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A Guide To Choosing A Private School In NYC For Your Child

The Waldorf School

By Melissa Chapman

As a parent in New York City one of the most daunting tasks you are likely to face is the process of choosing a private school, aka the "Baby Ivies" for your child, not to mention securing a spot for your little one. Of course when navigating the private school circuit and deciding upon an educational curriculum, it's always a good idea to get insight from friends as well as parents who have been through the process. But when it comes to the competitive NYC private school circuit, recommendations are not enough; you're going to have to roll up your sleeves and do a little leg work. We've tapped Emily Glickman of NYC's Abacus Guide Educational Consulting to give us the lowdown on navigating the private school terrain.

Where to start:

It's a competitive city, with lots of people applying for too few spots; you need to plan a year and a half in advance. Most New York City private schools start at Kindergarten, but some desirable schools start at pre-Kindergarten or even at ages two or three. The application process starts a year before your child will enter a new school. You'll want to add on another six months to plan. Between spring tours, ERB testing, and school choice, you want to leave yourself a lot of time. Also keep in mind that often in NYC children will start private school Kindergarten a year after they would start public school Kindergarten since the private school birthday deadline is earlier: often September 1 versus December 31 in public schools.


Outside of doing your research at the playground and asking friends about schools, you can go online to the neighborhood directories at Abacus Guide , or at ISAAGNY. Victoria Goldman's book is also very popular. Parents can also join The Parents League, an organization the New York City private schools run to introduce families to the admissions process. Others hire a private educational consultant. You can also talk to parents who have their kids enrolled at the school and if you don't know anyone, you could try politely approaching a few families in a nearby playground, a popular pizza place, or at drop off or pick up.

Questions to ask when touring a school:

In NYC often families don't get to tour until after they apply. When you go on an official school tour, you want to be polite and engaged since you're on display. In your own mind, think about whether this is a school where you and your family will feel comfortable. Nothing substitutes seeing a school with your own eyes. People will say X School is the best school, but you won't know whether X School is best for your child until you've seen it. Trust your own taste. When it comes to schools, there is no one correct road. Don't get blinded by the so-called "Baby Ivies"-children are happy and successful in and after lots of schools.

Assessing whether a school is the right fit:

I think parents should honestly review their own priorities, but then be open to surprises. I have seen kids thrive at liberal Dalton when their parents originally preferred a single sex, more traditional school like St. Bernard's and vice versa!


In general, tuition is roughly $35,000

The importance of test scores:

Despite what the schools claim, ERB scores are very important. The Educational Records Bureau administers the ERB test (for Kindergarten this is actually an exam called the WPPSI). While good scores will not get kids in, unfortunately disappointing scores often do keep kids out.

Do your homework:

Finding the right school for your child and applying to private school in New York City is a challenging, time consuming task. It's a complex process in a competitive environment. You want to do your homework so you have the greatest chance of a successful outcome. It can be stressful living in New York City, and feeling that you must get your child into private school for him or her to be successful.

On the up side, there are many NYC public schools that provide an excellent academic experience in a safe, dynamic environment, as well as private schools of every sort. If you want your child to attend a Montessori school, a Waldorf school, a Jesuit school, an Orthodox Jewish school, a Catholic girls school-NYC has it all.

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