Are You Ready to Apply for an Early Learning Program?
Enrolling your child in a Chicago Early Learning program is easy and applications are open year-round.
Follow these easy steps to get your child enrolled.
Explore Preschool Options
There are high-quality early learning programs in every Chicago neighborhood. CPS Pre-K Programs offer free full-day programs for every four-year-old, while Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs, including Head Start and Early Head Start that serve children from prenatal to age 5.
EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS
Complete the Application
Once you’ve narrowed down your top early learning program options, it’s time to apply! Apply as soon as you can for competitive programs to increase your child’s chances of receiving an offer letter.
You can start by creating an online account, fill out the required family information, and rank your top choices. Follow step three below to verify their placement after accepting your offer letter.
Need help with completing your child’s early learning application? From start to finish, our application walkthrough video gives a step-by-step guide to secure your child’s seat in a high-quality program with confidence.
View the Spanish version of our application walkthrough video here.
Accepting Your Offer Letter
For CPS Pre-K
Verify placement through a Family Resource Center or directly at the school.
Typically, within two weeks of receiving your offer you will be asked to bring proof of your family’s income, address, and your child’s birth certificate to the school where your child has been offered a seat.
For Community-Based Programs
Verify placement through your Community-Based Program.
Within two weeks of receiving your offer letter, you will receive an email with more info to bring proof of your family’s income, address, and your child’s birth to your assigned Community-Based Program location.
Enrolling in a Program
At CPS Pre-K Programs
Visit your child’s preschool to complete the enrollment process. The school may have more specific enrollment directions that they will communicate. We recommend calling the school before visiting to confirm your appointment time.
At Community-Based Programs
When you visit your child’s Community-Based site to verify your child’s offer, your program will communicate any additional requirements needed to complete the enrollment process. Community-Based Programs include Head Start and Early Head Start programs. We recommend calling the program before visiting to confirm your appointment time.
Go to School!
If you have questions or are in need of assistance when completing the application, call our Family Support Hotline at 312-229-1690 for both CPS Pre-K and Community-Based Preschool and Early Learning Programs.
You can also schedule a time to stop by the program you’d like to apply for in-person, or you can visit any of the
Family Resource Centers during operating hours if applying for a CPS preschool.
How to Verify Your Child's Placement
If your child is offered a preliminary preschool placement, you will receive an email with verification instructions.
Follow these three steps to verify your child's placement:
Step 1: Gather Documents
Proof of Child's Age (1 of the following):
- Original birth certificate
- State-issued medical card
Proof of Address* (2 of the following):
- Driver's License/ID card
- Utility bill
- Lease agreement/mortgage statement
- Current voter registration card
Proof of Income* (1 of the following per parent listed):
- Current paystub (2 consecutive paystubs within the last 6 months required)
- SSI Letter
- Unemployment Letter/Stub
- Workers' compensation letter/stub
- Retirement or pension stub/letter
- Official child support letter
- Income verification form
- SNAP (Only proof of income required for Head Start/Early Head Start)
Step 2: Bring and Verify Documents
If your child has a seat in a Community-based program, you will be notified about our new safety measures to bring your documents directly to the site which your child was assigned. If your child has a seat in a CPS-based program, you will be notified about our new safety measures to bring your documents to a Family Resource Center or school where your child has been offered a seat.
Step 3: Bring your child on the first day of school. Let the learning begin!
Families With No Income*
Families with no income status can also apply by submitting a no income form with their application.
Families in Temporary Living Situations*
If this applies to your family, you are not required to present the documents listed for verification.
All schools must immediately enroll students in temporary living situations even if the student lacks health, immunization or school records, proof of guardianship, proof of residency, or any other documentation normally required for school enrollment.
Are you missing one or more of the document requirements listed? For additional information on obtaining documents call our Family Support Hotline at 312-229-1690.
Questions about required documentation? Please contact the program you’ve applied to for further assistance.
Have you found the right program for your child?
The City of Chicago and its partners offer high-quality early learning programs in every neighborhood across the city. Visit our search page to identify sites in areas near your home or work. The Chicago Early Learning Location Finder page allows you to identify a program’s quality rating, schedule and ages served.