The NYC Preschool Admissions Process Is No Joke, Just Ask Chrissy Teigen

How many languages does your 2-year-old speak?

Chrissy Teigen is part of the Manhattan elite — but nothing will save her from the headache that is the preschool admissions process.

“Meeting with preschools today. AKA finding the nicest school for my DAUGHTER TO POOP IN,” she tweeted about daughter Luna, 2. 

Laugh now, Teigen.

Even with her fame, money, and smarts, she and John Legend are about to face the biggest competition of their lives. There’s the huge bill (assuming they’re going private), a limited number of spots, thousands of applicants, and the pressure of the right school to choose, which have everything from toddler Yoga studios to roof gardens. 

They’ll have to tour multiple schools, fill out 12-page applications (that ask more about the parents than the kids), go through an interview process to deem if they’re worthy, and prove why their daughter is best fit for the school of their choice.

New York mom Katie, 36, a mom of three, with one on the way, just moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn with her family and is currently looking for a preschool for her son Louis, 3. She tells Personal Space the process has been “insane.”

"I just went through the preschool process for my son. We moved to Brooklyn in February and the applications are due at the end of March, so I was scrambling to get tours of all the schools. The tours are insane. There are hundreds of parents there and usually there are only about 30 slots for preschool and half are taken up by siblings,” she says. “Some schools also give priority to kids that have IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) or kids that qualify for free lunch, so the available slots are very, very slim…There was one school I was never able to see despite emailing and calling for months before I moved here. You can list up to twelve schools, but I chose five. I knew a few of them were long shots, but I also picked the one in my district that I am zoned for, which is known to always have space.”

Despite her efforts, she found out in May that her son was placed in a school in … ready for it? Chinatown.

“He's four years old, I have 2-year-old twins, and I'm having a baby in July,” she says. “Can you imagine going to Chinatown on the subway with four kids? The school is also a 15-minute walk from the subway, which is 30 minutes on a snowy day with a 4-year-old. I went to the DOE and it turns out they overrode the address I put on my application with an old address they had in their system. This means when the schools saw my application, it looked like I still lived in Manhattan and I was placed at the bottom of the lottery. That's why Louis lost every lottery in Brooklyn and was placed so far away. I am on waitlists now and I don't know what will happen this fall. I have to say the DOE was extremely helpful and reached out to the schools I applied to and got me moved up on the waitlists, so I'm hopeful something in Brooklyn will work out.”

Another Brooklyn mom, Lindsay, 35, an author, says she got into the school of her choice just two days before classes started this past year.

“My son just started pre-K in Brooklyn this past fall. I literally stalked the school I wanted all summer to make sure they knew we were very interested if a spot opened up on the wait list. We got a spot two days before. It's the same pre-K that Mayor DiBlasio sent his kids. Public though … so refreshingly not expensive,” she says.

For popular preschools, the admissions process is a nightmare because there are more applicants than spots. And if you’re not rich or well-connected, forget the “feeder” school — preschools that are known for their kids going on to an Ivy league college later on. Some parents pay upwards of $15,000 for a school admissions coach to help them get their kid on the right track. This all begins at age 2 or 2 and a half. Some parents choose to wait until their kid is 3 to start school or wait for a spot in the school they want to open up. The rule is generally to start the process of looking and asking around two summers before the fall they would begin school, so basically when your kid is 1 or younger. Basically, out the womb.

Founder and CEO of New York Admissions, Dana Haddad, gets hired to get your kid into the right school — for a large fee. She’s a former admissions director who knows how to work the process to your advantage.

“Most parents want the top three or four schools — Horace Mann, Trinity, Dalton, and for boys Collegiate, and girls Brearley, Spence, and Chapin. 

It gets so competitive that there don’t even interview all the applicants, and your friends are the competition. It can [get ugly] because friends don’t share information with each other.”

Haddad jokes to “stay calm and drink heavily” during the process, and know you cannot buy your way in.

“There’s a second round of applications, so even if you don’t get in first round it’s not over,” she says. “If you apply to a well rounded school list you are not going to get shut out.”

But parents still go mental. Since applications go out one year before the child would start the school year, you’re starting sometimes when your kid is just one.

“I’ve seen it alone — one woman pretend to be a lesbian to get into a school, one induced labor early so she could land him in his school year, one planned her pregnancy around the school year,” Haddad says. “You can’t buy your way in ... this is one thing that parents want to give their kids that they can’t control.”

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