If your neighborhood school meets your child's and family's needs, you can relax and register your child in the spring before the school year begins. However, if you are interested in a private school education or believe that one of the alternative public elementary schools or specialized programs would be a better fit for your child, you need to start searching for schools a year before your child will start school. This section will help you understand the differences between the New York City public and private elementary schools as well as explain how to navigate the public and private school admissions process.
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Children are not required to attend school until they are 6 years old; however, any child whose 5th birthday is before December 31st of the year he or she starts school is entitled to attend a public kindergarten program. If you are interested in sending your child to a kindergarten program that is not housed in your neighborhood public school, we recommend that you start your search for private schools and/or alternative public elementary schools a full year before s/he will start kindergarten. There are over 900 public and private elementary schools, all of which have their own personalities. You will need a great deal of time to tour different schools to identify the schools to which you want to apply and complete the application process which may involve writing an essay, student and parent interviews as well as an entrance exam.
The remainder of the elementary school parent guide will help you:
- Understand the public and private elementary school admissions process
- Identify your child's educational profile as well as your family's academic goals and practical concerns
- Learn about the differences among New York City's 900 public and private elementary schools
- Obtain handouts to help prepare for the school tours, entrance exams and child and parent interviews
Navigating the admissions process to both the public and private school systems can be daunting. Depending on the child’s age, parents have to submit applications with supporting materials which may include transcripts, personal statements, and recommendations from teachers and friends. Children have to take standardized tests to enroll in most private schools and selective public schools. Parents will visit several schools during which time they may be interviewed by administrators and/or teachers. Finally, children are often interviewed to allow the schools to determine whether they are a good fit. Although the application process typically begins after Labor Day one year before the child will enroll in school, parents have to decide to which schools to apply much earlier to allow for sufficient time to complete the applications and gather the appropriate materials.
Elementary School Entrance Exams
Most private and selective public elementary schools require their applicants to take an entrance exam. The private schools require students to take a standardized test commonly called the “ERBs”. To enroll in a district or citywide Gifted and Talented Program, children must take the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT). Hunter College Elementary School requires the Stanford-Binet test. Please look at the handout section near the bottom of this page to learn more about the elementary school entrance exams.
More Information about the Admissions Process
To obtain more detailed information about applying to private schools, please click on the Private School Admissions Process link.
To learn more about the registration rules and requirements of the New York City public school system , please click on the Public School Education Process link.
Please see the handout section near the bottom of the parent guide to learn tips regarding the school tours, student and parent interviews, reference letters, entrance exams, admissions officers' pet peeves, admissions decisions as well as financial aid and scholarships.
To identify which schools meet your child’s and family’s needs, you will first have to consider your child’s educational profile as well as your family’s educational goals and practical concerns.
Your Child's Educational Profile
Your child's educational profile consists of her or his:
- Basic learning ability
- Skill development
- Special interests
- Learning style
- Motivation to learn
- Social issues
Please click here to learn more about these aspects of your child's educational profile for elementary schools.
Your Family's Educational Goals And Practical Considerations
Regardless of your child’s skill development and interests, parents may also have academic goals and/or practical considerations that are important. Some educational issues that you may want to consider are:
Moreover, there may some practical considerations that are important, including:
- School schedule
Please click here to learn more about your family's educational goals and practical concerns for elementary schools.
Once you have a clear understanding of your goals as well as your child’s academic and social profile, you are ready to identify the schools that would be a good fit. The following are some characteristics you will want to consider:
- Public versus private school
- For public schools: gifted and talented or general education programs
- For private schools: prestigious or lesser known schools
- Educational philosophy
- Dual language programs
- Charter schools
- Distance from home
- Large versus small schools
- Coeducational versus single sex schools
- Feeder schools
Please click on the following link to learn more detailed information about elementary school characteristics.
School Finder and Comparison Tool
To help parents navigate the elementary school admissions process, the website has a school finder as well as a school comparison tool that will allow parents to identify a set of schools that meet your child's and family's needs as well as compare these schools' characteristics (e.g., educational philosophy, cost, test scores, attendance rates). Please click on the School Finder tab for more information about this service.
Moreover, the website has handouts that help parents prepare for the school tours, child and parent interviews and entrance exams. Please click on the following links to download the handouts:
- Elementary school tour handout
- Elementary school child and parent interview handout
- Reference letter handout
- Admissions officers' pet peeves
- Handout to prepare your child for the entrance exam
- Admissions decisions handout
- Financial aid and scholarships handout
We also provide more personal services to help parents navigate the elementary school admissions process, including eduprofile, workshops and confidential private consulting. To learn how to purchase these services, please click on the Our Services Tab.
We have created a survey that will help us determine your child’s educational profile as well as your family’s educational goals and practical concerns. More specifically, the survey asks you about your child’s basic learning capacity, skill development, special interests, learning styles, motivation to learn, social temperament and disabilities. In addition, the questionnaire asks parents questions regarding the importance of various educational characteristics (e.g., what content is emphasized, teaching methods, classroom behavior management approach and school community) as well as any practical considerations that are important, including the school’s type, location, educational approach, schedule, transportation, and cost. Once we have reviewed the survey, we will send you information about your child’s educational profile as well as a list of schools that we think will meet your child’s and family’s needs.
We offer two 2-hour elementary school workshops:
- Navigating the New York City elementary school admissions process
- Preparing children for the entrance exams
The elementary school admissions process workshop provides parents with tips regarding 1) how to identify the elementary schools that meet your needs, 2) the logistics of the admissions process, 3) touring schools, 4) parent interviews, 5) preparing your child for interviews, 6) writing a compelling essay, and 7) juggling acceptances and wait-list offers.
The second workshop, preparing students for the elementary school entrance exams, explains the rationale behind the admissions tests required by many elementary schools. Parents will also learn how to prepare your child to be as comfortable as possible on the date of the test.
Individual Consulting Services
We provide individual consulting services to parents who would like help navigating the public and private elementary school admissions process. More specifically, we can help parents with any one or all of the following steps:
Step 1) Develop your child's and family's educational profile
Step 2) Identify the elementary schools that meet your child’s and family’s needs
Step 3) Understand the logistics of the admissions process
Step 4) Prepare for the school tours as well as the parent and student interviews
Step 5) Complete the applications and write a compelling essay
Step 6) Select the best school for your child and family