Souqalmal.com has commissioned a survey to gauge parents' concerns about securing a school place of their choice.
While 65 per cent of the 850 respondents said waiting lists were a problem, a third said information about different schools was difficult to obtain.
When it came to selecting a school, more than half of the parents said fees were the deciding factor, with quality of facilities and proximity of the school to the home the most important issue for 44 and 40 per cent respectively.
The local authority rating for the school was considered important by only one in four parents.
Among Emirati families, greater importance was placed on the teacher-pupil ratio and school location.
"It's not surprising so much importance was placed on fees," the Souqalmal co-founder Ambareen Musa says.
"Fees in the UAE can range from Dh2,500 to Dh90,000 a year.
"On top of the fees, let's not forget that there are other charges that would add to the costs such as school buses, meals, extra-curricular activities and the non-refundable registration fee at time of application, among others.
"It's a huge financial commitment for parents and planning ahead is crucial."
* Alice Haine