It happens to parents all the time.
You get busy with daily life and responsibilities, and then suddenly, bam! You realize you missed the kindergarten registration date.
Panic sets in, understandably!
However, there’s no need to fret.
Public schools in the United States will continue to register children for kindergarten throughout the summer. Your child can even join kindergarten after the official start of the school year if needed.
In this guide, we give you a timeline of key dates you should be aware of when preparing to apply to kindergarten. We also explain exactly what you need to do if you miss a deadline.
You’ll want to contact your local school or district as soon as possible, because rules, dates, and deadlines will differ depending on where you live.
But let’s take a look at some general guidelines and Q&As that will help you during the kindergarten registration process.
At what age do kids start kindergarten?
Children usually start kindergarten at some point between their fifth and sixth birthdays.
If you strongly believe that your child would be better off starting kindergarten before their fifth birthday, then you could contact the school district office as they may be able to make an exception.
You may have to show that your child’s mental age and aptitude is at least a year greater than his or her chronological age.
If you think that your child isn’t ready to start kindergarten at age five, then whether or not you can delay the start date will largely depend on which state you live in.
In 42 states, attending school is not compulsory until a child reaches the age of six, seven, or even eight years old.
Depending on the rules in your state, you may be able to start kindergarten a year late or skip straight to first grade.
Kindergarten Registration Timeline & Key Dates
The exact date when schools begin taking sign-ups for kindergarten varies depending on the state and district.
However, most schools in the United States begin pre-registration during the early spring, to start kindergarten in the fall.
Below is a guide to what you should be doing during each month.
Please bear in mind that this is a general guide and the exact dates may be different in your area.
You should check with your local school district to find the exact dates.
November and December – Research
Research the schools in your area and find out which ones your child is likely to be accepted into.
You might want to contact them to ask if they offer tours or information sessions to help you decide which one is the best fit for your child.
Chances are, if you’re sending your child to public kindergarten, they’ll simply attend your local or “zoned” school.
If you’re interested in private kindergarten, or wish to pursue public schools other than your assigned school, this is the time to check them out.
January – Apply online
Around this time you will be able to apply for a school place.
Most applications are done online on your specific school or county’s website and you can apply to several schools using the same form, if applicable.
Spring – Pre-register with a school
Kindergarten admissions offers will be sent to families who applied.
You will need to accept the offer and then contact the school to pre-register.
August or September – Kindergarten starts
Generally, the academic year starts in August or early September in the United States.
The timetable may be reduced for the first couple of weeks to ease kids into the routine.
If my child attends pre-K, do I need to apply to kindergarten?
If your child is already a pre-K student at a school, you must still apply for their kindergarten place.
Don’t assume that because your child attends pre-K that they will automatically receive a place in the kindergarten class as this isn’t the case.
How kindergarten pre-registration works
When you pre-register your child at a school, your child is all set to attend that school when term starts, provided that they remain eligible (i.e. you don’t move out of the area).
When registering, you will have to fill out a form and may also be asked to provide:
- Proof of your child’s identity and age – This may be a birth certificate or another reliable document such as a passport, hospital birth record, or adoption record
- Proof of residence – Such as a driver’s license, utility bill, or mortgage statement
- Vaccination records – Check with your school district to find out which vaccinations are required
- Child’s social security card – Some school districts will instead assign a student ID number
- Lead screening results – If this is required in your state
- Tuberculosis test results – If this is required in your district
- Proof of physical examination – If this is required in your district
How kindergarten waitlists work
If you apply for more than one school, you will receive an offer to pre-register at one school and your child may be placed on the waitlist for other schools.
(You can pursue more than just the one school your child is zoned for.)
When you accept an offer in the spring and pre-register, you can remain on the waitlists for other schools.
If a place becomes available, the school will then contact you and you can pre-register at the new school instead.
What happens if you miss the kindergarten registration date?
And, importantly, how late can you register for kindergarten?
Firstly, don’t panic. Missing kindergarten registration is fairly common.
Perhaps you were expecting a packet in the mail that never arrived, perhaps it slipped off the bottom of your endless to-do list, or maybe you moved to another town.
There are lots of reasons why people miss kindergarten registration and you’re not alone.
All children have a right to attend kindergarten. So, even if you miss the application deadline, a kindergarten place will be made available for your child.
In most cases, your locally zoned public kindergarten will be required to make space for your child, even if you miss registration.
For private kindergartens, you may need to join a waitlist or look into other schools if you miss key registration deadlines.
If you miss the deadline to apply for kindergarten or to pre-register, you should contact your local schools and ask to be placed on the waitlist.
The school will consider their admission policies and waitlist order and will let you know whether they are able to offer your child a place.
Your child may be able to start kindergarten part-way through the school year if necessary.
This is often the case with children who move to live in another district part-way through the school year.
Applying late to a private kindergarten
Unlike state schools, private schools do not have to accept kindergarteners who apply late.
It’s still certainly worth applying, but you may find it difficult to get a place in a private kindergarten if you apply later than April or May.
Call around the schools that you’re interested in.
Private schools need full classes to balance their budgets so if there is space they will likely let you in.
Even if there is no space available, they may put you on a waitlist and your child may be able to transfer part-way through the year if another student drops out.
Missing the deadline to apply for kindergarten is fairly common.
If you dropped the ball, don’t worry. There will be plenty of other families also applying late because they moved to a new area or just missed the memo.
When you realize that you’ve missed the cut-off point, the first thing to do is to contact your local school as soon as possible.
They will be able to advise you on what to do next.
Chances are, registration will continue all throughout the summer and even during the year — your child will still be able to attend his or her locally assigned school.
Just be sure to take action as quickly as possible so your child doesn’t have to miss any instruction days.
Before you go, check out more kindergarten guides like:
- Can my child start kindergarten in diapers?
- Can a kindergartener ride the school bus?
- Kindergarten talent show ideas
Hope this helps!