Getting into high school: Commonly asked questions
by Dale Mezzacappa
How do I get started?
Talk to the adults in your life, including teachers, counselors, and parents or guardians. Get a copy of the District’s middle school guide, which gives advice about making the most of the middle years and sorting out your interests. Then, read this guide and the District’s high school directory, and meet with your counselor. Seventh and 8th graders should attend the High School Expo, scheduled this year in October.
When should I start thinking about high school choices?
No later than the beginning of 7th grade. High schools look at attendance, grades, and test scores from that year in determining who is qualified to attend.
What is the difference between a special admission and a citywide admission high school?
Special admission schools set a high bar, with test score cutoffs and specific requirements regarding grades and attendance. Citywide admission schools give less weight to test scores, but still set minimum standards regarding grades, attendance, and discipline records. The principals at special admission schools decide who gets in, while citywide admission schools put all qualified students into a lottery.
What if I want to go to a charter school?
Charter schools are required to conduct lotteries if they have more applicants than spaces. They are not permitted to pick and choose their students. However, many have detailed applications and deadlines in order to be entered into the lotteries. If you are interested in a charter school, you should contact that school directly as early as you can.
How can I find out the admissions requirements of a school?
Your counselor can help explain the admission requirements for each school. This guide and the District’s high school directory include the requirements.
If I don’t meet the exact criteria of a selective school, should I apply anyway?
Yes, but only if your record comes close to meeting all the requirements. They often admit students who do not meet every criterion. Principals at selective schools may seek recommendations from counselors and principals from the schools that applicants attend. Interviews can also make a big difference.
Certain schools have lots of applicants – how can I improve my chances?
There are schools in the city that are not as well known but may have similar programs. Check them out (more on the odds of getting admitted).
Should I visit the school as part of the admission process?
Yes, to get the “feel” of a school. Some schools allow applicants to shadow students for all or part of a day. Some require interviews or auditions. Check with your counselor.
If I get rejected from all my choices, what should I do?
If you get on the waiting list of a special admission school, there is a chance that you will be admitted. You should keep in touch with your counselor and with the school you want to attend. For special admission, individual schools manage their own waiting lists.
If you are on the waiting list for one or more citywide admission schools, your name will be entered in a second or even a third lottery to fill the spaces in those schools once students accepted in the first round have made their choices and some have opted out. You should keep informed about these lotteries. While decisions for citywide admission schools are not made at the school level, it doesn’t hurt to let the principal know of your interest.
What is “directed admit?”