementary Admissions Events in December and January, a recording will be available with captions in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Korean, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Russian and Urdu.
- Sign up for the pre-K admissions email list. We'll send you pre-K admissions updates, tips, and key date reminders.
Need a pre-K placement now?
Email ESEnrollment@schools.nyc.gov for assistance in finding a program with an available seat near you.
Who Can Apply?
Every family with a four-year-old in New York City (including those who have temporarily moved out of New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic) can apply to Pre-K for All.
Families with children born in 2016 can apply in winter to begin pre-K in September 2020. All New York City families with children of this age are welcome to apply. Read the How to Apply section below to learn more about the application process and whether your child is eligible to begin pre-K right now.
We welcome current 3-K students at public district schools, Pre-K Centers, and NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEECs); current students in three-year-old programs at charter schools, private schools, parochial schools, or other preschools; children with disabilities; children with accessibility needs; children learning English; children in temporary housing; LGBTQ and gender nonconforming children; and children who are new to NYC public schools.
Find Pre-K Programs
Children who attend free, full-day, high-quality pre-K learn through play, build skills, and work together—learn more about the benefits of pre-K.
Your Pre-K Choices
- Use MySchools to search for and explore current pre-K program options. MySchools provides the most up-to-date information about pre-K programs. During the application period, you can also use MySchools to submit your child's application.
- Use the NYC Pre-K Admissions Guide to learn more about pre-K admissions and discover pre-K programs in all 32 school districts. Scroll to the Documents section of this page to view or download this guide.
Pre-K Program Settings
Families can choose from three types of settings for pre-K programs:
1. NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEECs). These are community-based organizations with early childhood expertise. They partner with the DOE to provide pre-K programs.
Consider NYC Early Education Centers if your child currently attends the center, has a sibling also attending the program, or your family receives social services from the organization that runs the center.
Some NYC Early Education Centers also offer up to 10 hours of pre-K programming, all year round for families that qualify: see the Enrollment for Head Start & Other Pre-K Extended Day/Year Programs section to find out more about whether your family may be eligible.
- Head Start: Free services are available for at least 8 hours per day, all year long, including the summer. Head Start programs help families achieve their own goals, including employment, housing, and adult education.
- Pre-K Extended Day/Year: Free or low-cost services are available for up to 10 hours a day, all year long, including the summer.
2. District Schools. Some public elementary schools offer pre-K programs. Consider DOE public schools if your child currently attends 3-K at the school, has an older sibling already attending the school or you want your child to attend a program in an elementary school setting.
3. Pre-K Centers. Pre-K Centers are run by DOE staff and only offer grades before kindergarten. Consider Pre-K Centers if your child currently attends 3-K at the Pre-K Center, or you want your child to attend a program with only young children.
Diversity in Admissions
Pre-K programs across the city are participating in a pilot initiative to increase diversity within their programs—learn more on our Diversity in Admissions page.
Charter schools have a separate admissions process. Learn more about charter schools, and when schools are in session, contact charter schools directly to apply.
Pre-K Program Quality
The Pre-K Quality Snapshot is one important way to learn about and understand different elements of quality at Pre-K for All programs across New York City. The Pre-K Quality Snapshot is meant to help you choose the program that best meets your child's and family's needs. As you search, be sure to select the "Pre-K" option. Learn more about the Pre-K Quality Snapshot in our Family Guide.
You can also learn about program quality by:
- Visiting programs (when buildings are open)
- Asking questions of pre-K leaders and teachers
- Talking to other families
Interested families can apply for a child care assistance voucher from the Administration for Children's Services (ACS). Child care assistance vouchers have the same eligibility requirements as extended day/year programs.
Voucher availability is dependent upon funding. At this time, due to high demand, eligible families requesting vouchers will be placed on a waitlist. If your family is interested, you should complete the Voucher Waitlist Request form.
Families on the voucher waitlist will be notified by ACS when additional funds are made available and are encouraged to consider additional options if your child needs care now, such as pre-K programs. Enrolling your child in another program will not impact your place on the voucher waitlist.
*Please note that many schools may not offer tours at this time due to the ongoing pandemic. During this time, we encourage you to visit programs’ websites to learn more about them.*
When buildings are open and allowing outside visitors, visiting a pre-K program is the best way to explore if it may be the right place for your child. It’s also a great way to see how long the trip is from home.
When visiting a pre-K program, consider asking staff members questions about the program, such as:
- How will the teachers learn about my child's interests, strengths, and needs?
- How will your program help children get to know the teachers and the other staff?
- How would you describe the community of teachers and families here?
- How do teachers work with families?
- How do teachers guide children's behavior?
- How will staff members make sure my child feels safe and cared for?
- What are your program's strengths? What are you working on improving?
- How do teachers support children who speak a language other than English at home?
Contact programs directly for the most recent information, such as whether they will hold virtual open houses or information sessions.
How to Apply
The application period is closed for the 2020-2021 school year .
During the application period, families can apply online with MySchools, over the phone, or contact a Family Welcome Center. Interpretation services are available in more than 200 languages for over-the-phone applications. You can ask questions and request information about admissions in any language when you contact a Family Welcome Center.
Need care now? Some pre-K programs can enroll children at any time throughout the year, if their family is eligible based on income and needs. See the Enrollment for Head Start & Other Pre-K Extended Day/Year Programs section to learn more.
