The 10 most prestigious private preschools in Miami — and how to get in

The 10 most prestigious private preschools in Miami — and how to get in
  • Valeria Avirett is an education consultant and the founder of Miami School Advisors.
  • She says as Miami has become more desirable, spots in top preschools are harder to land than ever.

Miami has seen a recent mass migration of people and businesses. In March, Redfin ranked it as the most popular destination for Americans looking at property listings in a different metro area from where they live.

As tech workers, startups, and entrepreneurs move to the city, so do wealthy families, which has driven demand for increasingly limited spots in the area's upper-echelon preschools.

"People are moving to Miami seeking a lifestyle and not necessarily moving for a job," Valeria Avirett, an educational consultant and the founder of Miami School Advisors, told Insider. "These are entrepreneurs, executives who can work remotely, and high-net-worth individuals or families looking for better quality of life."

Avirett launched her business at the beginning of 2019 and said that demand has doubled in the past two years alone, with domestic relocations driving a big part of this growth.

"I used to advertise very little and rely on word of mouth, but nowadays families moving from New York or California who are familiar with educational consultants Google and find me online," Avirett said. "The new crop of preschool parents is smarter and more determined, with the clear objective of wanting to eventually land in the best high schools."

Avirett herself has lived in Miami on and off for around 25 years, and she's experienced firsthand the challenges of finding the right schools. "I struggled to find the right school for my own children in Miami — Westminster Christian School, which we all loved! — and learned a lot through the process," Avirett said.

Before the pandemic, the demand for preschools was driven by local demographic factors, and even after deadlines or midyear had passed, she was able to easily place students in elite schools. But things have changed.

"In the last two years, many schools surpassed previous application benchmarks by December, and by the time March rolls around and acceptance letters are sent, these schools have long waitlists," Avirett said.

The city boasts a wide range of options categorized by philosophy and beliefs, such as secular versus religious schools. Avirett is a fan of Miami's elite non-secular schools because she believes they succeed in educating the whole child and providing a solid foundation of values.

Avirett emphasized that every school in Miami has a "personality," and her job as a school consultant is to assist parents in determining if a particular school's qualities align with their family. Her consultancy provides insight and support on the application process and helps families come up with a plan B or C should they not get into their top-choice school, she said.

"I typically support parents with insight through this discovery process," she said. "We get to know the school options well. I advise parents to visit, ask questions, and meet with existing families. Open houses are great platforms to see the type of families the school attracts."

She encourages parents to look into preschools a year prior to enrollment and not to be shy when sharing their story with the admissions team. While each school has a unique process, applications open in the fall. "Submitting the application is only the first step in a long and involved process that will require interviews, in-person assessments, and follow up," Avirett said.

She said it's also critical to be vocal about a school being your No. 1 choice. "Be genuine. Every parent thinks their child is special, but remember to provide examples. What can you share about his/her every day that makes them unique?"

Avirett's team released the first edition of "The Miami Preschool Guide" in spring last year, which profiles 101 preschools in the most popular areas of Miami. Here are Avirett's selections for the top-10 most prestigious preschool programs in Miami from that list, including how much they cost and what you can do to get noticed by admissions.

She based her picks on several factors, including location, and noted that the majority of these schools excel at offering academic rigor and "preparing the whole child" while providing opportunities for personal growth and character development that go beyond the classroom.

"While some offer a traditional curriculum, some might be more progressive or follow a unique philosophy," Avirett said. "What remains the same is that these schools stand out in their own particular category and lead the way in offering unparalleled opportunities in and outside the classroom."


St. Stephen's Day School

Cost: $30,000 a year

Location: 3439 Main Highway, Coconut Grove, Florida, 33133

Notable facts: Founded in 1958, St. Stephen's is located in Coconut Grove, a boho-chic neighborhood that consistently ranks as the most desirable nook in Miami and one of the most prestigious places to live in the US.

Avirett said St. Stephen's has done a "phenomenal" job of raising the standards in early education, with innovation and service at the core of their values while celebrating diversity of thought, origin, beliefs, and ethnicities.

