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Fall Guide 2011 Vol. 19. No. 1 Focus on Looking Ahead to High School

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Students face long odds at many popular schools

Knowing the chances of admission to various schools can help guide students in the application process.

By by Dale Mezzacappa on Sep 1, 2011 08:36 PM

So, what are your chances of being admitted to a particular high school?

By comparing the number of applicants to the number of students accepted, the Notebook was able to compare the District's high schools on how selective they are.

This information, while not widely known, is potentially vital to applicants. Competition is stiff to get into the District's special and citywide admissions schools. But each year thousands of students unknowingly apply to schools where their chances of getting in may be lower than 1 percent. Eighth graders get to list just five schools on their application, and need to be strategic in using those options.

Surprisingly, Central High School, despite its high admission standards, has much better odds for applicants than many of the other selective schools.

The selective school that accepted the smallest percentage of applicants, 7 percent, was Parkway Center City, followed closely by School of the Future at 8 percent, and Science Leadership Academy and Bodine at 9 percent.

Masterman's odds are similarly slim overall – and become virtually nil for anyone who isn't already a middle-school student there.

The chances of Masterman 8th graders being able to continue into the much smaller high school program are about 50-50, but these students take nearly all available slots.

Principal Marge Neff said that this year, only seven or eight students out of about 1,200 applicants from outside Masterman were accepted for 9th grade. That's an acceptance rate of less than 1 percent for outsiders.

Besides having high test scores and grades, outside applicants to Masterman must have already taken Algebra 1 and one year of either French or Spanish, Neff said.

"We look at all the applications, but many don't meet the criteria," Neff said. "The ones that did qualify were wait-listed and a few were accepted."

The Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP) also fills much of its 9th grade of 66 students from the ranks of its middle school. The school received more than 600 applications. Coming from the outside, the odds of getting in are much worse than one in 10.

Central is most popular

Central, which accepts the largest freshman class of all the selective schools, by far has the most applicants — well over 4,000. But since its freshman class has more than 600 students, the odds of being accepted are fairly high – nearly one in four – greater than schools like Dobbins and Saul.

Central President Sheldon Pavel said that he accepted 1,016 students for 9th grade. Of that number 613 enrolled.

Central's requirements are among the most stringent – standardized test scores above the 88th percentile, all As and Bs, the ability to write a coherent essay, few absences and latenesses, and a good disciplinary record.

"If you meet the requirements, you will be accepted," said Pavel. "This school is a microcosm of democracy. My position is that if kids are qualified, I want them to come. I will find a place."

A large portion of Central's applicants are from outside the public school system. Pavel said that students from 383 schools – including some from abroad – applied, and 176 schools are represented among the new enrollees.

Girls High also has a higher admission rate than many other schools – 20 percent. Of course, because it is single-sex, the applicant pool is cut nearly in half.

A majority of the selective and citywide schools have acceptance rates of 15 percent or less. Communications Tech is the only District school where more than half the applicants get in. Three others have odds of admission better than 30 percent: the Arts Academy at Rush, Robeson High School for Human Services, and Motivation High School.

After Central, the schools in greatest demand are Franklin Learning Center, Swenson, High School of the Future, Science Leadership Academy, CAPA, Mastbaum, Dobbins, Bok, and Parkway Center City. All these attracted more than 2,000 applicants last year. Bodine's application count came in at just under that number.

Neighborhood schools

Students also apply to attend neighborhood high schools outside their area.

The most popular is Northeast, where more than 1,500 students applied. Unfortunately, Northeast is overcrowded, and so in 2010 none of those applicants were accepted to the high school. Northeast houses an aerospace magnet program which takes students from all over the city in a separate admissions process. Nearly 1,500 students applied to that, and more than 200 were accepted – a rate of 14 percent.

In all, 18 neighborhood high schools accepted no transfers. Lincoln High School turned away all 634 of its applicants, and Edison turned away all 511.

The most popular neighborhood high school that did accept applicants is Washington High in the far Northeast. It had more than 700 out-of-area applicants, but it took nearly 100, for an acceptance rate of 13 percent.

About the Author

Contact Notebook Contributing Editor Dale Mezzacappa at

Comments (12)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 11, 2011 10:16 am

Hi, I was just wondering fact wise, which is a better school for a violin major? Rush or CAPA? Thanks!

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 11, 2011 11:35 am

I was an intern principal at CAPA, the original CAPA on Broad Street. It is an awesome school for violinists. It is an awesome school with unbelievably talented students in all of their arts areas.

When I first went there, I walked into the historical library atrium section in the early afternoon. I heard this beautiful classical violin music. I thought, "Wow, they even pipe classical music into the bulding to create a cool atmosphere." Then I turned around and looked up. It was two students practicing in the hallway overlooking the atrium! They were as good as anything I heard from the Philadelphia orchestra.

Needless to say it was one of those magical moments. If you have the opportunity to go there, I recommend that you do. The other creative arts schools and programs are good, too. You should always look at yourself and what you know about those schools, and think which program meets your needs and aspirations the most.

Submitted by arieswym (not verified) on September 19, 2011 4:53 am

Depends on your goals with the violin, do you take private lessons or only in middle school? Ask your teacher and talk to the violin teachers at CAPA and Rush. Good luck.

Submitted by K.R. Luebbert (not verified) on September 13, 2011 10:52 am

As a 7th and 8th grade teacher, I know that our counselors try to coach students and parents to be strategic about their choices on the application. We will recommend that a student not list a school such as Masterman if we know they are not qualified. Most take our advice. However, some parents insist on applying to selection schools their children will not get into--thereby wasting one of the five app spaces. It is a struggle every year with a small group of parents.

Submitted by R.H. (not verified) on October 21, 2012 2:58 pm
Okay. My situation: My sister and I sent in our applications for Central High School. She's a few points shy of the 88th percentile in math. We both missed a several days, some of them due to shadowing at other schools (we told the staff about those days in advance, yet they were never excused). We were late a few times, too. We have passing grades in all major subjects. What are our chances of getting into Central?
Submitted by Ken Derstine on October 21, 2012 6:36 pm
First of all, you should get your records accurate. Go to the counselor. Go to the principal and get the excused absences corrected. Central is very hard to get into. Seemingly little things like this could make a difference. Glad to see you found the shift key to capitalize and have correct spelling and punctuation. Some students put questions on here and are very sloppy with their formatting. You message gives a good first impression.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2012 6:30 pm
You need A's and B's for Central. I believe the test scores are the "cut off" and then they look at grades, attendance and an essay you had to submit. You have until Nov. 2 to correct your submission. Central is very competitive. They get a lot of applications from students who went to private schools K-8 or Masterman. (Masterman only keeps about 1/2 of its 8th graders.) Make sure you apply to other schools.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2013 6:49 pm
I know how you feel i am a member of the class if 275 and when i was in the eight grade i really wanted to go to central because of how well it was. Your punctuality is fine just do your best at keeping As and Bs and getting a good score on the PSSAs. On your essay just be yourself and enjoy it gl
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 3, 2013 5:23 pm
I have a 99 in math and 80 (messed up couldnt concentrate due to family issues) in reading for PSSAs Perfect attendance and Straight A's for the final report card my reading level for when i was a 7th grade was 9.5 I was in MG, played viola, and played field hockey i alse used high college leveled vocabulary for the essay any chances of me still getting in to Central?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on May 16, 2014 8:43 pm
Im not in the Mentally Gifted Program. However, I receive straight A's. What would be my chances if I didn't receive on or above the 88th percentile requirement,but, I have all other requirements ? I have: Straight A's (all marking periods) I received an award for Science I have spoken at City Council for school budget cuts I am bilingual (I speak Albanian and English) I have a reading level of 10.8 for a 7th grader My behavior is scored as outstanding and I have never been suspended or expelled for any public or private school (I have not received my PSSA scores) What are my chances to be accepted at Central High school? Thank you very much if you reply
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 1, 2015 4:04 am

I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the manufacturer

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 15, 2015 5:36 pm

     Hi, I was just wondering if I will be able to get into Central. I received all A's on all marking periods (and 1's), I only missed 8 days of school (for a family outing), and I have 3 unexcused absences. (I was also only late for one day.) My teacher said that it had something to do with me being gone after the New Year's while I was at the outing. Oh, and I also got a 96 percent on my Reading PSSA and a 78 percent on my Math due to the test being changed. Will I still be able to get in, or will they reject me? I really want to get in because my dad said that he would be so proud of me if I got accepted. So, I just wanted to see if I still had a chance. Thank you for taking the time to read this comment!

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