If you have questions about pre-K admissions, email ESEnrollment@schools.nyc.gov.
Get Your Pre-K Offer
All families who submitted a pre-K application by the deadline will get their pre-K offer letter in May. This letter will also tell you where your child is waitlisted.
You must accept your pre-K offer by pre-registering with the program where you got the offer. Pre-registration secures your child's pre-K seat at that program.
- Contact the program to schedule a time to pre-register in person. Be sure to accept your offer even if you are waitlisted at another program.
- Then provide all required documents at pre-registration. Use this checklist to learn what to bring.
A pre-K program has a waitlist when there are more students that apply to the program than pre-K seats available. Your child will be automatically added to the waitlist for any program you ranked higher on your pre-K application than the program where your child got an offer. Programs will contact you directly if they are able to offer your child a seat from the waitlist.
Students Who Move During the Admissions Process
If your family moves during the admissions process, call 718-935-2009 or contact a Family Welcome Center to update your information and talk about changes to your pre-K application or program. Your child’s priority to attend certain programs may change if you move.
Enrollment for Head Start & Other Pre-K Extended Day/Year Programs
Who is Eligible?
Head Start and other Pre-K extended day/year programs are available for four year olds to families that qualify for free or low-cost care. Eligibility is based on your family's income and needs. Head Start and Extended Day/Year programs can enroll children at any time throughout the year, if your family is eligible.
These programs are offered in NYC Early Education Centers and may also serve infants, toddlers, and three-year-olds. To learn more, visit our Infant & Toddler and 3-K pages.
The best way to find out if your family is eligible for Head Start is to contact a program directly. Your family may qualify for Head Start if at least one of these categories applies to you:
- You live in temporary housing
- You receive HRA Cash Assistance
- You receive SSI (Supplemental Security Insurance)
- You are enrolling a child who is in foster care
- Your family income falls below a certain amount
Other Pre-K Extended Day/Year Programs
Your family may qualify for other extended day/year care if at least one of these categories applies to you:
- You are enrolling a child who is in foster care
- You are enrolling a child with an active Child Welfare case, preventive and/or protective
- You receive public assistance and are compliant with HRA's work activities
- Your family's income falls below a certain amount and you have an approved "reason for care":
- You work 20+ hours per week
- You are in an educational or vocational training program
- You have been looking for work for up to 6 months
- You live in temporary housing
- You are attending services for domestic violence
These pre-K extended day/year programs are funded by the Federal Child Care and Development Block Grant. Because of the requirements of this Federal funding, you must provide proof that your child is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident or refugee to be eligible for these particular programs. Documentation is only needed for the child in need of child care; you will not be asked for the immigration status of anyone else in your household, including your status. Documentation for the child in need of care can be one of the following: a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, alien registration card (including permanent resident or green card), or Form FS-240 (report of birth abroad of a U.S. citizen).
The DOE is committed to welcoming all children and families, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, into our schools and programs. Families do not need to provide proof of citizenship or immigration status to attend any other 3-K, Pre-K, Head Start or Early Head Start programs. If your family is unable to meet the extended day/year documentation requirements listed above, the DOE will help you explore any available program alternatives that meet the needs of your family.
How to Apply
Head Start and other pre-K extended day/year programs can enroll children at any time throughout the year, if your family is eligible.
- Visit MySchools to find a program near you. Go to "More Filters" and select the "Head Start or Other Extended Day/Year" option under the Eligibility section.
- For Head Start, apply directly to the program.
- For other extended day/year programs, you can apply through the program or by contacting a DOE Family Welcome Center.
There are a few instances where a different process is needed to apply:
- Families applying for or receiving cash assistance must apply for care through their Human Resources Administration (HRA) Job Center.
- Families with an active Child Welfare case, preventive and/or protective, must contact their case worker to make a Child Care subsidy referral.
- Employed foster parents must contact their case worker to a Child Care subsidy referral.
All families, including families that may need one of these referrals, can contact a DOE Family Welcome Center or call 311 to get help with finding a program and completing the Child Care subsidy application.
Plan for Next Year
Start thinking about kindergarten programs when your child is enrolled in pre-K or when they are four years old. In New York City, children are eligible to apply to kindergarten in the calendar year they turn five. Every child in NYC whose family submits a kindergarten application is guaranteed a kindergarten offer. Students enrolled in certain pre-K programs may have priority to attend kindergarten at the same school.
Gifted & Talented
Gifted & Talented (G&T) is a separate admissions process for students entering kindergarten, first grade, second grade, or third grade. To participate, you must schedule your child to take the G&T test. G&T programs are in very high demand and offers are not guaranteed.
Learn How Students Get Offers
Watch this animation to learn how students of all ages get offers to NYC public schools, including pre-K programs:
Learn more about pre-K admissions by viewing or downloading the 2020 Pre-K Admissions Guide below.
*For an accessible experience, read the digitally accessible edition of the 2020 NYC Pre-K Admissions Guide online. The MySchools Directory also provides a digitally accessible experience for learning about pre-K programs.*
Understand the information provided in Pre-K Quality Reports by reading this helpful guide:
Find out which documents you'll need to pre-register your child and accept their pre-K offer: