The 411 on UPK

Applications for NYC's free UPK program will open up on February 5, 2018 for all children born in 2014. 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), NYCDOE Pre-K Centers, and Charter Schools. Many offer free or fee-based extended day services, but they do not offer transportation.

It is important to note that we do not have UPK programs in any elementary schools in Bay Ridge proper. 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 30.

How to Apply

FULL-DAY PROGRAMS: You can apply between February 5 - March 30, 2018 online, by phone, or in person at Family Welcome Centers. 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, number of seats for half or full-day program, meals, play space, and more. Many schools even show how many students from each priority level were accepted last year. As an example, here's our current listing in the Directory - do note we have applied and are eagerly awaiting approval for a full-day program next year, stay tuned!

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

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 in August - October. 

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. That said, it might be of your benefit to get on the radar of your waitlisted schools' administration, since schools handle their own waitlists and contact those families directly to make an offer.

Key Dates

  • February 5, 2018: Brooklyn UPK Admissions Information Session at PS133 (Park Slope)
  • February 5, 2018: UPK Applications open
  • contact programs directly to attend information sessions and tours
  • March 30, 2018: UPK Application deadline
  • May 2018: Receive your UPK offer (you'll be waitlisted at all schools you ranked above the one offered to you).
  • June 2018: Deadline to pre-register at your offered school. You must bring your child and all required documents.

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 preschool and UPK, located in Brooklyn at 68th and 8th, at the crossroads of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Sunset Park!