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