The 411 on UPK

Applications for NYC's free UPK programs will open up on February 4, 2019 for all children born in 2015. If this applies to you, or if you have a younger child for which you're planning ahead, read on for all you need to know about the UPK program, the application process, and how to increase your chances of getting placed at the school of your choice!

What is UPK?

New York City's "Pre-K for All" Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) program started in 2015, offering free full day (6 hours 20 minutes) or half day (2 hours 30 minutes) Pre-K to all NYC resident children turning 4 by December 31 of the school year. Every student is guaranteed a UPK seat, which includes free breakfast and lunch (depending on if the student is in a half-day or full-day program), however not every child will receive their top choice school. UPK programs are available in some NYCDOE district elementary schools, NYCEEC's (NYC Early Eduction Centers, which are mostly private preschools, such as Worldtots), NYCDOE Pre-K Centers, and Charter Schools. Many offer free or fee-based extended day services, but they do not offer transportation.

There are UPK programs in a few zoned elementary schools in District 20, but none in Bay Ridge, where you’ll find them only in NYCEEC’s and Pre-K Centers (so you cannot get zoned priority). You can view the programs in District 20 below, but keep in mind there will likely be a few added before school starts in September, so be sure to subscribe to Pre-K Admissions Updates here, and know that you can update your application at any point before March 15, 2019.

How to Apply

FULL-DAY PROGRAMS: You can apply between February 4 - March 15, 2019 online, by phone, or in person at Family Welcome Centers (415 89th Street, 5th Floor). You can list up to 12 programs, and you should rank them in order of preference. You can apply to any district or zone in NYC. It is NOT first come first serve, so you will not receive any advantage by applying earlier or later, and you can edit your application at any point during that period.

Utilize Pre-K Finder and browse through the Pre-K Directory, which lists all of the UPK programs by district (with a handy map) and provides key information for each program such as location, hours, if early drop-off or late pick-up are available, if foreign language support is offered, if they are partially or fully accessible, and if some or all students who applied last year received seats. To get more information, contact the school directly, and look at their School Quality Snapshot from the previous year (you can see Worldtots’ snapshot from 2017-2018 here).

You’ll see from Worldtots’ listings below, all students who applied to our 6th Avenue (District 15) school last year received seats. Only some lucky lottery applicants received seats at our 8th Avenue (District 20) school, which offers Chinese language support and extended hours in the morning and afternoon. Most of the 8th Avenue UPK seats were filled with students from our 3’s program.

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Don’t forget, Charter School applications are separate and you apply directly to each school. There are none in District 20, so you’ll have to travel, and applications are lottery. Some do have Pre-K, however. Learn more about Charter School options here.

APPLY HERE!! (applications will open on February 4 and close March 15).

Please note: You must contact each program directly when applying to half-day and 5-hour NYCEEC pre-K programs, charter school, or Dual Language Pre-K programs.


Most programs don't have enough seats to accommodate all applicants, so they will accept students based on the following priorities:

  1. Current Students: Students currently attending a 3-year-old program at a school that offers UPK will be given top priority. They are required to apply, however all UPK seats will be given to current 3's program students (who rank it first on their applications) before being offered to other children not currently enrolled.

  2. Sibling Priority: a UPK applicant will be given priority to a school where they have a sibling who will be enrolled in the coming year. In an elementary school, this is usually an older sibling. In a NYCEEC it would likely be a younger sibling.

  3. Zoned Priority: You will receive priority if your zoned district elementary school has UPK. As we mentioned previously, no elementary schools in Bay Ridge have UPK, though there are some in other areas of District 20.

  4. District Priority: You will receive priority for UPK programs at district schools and Pre-K centers in your district.

From 2019 NYC Pre-K Admissions Guide

From 2019 NYC Pre-K Admissions Guide

The Waitlist

After taking above mentioned priorities into consideration, you will be offered admission to the UPK program you ranked highest that has availability when your application is processed. You will be placed on a waitlist for all the schools you ranked higher than the one you were offered. You must pre-register to your offered school in June, however this will not effect your status on the waitlists, and you still have a chance to be offered a seat at those schools, though it could be last minute as late as August - October, or not at all. 

Visiting schools can help you decide which to apply to and how to rank them, but it will not give you an advantage in the general admissions process.

Key Dates

  • February 4, 2019: UPK Applications open for children born in 2015

  • contact programs directly to attend information sessions and tours

  • March 15, 2019 (6PM): UPK Application deadline

  • May 2019: Receive your UPK offer (you'll be waitlisted at all schools you ranked above the one offered to you).

  • June 2019: Deadline to pre-register at your offered school. You must bring your child and all required documents.

  • September 2019: UPK programs start for children born in 2015

  • October 2019: the latest likely time you might receive a call from a wait listed school

Other Resources

We wish you all the best of luck in your UPK search and application process. And we encourage you to take a moment to consider us, Worldtots, for your child's education! We are a dual-language English & Mandarin program located in the intersection of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Sunset Park!