"It's hard not to fall in love with their sweet preschool classrooms that look as if outfitted by Pottery Barn, where play-based learning is the foundation of each day," Avirett said. "Their commitment to innovation becomes alive simply by strolling through their recently inaugurated multimillion-dollar STEAM building, or by observing their unique coteaching methodology in the elementary grades."

The admissions process: Avirett said St. Stephen's leads the list of the hardest preschools to get into.

"With Silvia Larrauri as a head of the school for close to 25 years, the school is stronger than ever, a progressive and open environment fostering creativity and inclusion," Avirett said.

Trying to get in requires first registering for an open house, submitting an inquiry online, and then submitting an application.

Website here.

Online application here.

Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart

Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart
Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart.Courtesy of the Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart

Cost: $27,820 a year

Location: 3747 Main Highway, Miami, Florida, 33133

Notable facts: This Catholic independent school is the only all-girls Montessori school — and Montessori 3 (starting with 3-year-olds) — preschool through 12th-grade school in Florida. It offers two campuses on 16 acres bordering Biscayne Bay.

"The school is rooted in tradition with a deep commitment to developing a strong spirituality and an everlasting 'sisterhood' network," Avirett said.

She added that "it's hard not to fall in love" with Carrollton's pristine campus, which has peacocks roaming around school grounds, intimate classes, and a thoughtfully designed curriculum and school experience. "If you love classic values and have a daughter, you'll want to put Carrollton at the top of your school list."

The admissions process: Avirett calls it "close to impossible" to seek admission beyond the preschool entry point, since 6th- and 9th-grade opportunities rely heavily on academics and "family values," so it becomes extremely competitive, she said.

"I've had C-level execs call me to gauge the probability of admission in nonentry points, but the reality is that sometimes it's zero — and that's when I work with families designing a long-term strategy for admission," Avirett said.

Website here.

Online application here.


St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School

St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School
St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School.Courtesy of St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School

Cost: $21,980 to $22,960 a year

Location: 5692 North Kendall Drive, Coral Gables, Florida, 33156

Notable facts: This is the largest of the Episcopal schools on Avirett's list, with three classes from kindergarten through fifth grade and a dedicated preschool.

"I love the energy of the school — the staff and the teachers are truly passionate about making a difference and preparing children who are curious and hungry to excel," Avirett said. "Preschoolers learn preliminary coding and complete a science lab, where they're exposed to an all-hands curriculum that includes live animals and a beautiful outdoor garden."

The admissions process: The school actively recruits top talent from other leading prep schools in the area, according to Avirett, and its legacy is strong, with many alumni sending their children and grandchildren to the school.

"St. Thomas is interested in getting to know you as a family, and it's one of the only schools in the area that has a director of parent and community relations who actively fosters family engagement and participation," Avirett said.

Her advice is to make the process personal when applying to St. Thomas, for example by sharing details about what makes your child and family unique and what you're looking to add to the school in terms of perspectives, ideas, and experiences.

"The admission team wants to get to know you well," she said.

Website here.

Online application here.

Miami Country Day School

Cost: $33,800 a year for the early-childhood program

Location: 601 NE 107th Street, Miami, Florida, 33161

Notable facts: Founded in 1938, MCD offers classes from preschool through 12th grade. The school, which sits on a 22-acre campus, has a strong legacy in Miami. According to Avirett, not only is this an older, well-established school, but there's also a long list of MCD alumni who've been instrumental in the development of Miami or have become personalities and leaders in the city.

"I tell families who desire the luxe life of Miami Beach — or live in the northern part of the Biscayne corridor — that Miami Country Day should be their top priority," Avirett said.

The school's motto is "Every student, every day, everywhere," which reflects a heavy emphasis on the whole child and dedicated, personalized instruction. Avirett explained that the "everywhere" in the motto refers to the fact that as students get older, MCD has several opportunities for students to join programs and global initiatives that will take them beyond the campus, including missions and study-abroad programs.

