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Overview of Enrollment & School Selection: Elementary and Middle Schools

How to Enroll or Apply: Elementary and Middle Schools

In Philadelphia, children must enroll in school by the age of 6. A child can enroll in Kindergarten if they turn age 5 by September 1 of that year. Philadelphia families have many school options including Public District schools, Public Charter schools, parochial and independent schools. Each type has its own process for enrollment and admissions. Learn more about enrollment and participating in school admissions processes below. Use GreatPhillySchools to explore your school options and narrow your search.

Public District Schools

First-Time Registration

In Philadelphia, children must enroll in school by the age of 6. For fall enrollment, a child must be age 5 by September 1 to begin Kindergarten at a public school. New students should register at their designated Catchment School (the school that connects to your family’s home address) during the two weeks prior to the start of school, usually during the last week of August and the first week of September. You can find your local catchment school by entering your address into the the District’s School Finder If you are interested in enrolling at a neighborhood school other than your designated school, you should start that process, known as School Selection, a full year before your student will begin Kindergarten (details below).

You have to register to attend a Philadelphia public school if your student is:

  • A new resident of the city
  • Transferring from a private, Catholic or other public school
  • A Kindergarten student who did not pre-register in the spring

Visit the district’s website for the list of documentation needed to register a new student.

To get into a  neighborhood school outside of your catchment or to apply to a citywide- or special-admission (also known as criteria-admit) middle school, apply for enrollment in fall before you wish to enroll. All instructions for the online process are on the School District website. You will be able to list up to five schools in preference order on the application. More info below.

School Selection

The School Selection Process allows students who are entering Kindergarten through the 12th grade to apply to a school other than their Catchment School.  Students can apply to up to five (5) different School District of Philadelphia Schools.  The different types of District Schools are:

  • Criteria Based Schools – academic criteria based
  • City Wide Schools – lottery based on space
  • Catchment Schools – lottery based on space

The District application process does not include other Charter or tuition based schools like Catholic or Friends Schools.

Search school profiles for all District schools.

Charter Schools

There are over 100 charter schools in Philadelphia, 34 include high school grades and most include K-8. Some even have PreK. There are two basic types of charter schools in Philadelphia: Traditional charter schools and Renaissance charter schools.  Renaissance charter schools (also known as Neighborhood charter schools) serve a particular catchment, like district neighborhood schools. Renaissance charter schools  must enroll all students living in a designated neighborhood. If you live in catchment for a renaissance school you are guaranteed admission if there is space available.  Traditional charter schools enroll students from any part of the city, and use a random lottery to fill open spots. Some traditional charter schools give preference in the lottery for siblings of enrolled students or students living in particular zip codes. 

TIP: You can see all relevant admissions preferences at schools’ GPS profile.

During school selection, families can use Apply Philly Charter (applyphillycharter.org) to apply to most charter schools. APC is a website where you can apply to most Philadelphia charter schools at once using one simple application! Using Apply Philly Charter is easy; you can apply using your smartphone, desktop computer, tablet, or even by phone.

Search school profiles for all charter schools.

Private and Parochial Schools

The admissions process is different at each independent school. Many schools require that families attend an open house before applying. Applications often require a recommendation from a teacher and a copy of your child’s grades from his or her current school.

TIP: You can see all relevant admissions information and deadlines for private and parochial schools at schools’ GPS profile.

Search school profiles for all private schools.