In NYC, there are a limited number of free or subsidized half or full day public school options that begin in Pre-K. Children must be four by December 31st of the enrollment year to qualify. Placement, though not guaranteed, is available in public school setting as well as in select community-based organizations.

In Pre-Kindergarten, children learn how to initiate play and negotiate conflict. They also learn the importance of sharing, taking turns and working in group settings. Teachers will focus on developing the basic academic skills necessary for the follow school year, such as the foundation for reading, writing and mathematics.

The NYC Department of Education provides detailed information regarding the Universal Pre-K program including the locations of programs and the admissions process.

In NYC, many families choose to enroll their children in preschools or private nursery school during the Pre-K year.

Application Process

In early Winter of the enrollment year, Pre-K directories and applications are available at your Borough Enrollment offices or on-line from the Department of Education.

Parents are asked to rank their desired Pre-K programs in order of preference on their application. Experience shows that the more schools you list the better your chances of securing a placement for your child. However, only rank those schools to which you will send your child.

Placements are computer generated and determined by a list of priorities. For the complete list of priorities, see the Department of Education website.

If you do not get a placement in a Pre-K program during the initial application process, or you receive one that you are not happy with, you can re-apply during Round 2 to seek an alternative placement for September. Families have found it helpful to contact the desired school directly when they did not receive a placement during the Round 1.

Once you receive notification of a placement offer in a Pre-K program, you will be invited to tour the school and register. When you register, you must bring your child and the following documentation to the program:

  • Your child's original birth certificate, passport, or baptismal certificate
  • Your child's immunization record (PDF)
  • Two proofs of address: an original Electric Bill (Con Edison), a deed to your home or a letter from your employer verifying your home address. If the cost of electricity is included in your rent, you must secure a letter from the real estate management company.

Please Note The Following

  • If there are more students applying than there are available seats within a priority group, there will be a random assignment process for the available seats.
  • There is no guarantee for a placement into a Pre-Kindergarten program. Placement and registration in a Pre-Kindergarten program does not guarantee a Kindergarten placement in that school for the following year. All Pre-Kindergarten students must apply for admission to a Kindergarten program.
  • UPK slots are also available in select community-based organizations throughout the five boroughs of NYC. Those schools that apply for funding from the NYS Department of Education and are selected receive funds to unwrite all or part of their program day, and their curriculum for their 4 year olds is supervised by the Department of Education.

Timeline for Applying to Universal Pre-K


  • Tour schools of interest. Most schools do not offer separate tours for Pre-K, but you will be able to view Pre-K classrooms during a tour of the larger elementary school.
  • To find out which schools offer a Pre-K program visit the Department of Education's website or contact the schools directly.


May or June

  • Notifications of Pre-K placement from First Round are received.
  • Families are invited to tour school.
  • If you are satisfied with your placement options, you must register your child by specified deadline to secure the spot.


  • Placement and registration may continue to be available for the coming year.
  • Call the school you are seeking to register directly to express your interest in the school and learn if they have space or are taking names for a waitlist.
  • Please be aware that during this phase you may not be notified if your child has received a placement until the week before school begins or later. Be sure to have back-up child care arrangements in place if care is required.


  • Spaces often remain in public Pre-K programs at the start of the school year.
  • A list of schools with vacancies is available on the Department of Education website

It is also useful to call the school(s) where you would like to enroll your child to confirm space and the process for registering. This applies to schools not included on the DOE list.