Columbia University's School Search Service and Admissions to The School at Columbia (K–8)

October 10, 2017

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

For many Columbia families with children, autumn marks the beginning of the school application process. This message outlines the resources available through the Office of Work/Life’s School and Child Care Search Service, describes the admissions policies for The School at Columbia University, and shares information about other schools with connections to the University.

The School and Child Care Search Service is an excellent resource for Columbia families interested in exploring the full range of opportunities for enrollment in New York City independent, faith-based, and public schools, as well as early education and child care options. The education specialists at the Service provide individual consultations 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 PreK and Kindergarten Newsletter (for schools located in New York City), attend relevant workshops, or request individual consultations by submitting the Service’s Consultation Request Form.  For more information, please visit the Office of Work/Life’s website, which has a wealth of information, or call (212) 851-9180.

The School is a dynamic and diverse community serving students in grades K–8 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. An important application deadline is coming up on October 15; please find more information about that below.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to accommodate all of the demand, particularly at the kindergarten level. To manage this, we follow a process for allocating seats that was developed by a faculty task force on the topic. Accordingly, a certain number of Columbia’s kindergarten seats are reserved for new recruits and retentions, another block is allocated to siblings of children already in The School, and remaining seats are distributed through a lottery process.

The lottery prioritizes seats by Group, and designations are determined 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.

Those applicants who do not receive a seat in the lottery will be placed on a waitlist.

In order to be admitted to The School, officers must be eligible for the University’s Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS) benefit. PTS pays a percentage of tuition for grades K–8, and eligibility requires that the officer and their child both live within the five boroughs of New York City and that the child’s school is also located there. 

Admissions for Recruitments and Retentions
Kindergarten class slots are held for recruitment and retention commitments. Schools have been given allotments for slots in the incoming kindergarten class against which deans and vice presidents can make commitments for Group I faculty; these commitments may not be used for Group II or Group III families. As with all applicants, faculty already at Columbia and holding commitments must go through the standard admissions process and pay the non-refundable tuition deposit by the deadline to secure their seat, provided The School can serve the child.

Admissions for Siblings
As in past years, we have reserved seats in the incoming fall 2018 kindergarten class for siblings of students already attending The School. This sibling preference is available only for admission to kindergarten and only for siblings who reside in the same household with currently enrolled students who will be continuing at The School. The School manages an early admission process for families who wish to apply for these spots. First priority in the sibling process goes to Group I families, followed by Group II families, and then Group III families. Any sibling applicant not admitted through the early admission process remains eligible for the general lottery.

Admissions through the General Columbia Lottery
As mentioned above, each year kindergarten seats are also available for distribution through a lottery. Completed applications for the lottery are due on November 17, 2017 and the general lottery will be run in early February. All lottery seats are prioritized by Group.

There is also a neighborhood application process for families in Public School Districts 3 and 5 who are not affiliated with Columbia, with the exception of members of the University’s bargaining units who may apply as neighborhood families.

Admissions to Grades 18
Commitments cannot be made for grades 1–8. Any available spaces for these grades will be allocated through a lottery with first priority given to the recruitment of incoming Group I faculty members.

Detailed information about The School and its admissions process and timeline can be found at The first step in the application process is filling out an inquiry form, which is available online and must be submitted by October 15, 2017. Please contact the Admissions Office at [email protected] or (212) 851-4216 with any questions or for additional information about the application process.

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 that is intended to demonstrate how affiliation with a higher education institution can lead to effective implementation of comprehensive educational services in an urban, community public school. The school currently serves grades PreK–6 and is phasing in an additional grade each year until it reaches full scale with grades PreK–8. To learn more about TCCS and its admissions process, please visit

The Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering (CSS-MSE) is a public school serving students in grades 6–12 and 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. To learn more about CSS-MSE and its admissions process, please visit

We strongly encourage families to meet with our education specialists at the Office of Work/Life’s School and Child Care Search Service to begin their exploration of K–12 public and tuition-based schooling options for their children.


John H. Coatsworth