This is What You Need to Know About the NYC School Application Process
A primer for NYC parents enrolling their kids in preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school, or specialized high school in NYC
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If you aren’t thrilled with the public schools in your district, consider whether a charter school is right for your child. Charter schools have their own application process, so make sure to do your research before applying.
There are also alternative middle school options might better suit your student. The ReStart Academy, New Directions Secondary School, or other alternative middle schools often have smaller class sizes and might be the best fit for your child’s learning needs.
Once you’ve decided on a handful of middle schools your child might apply to, attend open house events (many are virtual at this time due to the pandemic). It’s often useful to visit the school or attend an information session to get a feel for the school and its curriculum. The Department of Education recommends you contact individual schools to learn about the open house options they currently have available.
Applying to NYC Middle Schools
Middle school applications are not yet open, but you can use your MySchools account to get ready and apply once it does open. You can also join the middle school admissions email list to be notified as soon as the application opens. Your child’s application is personalized and allows you to see every school he’s eligible to attend. You can apply to up to 12 middle schools and must rank the choices in order of preference. The DOE suggests adding your child’s zoned programs to the list (though they don’t have to be your child’s first choice). It’s also a good idea to talk to your child’s current guidance counselor to discuss how your child will rank his prospects. The application is available in several languages, and you can call the DOE and ask for an interpreter.
NYC Middle School Acceptance Letters and Offers
Students typically receive their middle school offer letter in the spring. All applicants will get a middle school offer, and most get offers to one of their ranked programs (though it’s not guaranteed). The offer letter will also list the programs where your child has been waitlisted and offers to those programs are based on availability. If you have questions about the process, talk to your student’s counselor, contact the DOE at 718-935-2009, or contact a Family Welcome Center nearest you. (Most Family Welcome Centers are currently closed due to COVID-19 but their staff members are available remotely.)
Can you believe it? Your child is ready for high school! And while you might have already made it through several school admissions by now, it’s time for the big and most complicated one. There are more than 700 high school programs at over 400 schools in New York City and any current eighth grade student or first-time ninth grade student can apply to any of them.
If you’ve already attended public school in the city, you likely have a MySchools account—which is a great place to start exploring your high school options. The searchable directory contains the most up-to-date information about the city’s many programs. The DOE’s new video series will also take you through the steps you need to take to apply to high schools in New York City.
Your first step is deciding whether you are applying to a public school, a specialized high school, or a charter school (in which case the process doesn’t involve the DOE). You will be able to rank your 12 choices and submit your application online or through a school counselor.
How Different NYC High Schools Admit Students
There are several different types of admission processes:
Educational Option schools use the English Language Arts (ELA) state test scores from seventh grade and identify the top 16 percent of scores, the middle 68 percent, and the lowest 16 percent. Half of the students who gain admission to an Ed. Opt. school will be matched based on their rank of that school, while the other half will be selected randomly.
Screened Programs rank applicants based on their final seventh-grade report card grades and reading and math standardized test scores. There may also be other items that schools require to screen applicants such as an interview, essay, or additional diagnostic test scores.
Unscreened Programs select randomly from the pool of applicants.
Zoned Programs give priority to students who live in the geographic zoned area of the high school.
Specialized High Schools include Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, which requires students to audition for up to six programs: dance, drama, fine and visual art, instrumental music, technical theater, and vocal music.
The other eight specialized schools require students to take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test to qualify for admission. (Register for the SHSAT online at MySchools or with a school counselor.) This test, rather than a student’s academic record, determines eligibility in the following prestigious specialty schools:
The Bronx High School of Science
The Brooklyn Latin School
Brooklyn Technical High School
High School for Math, Science, and Engineering at City College
High School of American Studies at Lehman College
Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
Staten Island Technical High School
Stuyvesant High School
NYC High School Application Tips
The DOE recommends that you place the programs on your application in your true order of preference. You will be considered for your first-choice program first. If you don’t get an offer to your first choice, then you will be considered for your second-choice program as though it were your first choice, and so on.
If you apply to any high-demand programs (10 or more applicants per seat), you should also apply to some programs that have fewer applicants per seat. Learn which schools are the most popular in MySchools under the “My Chances” tab. Then refer to the “Demand Last Year” section to see how many seats the program had and how many applicants there were per seat.
Each school has its own method for priority (see above). In addition, some schools give preference for diversity, others for continuing at the same school or in the same zone. Once all applications are in, an algorithm assigns as many students as possible into programs that they rank highly, given constraints due to limited seats available in individual programs and the programs’ admission priorities.
Make sure you do your research about all the schools you are interested in. Some schools have multiple programs, each with a different admissions method. That means you can list a school twice or even three times on your list of 12 using different program codes.
NYC High School Application Changes Due to COVID-19
Typically, NYC families will apply to high schools in the fall of their child’s eighth-grade year. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NYC high school and Specialized High School application periods are not open yet, and students can’t start their applications on MySchools until registration opens. However, students will have additional time once registration does open to apply; you can sign up for the NYC DOE’s high school admissions newsletter for all the latest information on deadlines. In the meantime, students can and should start researching and evaluating programs via the directories at MySchools and InsideSchools. Registration for the NYC Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) opens on Monday, Dec. 21 and administration of the exam will begin Jan. 27.
Also because it will be difficult if not impossible to visit schools this year, applicants will have to do their research online—with videos from schools and crowdsourced comments from other parents and students. InsideSchools is offering a class called NYC High Schools: Applying in a Pandemic, with video tutorials and advice on how to research schools when you can't visit them in person.
NYC High School Acceptance Letters and Offers
You will receive an offer letter in the spring, which will include a high school offer and/or any offer(s) to specialized high schools, as well as a list of high schools where your student is waitlisted. They’ll be automatically added to the waitlist of any program that was listed higher on their application than the program where they received an offer. So if your child gets an offer to their third-choice program, they’ll also be waitlisted at their first choice and second choice program. Schools will contact you if seats open up and they can make your child an offer. Check out the waitlists website for the most up-to-date information.
Students who do not submit a high school application will get an offer to the closest high school program with available seats.