You Did WHAT To Get Into a Preschool?!?


photo-86The race to get into some popular Dallas preschools can be competitive and overwhelming.  Many programs operate on a “school year” calendar with registrations for the fall happening around now in February.

While some programs require an extensive application process, others offer a “first-come, first serve” sign-up system.

The latter “first-come, first-serve” policy is how I found myself camping out in my car last week.  My particular program of interest had a registration event at 8am on a Monday morning.  By 7:45pm Sunday night, eight parents were in line.  Yes, eight.  For a PRESCHOOL. By 3am, I joined the ranks and was Number 27 on “the list”.


Down the street, the stakes were higher.  A Tuesday morning sign-up also had families in line on Sunday night (you read that right: some parents camped overnight times TWO). At 8pm the night before sign-up, I drove by and saw about 40 parents in lawn chairs.  They had twelve more hours to go…

Here is my survival guide if you decide to join the CRAZIES like me.

photo-881.  Bring a LAWN CHAIR.  When I arrived at 3am, I saw an orderly line of empty lawn chairs trailing down the sidewalk.  People were waiting nearby in their cars while keeping a close eye on their chair’s marked spot.  Note that the “down the street location” wasn’t as weather-friendly and people were braving the elements outside IN their chairs.  Either way.  You need a chair.

2.  Find THE LIST.  Word on the street is there is almost always “a list”.  Find it.  I didn’t, at first, and nearly wasted my night’s camping efforts.  Our list was taped to the front entrance of the school and people signed in as they arrived throughout the night.  When official registration time neared, parents cross-referenced “the list” to the order in which we physically lined up.  Again, you gotta be on that paper.

3.  Prepare for THE ELEMENTS.  Baby, it was cold outside.  I came prepared with a down sleeping bag, a hat, gloves, scarves, extra coats, and a pillow.  And I was still cold.  Like I said, our campout was a friendly “stay-in-your-car” kind of experience.  Don’t count on that.  You’re probably going to be outside for the night.

4.  Turn on YOUR ENGINE.  I had a little car lesson from my husband after the fact.  In fear that my car would die, I kept my car and engine off and therefore, didn’t have any heat.  My husband clued me in that a car can last for long periods in the ON position as long as you have your engine running.  (Well, now you tell me…)  Other moms also learned car lessons the hard way and I saw more than one car get jumped after someone attempted to run the heater off of their car battery.

5.  Bring a GRILL and MAKE IT A PARTY.  When I drove by the “down the street location” with 40 parents outside at 8pm, some people were having a good ole time.  The grill was hot and smoking.  You used to stay up all night in college all the time.  Find that fun person again and have a party.  You don’t have anything better to do to pass the time!

By the way, my unborn daughter (who joins us in May) DID get into the desired program.  I hope she appreciates what momma did for her.

If you’re looking for other moms’ advice on local preschools in the Dallas area, check out this post we did last year and the comments section: It’s become a great resource for new moms! Feel free to add to it! 

Does your preschool registration look like this one?

Leave a comment below with your preschool’s name so new moms can be prepared!


  1. Hi Bethany,
    I read your article about signing up for pre schools. Did you ever hear about a small pre-school with the name “German International School of Dallas”? The school runs a German immersion language program with a good mix of German pedagogue and american academics. Four yrs ago I started this school as a home day care, a few yrs later the school offers space for 36 kids daily and is a kind of a secret tip for parents from all over the metroplex who are interested in the German language and culture. So you won’t have to camp out in order to sign up your child. Maybe you want to find out more about the school since this is the only one in the metroplex in it’s kind.
    I just gave birth to my fourth child and decided to step back. However we have an awesome new director who is German and brings everything to develop this pre-school to an elementary school within the next few years.
    I thought this might be interesting for you to know about it and maybe you want to tell other parents about this opportunity to learn another language than Spanish and even an important language regarding business opportunities in the future of the child.
    Kind regards und beste Wünsche,
    Charlotte v. Engelbrechten, Former Director at German ISD

  2. I have taught for many years and I didn’t have to play the “camping out” game until my youngest was born. I left teaching at a wonderful preschool (I have also taught elementary and secondary) and decided to do the search for a local preschool in Dallas a little closer to where we lived. I heard about a school that many of my friends’ children went to and was extremely hard to get into. I went in for a tour and to ask some questions before making a decision and I was shocked by what I found. The older preschool teachers (I was looking for a place for my 4 year old) were NOT state certified and they did not have an adopted curriculum….so very little experience on how or what to teach and NO guide to go by either. This is a school that people fight to get into and wait for years to get in????!!! So here is a word of advise to all the parents out there. Ask about teacher certification at least for the 4’s and what curriculum the school has adopted. If they have neither, run! Don’t “camp out” just because it is the “cool” place to be!

    • Your sweet husband! I was the poor mom that didn’t realize there was a list until we went in at 6am. Some kind people believed me that I arrived at 3am and let me line up with them.

  3. Hi Bethany.
    The preschool we go to is in Fort Worth and they have pre-registration for current students. The list is usually filled by those students. They first year my daughter was on the wait list for a year. So I was first in line for the next year and they only had a two day spot left on day one, minute one…I am there every year first even with early registration. I don’t want to take the chance of losing our 4 day spot. I can’t complain though. I am the only parent who stresses about this and there isn’t a line but I refuse to be on the wait list again if I can help it.
    We register for our last kiddo to be in pre K on Monday 🙁

  4. Hey Bethany!

    Funny, I found your post and site after being tagged in a Facebook post by a neighbor basically mocking moms for doing this. Like I wanted to! 🙂 But I was #13 and think we talked and saw each other at Starbucks after? My little one will be in the Tues/Thurs infant group in Sept. You?

    That was a crazy and ridiculous experience I hope I never have to relive!

  5. What advice do you have for a parent of a 3 yo who lives out of town but will be moving to Dallas this summer? We will want my son to be in a pk4 program, 5 days a week and we will be living in Dallas proper. Are there good schools that allow registration from afar? I’m nervous that I’m missing the boat on this.

    • Hi Michelle,

      What area of Dallas will you be living in? While it might be difficult to find a school in some parts of Dallas proper (as this one in East Dallas above), there are plenty of great schools that will still have openings within a 15-20 minute drive of your home.

      To some new to the area, that long of a drive might sound far, but in Dallas it’s hard to not drive at least 15-20 minutes anywhere you go!


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