School Admissions 101

Everything you ever wanted to know about applying for a place at school and what’s involved in the admissions process. From where and when to register, to what your options are if you change your mind.

How early do I need to start the admissions process?
Schools open admissions one academic year in advance, usually in September. It’s in every school’s interest to make the process as easy as possible for parents, and generally you won’t encounter completion deadlines as new students are accepted all year round.

Is it best to apply to multiple schools?
Many parents do consider several schools, especially if their first-choice school has a reputation for having a waiting list. But it’s always a good idea to be open minded, do your research and consider other schools. If the school you’re interested in is part of a large group, such as GEMS Education, it’s usually relatively straightforward to facilitate an application and transfer to another school within the network.

What should I keep in mind before starting the process?
Research is key. Important considerations include but are not limited to budget, location, curriculum, school rating, teaching and learning programmes, academic outcomes and enrichment opportunities.

What are the general timelines for the admission process?
Most schools don’t close admissions. Even when spaces are not available at the time of your application, you can always ask to be added to the waiting list. Families come and go throughout the year in the UAE, so there’s a good chance an opportunity will open up.

What happens if I change my mind about a school?
Fees are refunded in accordance with the emirate’s regulator (the KHDA in Dubai and ADEK in Abu Dhabi, for example). Again, if the school is part of a larger group, it will likely be much easier to transfer to another school within the network. GEMS Education, for instance, will transfer the fees paid between its schools to ensure parents are not out of pocket.

Anything else I should know?
We are spoilt for choice in the UAE with so many excellent schools offering the full spectrum of curriculums and pathways. This is undoubtedly a positive, but the breadth of choice can also be overwhelming, especially for parents new to the education system here. Our advice is to seek as much advice and assistance as possible and to ask as many questions as you need. Every child is different and every school is different, so it’s about taking the time to find the best fit.