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Choosing an Elementary/Middle School

2022-23 Timeline for Choosing an Elementary/Middle School

In Philadelphia, you can apply to Public, Charter and Private schools. 

  • Public school types include District Catchment (neighborhood) schools, District Citywide schools and District Criteria-based schools.
  • The two basic types of Charter schools include Traditional Charter schools and Renaissance Charter schools (also known as Neighborhood charter schools.)
  • The types of Private schools include Private Catholic schools and Private Independent schools.

Learn more about Philadelphia School Types and Enrollment and Admissions.

Most schools require you to apply nearly a full year before the start of the school year. This is the case for all of the School District of Philadelphia’s citywide- and special-admission middle schools and local charter schools. Some schools also have an extensive admissions process.

Overview of Admissions Timeline (for admission the following school year)

October: School Selection for the District Opens

September: Application for the next school year (2025-26) opens on September 20, 2024 for most charter schools participating in Apply Philly Charter

November: School Selection for the District Closes

November: Priority deadline for scholarship applications through the Children’s Scholarship Fund.

January (of the next year): Apply Philly Charter application closes on January 21, 2025.

March: Second deadline for the Children’s Scholarship Fund scholarship applications.

It’s never too soon to start looking for the right school. Since most schools require students to apply nearly a full year before the start of the school year, and some schools have an extensive admissions process. Families interested in private school are encouraged to apply early for financial aid. Use the timeline below to start your search for Kindergarten/middle school or to change schools.


Two to Three Years Before Enrolling in Kindergarten (children ages 2-3)

  • Attend open houses to tour and gain information about the schools. These events are usually held in the spring.
  • Visit the schools that seem as though they might be a good fit and speak with principals, teachers, and parents. Use our guide to school visits for sample questions and tips.
  • Search for schools and narrow your search based on location using the GreatPhillySchools School Finder.

The Year Before Enrolling in Kindergarten/Middle School or Changing Schools


  • Learn more about charter, District and private school options in the Philadelphia area on GreatPhillySchools.
  • Counselors and teachers may hold information sessions to help parents and students choose schools and complete the online student application. Parents should work with their school’s guidance counselor for information and assistance in completing the online student application. Some schools allow prospective applicants to visit and shadow students. Families should contact schools directly.
  • The District School Selection student application will be available starting in September. District students will be able to access the application through the parent/student online portal by entering their student ID and password. Non-district students will be able to access the application through a link on the main page of the district’s website. Students can select up to five schools. All students and families can access the District’s school selection resources at the District’s website
  • After you decide which charter schools you want to apply to, the next step is to fill out a short, online application. Most charter schools use Apply Philly Charter. But, some require that you apply on their own website. Use GPS to see a list of all charter schools on Apply Philly Charter and see all charter schools on the GPS School Finder.
  • Private schools (independent and Catholic) begin to hold open houses.
  • Private schools begin to accept applications and hold entrance and scholarship exams. (Read more about applying to Catholic schools and independent private schools.)
  • Children’s Scholarship Fund provides need-based scholarships for students in K-8. The scholarships are based on a lotteries that take place after applying to the Fund through their website. The priority deadline for the application to enter the lottery is in November of 2024 for the best odds to get a scholarship. A second lottery will be held for applications received up to March of 2025.

By November

  • The District’s School Selection application is due in October or November of 2024. Families are encouraged to not wait until the last day; opening an account in the SDP portal takes multiple days to finalize. Once a family opens an account, they will have to wait a few days for a confirmation email. If a family opens an account the day the application is due, they will not get the confirmation email in time to submit their application.
  • Any parent wishing to enroll in a District Kindergarten program other than his/her neighborhood school must apply using the district’s online application at schoolselect.philasd.org in November. Only schools with additional space will be accepting applications.
  • Non-district students who applied to district middle schools with admissions criteria must deliver transcripts and any required supplemental materials, such as essays, directly to the schools.
  • Any other students looking to transfer between district schools must also fill out the district’s transfer application at schoolselect.philasd.org. Only schools with additional space will be accepting transfer applications.


  • Schools with admissions criteria begin to evaluate applications and conduct interviews and auditions.
  • District Special-admission middle schools make acceptance, rejection and wait-list decisions.
  • In March, the District notifies students about initial status. Students are expected to select their preferred school within two weeks.
  • District schools have limited space for Kindergarten. To ensure a space at your neighborhood school, register as early as possible. Kindergarten registration typically opens in January and closes at the end of May, but popular schools often fill up early. If your neighborhood school’s Kindergarten is full, you will be placed on a waitlist and assigned to a nearby school with space.
  • Citywide middle schools choose the students who qualify to enter into the admissions lottery.
  • The District’s Office of Student Enrollment and Placement and Office of Information Technology run three separate computerized lotteries (for general education, special education and ELs) for acceptance to citywide and neighborhood schools.
  • All charter schools accepting applications at Apply Philly Charter (applyphillycharter.org) have deadlines on January 21, 2025. Charter schools not participating in Apply Philly Charter may also have deadlines during this time. For more information, visit greatphillyschools.org.
  • Some charter schools will hold their lotteries during this time and notify parents of their application status. Families who applied to charter schools not participating in Apply Philly Charter may continue to receive admissions decisions during this time
  • Children’s Scholarship Fund holds its second scholarship lottery for parents considering private K-8 schools. The final deadline to apply for a scholarship is March of 2025.
  • Most private schools release acceptance, rejection and wait-list decisions.
  • In April, GreatPhillySchools collects open seat information from charter and private schools and publishes that information at Schools with Open Seats to help families who are still searching for a school.

More information

GPS publishes a range of tools to help students and families choose the best fit school. See all digital and print resources.

Looking for more information on finding a great school? See all articles here.

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