Early Education & Child Care

Early Education refers to educational and child care programs for children younger than five years of age.

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Early education and child care that meets your family’s needs is critical to your ability to succeed at your work or studies and your role as a parent. There are many different factors at play and we hope to assist as you prioritize what is most important to you and your family throughout the early education and child care search process.  

Click the links below to learn more about: 


See also:  Program lists & locations map

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Columbia Affiliated Early Learning Centers

These affiliated, but independent, early education and child care centers service many Columbia families and are conveniently located on or near Columbia's campuses.  The centers vary in their educational philosophies, programming, hours, age range of students and fees.

Please visit our Affiliated Early Learning Centers page to learn more. 

Early Notification

The Columbia University Affiliated Early Learning Centers offer an optional early notification of their admissions decision to the applicant families who are current and prospective faculty, staff and students of Columbia University. If interested, parents should ask each center director for information about the age groups covered by the Early Notification policy.  

Centers cannot require parents to opt for early notification but will ask for interest in writing prior to making final admissions decisions.

Feel free to contact Carolyn Singer, at carolyn.singer@columbia.edu to discuss Early Notification or other admissions questions that arise.

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Center Based Early Education & Child Care

Centers are often referred to as nursery schools, preschools and child care centers interchangeably. Center based care is licensed by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  


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Family & Group Family Child Care Programs

Family and Group Family Child Care programs are licensed to serve between eight and twelve children in the home of the child care provider. 

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Pre-Kindergarten Programs (Pre-K)

Most early education or child care programs continue through Pre-K so if your child is currently enrolled in a program, it is likely he or she can remain in that program until ready for Kindergarten.

Additional Pre-K options include the NYC Department of Education's Pre-K for All Program, Early Childhood Divisions at Continuing Independent Schools, and Pre-K programs in Faith-Based Schools.  More information about these options is below. 

The NYC Department of Education facilitates tuition-free Pre-K for All programs in some public schools, early childhood centers, and community-based agencies.  These programs are open to all children living in New York City who turn four by December 31 of the enrollment year and the program was recently expanded and is beginning to offer programs for three year olds. 

More information about Pre-K for All is available at NYC DOE.

A limited number of early childhood divisions of continuing independent schools provide a Pre-K program and these programs serve as feeders into the schools' elementary programs. 

The term "continuing" means that these schools, while having early childhood divisions for children younger than 5, continue to serve students in grades Kindergarten and beyond. 

Beyond their early childhood divisions, the grades served by these schools varies.  Some serve children through grade 5 or grade 8 while others continue through grade 12.   

See Early Childhood Divisions of Continuing Independent Schools in the list section below.

Religiously affiliated schools offer an education that promotes religious beliefs and values.  All vary on the grade during which the religious education begins.  Because some of these schools receive financial support from large governing organizations (such as the Archdiocese) there is an effort to keep the tuitions more affordable than other independent schools. 

See Early Education in Faith-Based Schools in the list section below.

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In-Home Child Care

How to Hire an In-home Caregiver

Below are resources to support your search for the right caregiver for your family, including tools to help you manage the process yourself and a list of agencies that, for a fee, will match you with a nanny or au pair. 

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Early Education & Child Care Lists

World Language Child Care programs provide an immersion experience for your child in the language of your choice.

A number of world language programs including ones in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish for children up to five years of age are located around Columbia’s campuses.

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Early Education and Child Care Map

The map allows you to explore different early education and child care options around Columbia's campuses, including programs for infants, children two and over, and family and group family day care providers.  Click below to access the full map and additional details.