The 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.
1. 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: http://dallas.citymomsblog.com/playing_preschool_game/ It’s become a great resource for new moms! Feel free to add to it!