The admissions process: MCD's first female head of school, Maria Hufford, who started just before the pandemic, is making strides in not only revitalizing the school's offerings with new and innovative programs, but also ensuring teachers have the support and training they need, according to Avirett. Ingrid Palmisano is MCD's chief enrollment officer.

"My tip here is to apply for early decision," Avirett said.

The early-decision option is available to children of alumni, siblings of current students, and families who select MCD as their top-choice school. You can contact the school's admissions team at to request that your application be considered for early decision or to request additional details.

Website here.

Online application here.


St. Philip's Episcopal School

St. Philip's Episcopal School
St. Philip’s Episcopal School.Courtesy of St. Philip’s Episcopal School

Cost: $24,190 per year for preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds

Location: 1121 Andalusia Avenue, Coral Gables, Florida, 33134

Notable facts: Founded in 1953, St. Philip's slogan is "the little school with a big heart."

"It's an intimate Episcopal school nestled in Coral Gables, one of the oldest and most established neighborhoods in Miami," Avirett said. Highlights of St. Philip's preschool program include Spanish and French immersion through music and play.

"This school celebrates classic traditions and encourages penmanship, a passion for reading, and camaraderie with older students mentoring younger grades," Avirett said. "St. Philip's aims to raise kind kids and welcomes families who plan to have long-lasting roots in Miami."

The admissions process: With only one class per grade, approximately 16 students per class, and an eight-to-one student-teacher ratio, admissions can be extremely competitive. The process begins with a campus visit via an open house, a small-group tour, or calling the admission office at 305-444-6366 to schedule a private visit.

Student tuition assistance is available, but according to Avirett, "you must apply every year, and the amount of support offered might change."

Avirett also emphasized that families should be "genuine and intentional" in their application — St. Philip's director of admission and enrollment management, Gabriela Olsen, wants "to get to know your child, and your entire family, well." One way to do this is to focus on explaining a key point Olsen mentions in her welcome letter: imagining and detailing with honesty "how your child could excel in an environment where they are known and valued."

Website here.

Online application here.

Gulliver Prep

Gulliver Prep
Gulliver Prep.Courtesy of Gulliver Prep

Cost: $23,610 a year for pre-kindergarten 3 (starting with 3-year-olds) through junior kindergarten

Location: 12595 Red Road, Coral Gables, Florida, 33156

Notable facts: Gulliver Prep is among the largest schools on Avirett's list and one that offers the full academic preparatory experience from preschool through 12th grade.

"It might take you a little longer to build your village here," Avirett said, noting that since Gulliver is the largest school on the list, it could take more time to make friends you can rely on. "However, the academics are quite challenging, the school runs efficiently and effectively, and the faculty and administration strive to keep the curriculum current and cutting-edge."

Gulliver is one of Avirett's top choices for families moving to Florida from abroad. "It offers an extremely international and diverse community, with an unparalleled academic offering that can fit all types of needs," she said.

The admissions process: Applicants can begin the process with a simple inquiry on Gulliver's website. You'll then receive a welcome email and be guided through the next steps of the online admissions process. You can read about the steps in detail and check important dates here.

As with any application, timing is important in the process. "Make sure you apply early, and plan ahead, as the application will require assessments to be done in person, typically in December or January," Avirett said.

Website here.

Online application here.


Alexander Montessori School

Cost: $21,550 a year for full-day preschool

Location: 14400 Old Cutler Road, Miami, Florida, 33158

Notable facts: This is one of the oldest and largest Montessori schools in Florida and one that Avirett said is committed to actively training and developing its teachers in the Montessori philosophy.

With four campuses scattered around the southwest area of Miami that include two "Montessori Toddler Houses" for children ages 1½ to 3, plus nine "Montessori Children's Houses" for children ages 3 to 6, Avirett said that Alexander Montessori School's offering "can be plenty, yet the quality of the education is never compromised."

Of special interest is the Preschool Spanish Immersion Program, which offers options of full immersion, daily Spanish class, or an exclusively Spanish-speaking teacher in the classroom.

The admissions process: The admissions process can be slow, yet the parent community at Alexander Montessori School is "dynamic," and their elementary classes produce "stellar students," Avirett said.

