Insights and Trends in Student Enrollment

Timelines for Unified Enrollment School Systems

Posted September 13, 2016

Timeline Considerations for Your Unified Enrollment System

In cities without a unified enrollment system, schools often have very different timelines for their application and enrollment cycle. As Betheny Gross discussed in her interview with us, schools sometimes choose to open and close their applications at different times for strategic reasons. This can make the process very difficult for families who have to navigate multiple deadlines and processes. Common applications and unified enrollment systems typically require schools to align on a standardized timeline for the entire city. However, finding a timeline that can work for all schools can be a design challenge that requires negotiation and compromise. Here are a few factors to take into consideration when building a common timeline for a unified enrollment system:

  • Do families have adequate time to research their school options and submit their application? If the application is only open for a very short time, then the most vulnerable families may not have enough time to complete the process.
  • Is the application window late enough in the school year so that families know if they want to re-enroll their student or change schools? If the application deadline is very early in the school year, a family may not yet know whether or not they want to keep their student at their current school, or if they want to find a new school. The later the deadline, the more time families have to evaluate their current school.
  • Do system administrators have enough time to run the lottery? While cities typically use a software program for a citywide lottery, it does require several days or even weeks to prepare the data, run the software, and do a quality check on the results. The timeline should allow enough work time for system administrators to complete these steps.
  • Are lottery results available in time for schools to adequately plan for enrollment for the next school year? Schools typically use enrollment data in order to plan for budgets and staffing, so they cannot wait until the last minute for their rosters.
  • Do magnet or specialized schools with additional admissions requirements have enough time to review their applicants before the lottery is run? These schools’ special requirements – such as auditions for performing arts schools and entrance exams and interviews for selective programs – often require additional time in the application window.

Sample Unified Enrollment System Timelines

Curious to see what the enrollment timeline looks like for different cities which have unified enrollment systems? Check out our infographic below to see when application and lottery periods begin and end for various cities.

Unified School Enrollment Timeline


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