Columbia's School and Child Care Search Service

October 01, 2020

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

Last fall, when this annual letter concerning both the School and Child Care Search Service and The School at Columbia was sent, I observed that as the father of four (and grandfather to ten) the stresses such matters create for parents and children were familiar. If anything, the relevant challenges have grown more acute. Still, the school application process continues, and thus I keenly hope that the resources enumerated below, now more pertinent, will prove helpful.

School and Child Care Search Service

This team assists Columbia families interested in exploring the full range of opportunities for enrollment in New York City independent, public, faith-based, and charter schools, as well as early education and child care options. The education specialists at the Service provide individual consultations geared to help families understand admissions and enrollment processes, identify schools where their children can thrive, and consider financial aid options for tuition-based schools. Interested families can subscribe to the Pre-K & Kindergarten NYC Newsletter, attend online workshops, and request individual consultations by submitting the Service’s Information Request Form.

I encourage families who wish to utilize these supports to reach out as early as possible. Departments recruiting faculty are also encouraged to direct candidates with children to this Service at an early stage, especially in light of often unremitting application deadlines.

For more information, please visit the Office of Work/Life’s website or reach out to

The School at Columbia University

The School, a quite wonderful, diverse educational community, serves K–8 students drawn equally from the families of University affiliates and from the local neighborhood. The School is dedicated to fostering personal resourcefulness and integrity, a sense of social responsibility, and a lifelong appreciation of learning through an innovative, socially and emotionally supportive, and academically challenging program.

Detailed information about The School and its admissions process and timeline, including the upcoming October 15 inquiry deadline, can be found at The School’s website. Due to the ever-evolving impacts associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, all aspects of The School’s application process for the 2021–22 school year will only be offered virtually.

Eligibility and Priority

The application process includes an assessment by The School to confirm it can serve the child. Additionally, officers must be eligible for the University’s Primary Tuition Scholarship.

For kindergarten and any openings at other grade levels, we follow a process for allocating seats that was developed by a faculty task force. Seats at The School are prioritized by Group based on an affiliate’s primary appointment: 

  • Group I is officers of instruction of professorial rank (assistant, associate, and full professors; professors of practice; clinical professors).
  • Group II is other academic officers (officers of the libraries, research officers, teachers at The School, and other officers of instruction not included in the first category).
  • Group III is officers of administration and other employees of the University.   

 For more about eligibility requirements, please visit The School’s website.

Kindergarten Admissions for Recruitments and Retentions

Some kindergarten class slots are held for recruitment and retention commitments. Deans may use these slots for applicants from Group I. Faculty already at Columbia and holding commitments must go through the standard admissions process, including an assessment by The School to confirm it can serve the child, and pay the non-refundable tuition deposit by the deadline to secure their seat.

Kindergarten Admissions for Siblings

As in past years, we have reserved seats in the fall 2021 kindergarten class for siblings of students already attending and continuing at The School. These siblings must reside in the same household as the currently enrolled students. The School manages an early admission process for these spots. Prioritization for this process is by Group, as described above. Any sibling applicant not admitted through the early admission process is eligible for the General Lottery. As for all applicants, the process includes an assessment by The School to confirm it can serve the child.

Kindergarten Admissions through the General Columbia Lottery

Each year for kindergarten, some seats are available for distribution through a General Lottery. The General Lottery occurs in early February. All lottery seats are prioritized by Group, as described above. Those applicants who do not receive a seat through the lottery are placed on a waitlist. A detailed application timeline is available here. The deadline for completing the first step in the application process, submitting an online inquiry, is on October 15.

Grades 1–8 Admissions

Commitments cannot be made for grades 1–8. Any available spaces for these grades are allocated through a lottery, with first priority given to the recruitment of incoming Group I faculty members. Those applicants who do not receive a seat through the lottery are placed on a waitlist.

For Neighborhood Families

There is also a neighborhood application process open to families in Public School Districts 3 and 5. More information, including eligibility requirements, is available here.

Please contact the Admissions Office at with any questions or for additional information about the application process.

Teachers College Community School

Teachers College and the New York City Department of Education opened Teachers College Community School (TCCS) in September 2011. TCCS is a non-selective public school intended to demonstrate how affiliation with a higher education institution can lead to effective implementation of comprehensive educational services in a community public school. The school serves students in Pre-K through eighth grade. Neither Teachers College nor Columbia has a role in TCCS’s admissions process, so to learn more about the school or admissions, please visit TCCS’s website.

Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering

The Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering (CSS-MSE) is a NYC Department of Education public school serving students in grades 6–12 located on West 123rd Street. CSS-MSE opened in 2007 to serve academically talented students with an interest in math, science, and engineering and to provide a rigorous, selective option for the community and other districts. CSS-MSE uses a holistic approach to build on students’ own life experiences and establishes opportunities for students to engage in research and service learning across the city and at Columbia. The University does not have a role in CSS-MSE’s admissions process, so to learn more about the school or admissions, please visit CSS-MSE’s website.

With best wishes,

Ira Katznelson, Interim Provost and Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History