According to the school's website, entrance is competitive, with waiting lists for applicants in each age group.

The application process for toddler-through-kindergarten programs involves first submitting materials to admissions and requesting a release of records from your child's most recent school, if applicable. Your application must be completed before you'll be contacted by admissions to schedule a family interview.

Website here.

Online application here.

Rambam Day School

Cost: $15,220 to $20,740 a year for five-days-a-week classes

Location: 5950 N. Kendall Drive, Pinecrest, Florida, 33156

Notable facts: Formerly Temple Beth Am Day School, Rambam Day, which was founded in 1957, is part of one of the most influential Jewish communities in South Florida, according to Avirett.

Rambam Day offers a range of options for toddlers, from junior pre-nursery and pre-nursery school to nursery school and prekindergarten.

"Having recently inaugurated an impressive state-of-the-art school building last year, Rambam Day is committed to Jewish values and innovation, having incorporated maker spaces, lab areas, flexible seating, and project-based learning as part of their curriculum," Avirett said.

The admissions process: "Participation in the congregation will give you an advantage in the application, yet the school for years has been open to families of all backgrounds," Avirett said.

To get started, you can submit your email address online through the school's portal to learn more about applying and touring Rambam Day.

Website here.

Online application here.


Cushman Day School

Cushman Day School
Cushman Day School.Courtesy of the Cushman Day School

Cost: $26,238 a year for preschool

Location: 592 NE 60th Street, Miami, Florida, 33137

Notable facts: Cushman Day is preschool through 12th grade, and its primary school encompasses preschool and kindergarten. The primary school embraces the Reggio Emilia approach, with nurturing spaces that encourage discovery and creativity while aiming to develop happy kids.

"The school community is intertwined with past and existing families, and it's common to see parents eventually take on official school roles," Avirett said.

She added that prior to Miami's most recent boom, Cushman sat quietly in the northeast part of town, where it's been since 1924, attracting families who desired a secular and more personalized approach to education.

The Laura Cushman Academy, which operates alongside the school, is what Avirett called "a true jewel" for families looking for a specialized environment, offering support and personalized instruction. The academy tackles learning differences starting in preschool through 5th grade.

"Laura Cushman parents often comment on how the school is life-changing for their children," Avirett said.

The admissions process: For families interested in Cushman, Avirett recommends visiting the school and getting to know it well.

"This might not be a school for highly competitive students or 'type A' parents, but a community of good-hearted children and families," Avirett said.

You can learn more about Cushman's primary school and admissions at this "Primary School Information Session" video on YouTube.

Website here.

Online application here.

Fisher Island Day School

Cost: Contact Mary Reiling, the director of admissions and development, at or 305-531-2350

Location: 2 Fisher Island Drive, Miami Beach, Florida, 33109

Notable facts: Located in one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the United States and the wealthiest ZIP code in Florida, Avirett said that "it's hard not to add Fisher Island Day School to this list."

The school — which has a primary school of early learning, preschool, junior kindergarten, and kindergarten, as well as a lower school through fifth grade, and middle school through eighth grade — was founded in 2004 by local residents who identified the need for a school on the island, as demographics changed from seasonal to permanent residents.

"Student-to-teacher ratio is six-to-one, one of the lowest in the group of elite schools, and Fisher Island exposes preschool students to Spanish and Mandarin all throughout their tenure," Avirett said.

The admissions process: Parents should be aware that where they live can make a difference in whether or not their child gets accepted. The school's website states that "the majority of students are Fisher Island residents" and that admissions gives priority to families that are either Fisher Island homeowners and/or equity members of the Fisher Island Club.

But if you don't fit this description, it's not impossible to get in — a "limited portion" of the school's student body does live off-island.

Class sizes are small — the average has 11 students and they're capped at 15 students — and many grade levels have waitlists.

"The school can be selective in their admission process, yet a bigger question for parents would be, if they cannot afford to live on the island, will they be ready to hop on the island ferry to drop off and pick up their child from preschool?" Avirett said.

Website here.

Online application here.