We're moving into NYC from out of state with entering 9th and 10th graders. Can they take exams for specialized high schools or is that gate closed?
Welcome to NYC! Yes – as newcomers to NYC your kids may take the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) – or audition for LaGuardia High School, provided they meet the following conditions:
- They were not New York City residents before November 1, 2011,
- They entered 8th or 9th grade for the first time in September, 2011,
- They did not take the test when it was given in 2011,
- You will have a New York City residence by August 22.
This last condition is crucial because you must register in person between July 9 and August 22. When you arrive, go to any borough enrollment office. The test for the specialized high schools is on August 27, the auditions for LaGuardia are on August 30.
When you register, bring along your birth certificate, proof of residence (and proof that you did not live here before last November), immunization records, and last report card. An admission ticket for the test will be issued if you meet the conditions.
At the enrollment center you will get a copy of the Specialized High School handbook (pdf), with a sample test and information about LaGuardia auditions. Also ask for the 2012-2013 high school directory. You may find these directories online as well. Be aware that competition for spots in the specialized high schools is steep -- some 28,000 students take the tests every fall and about 6,000 get offers. Of course, far fewer newcomers take the test in August but most successful candidates do substantial studying and prep work for exams and auditions beforehand.
Since there is no guarantee that you'll make the cut-off score for admission to the exam schools, or pass the auditions, your kids should spend time in the summer researching other high school options. Insideschools.org is an invaluable tool. Check out our New to NYC? page and read profiles of all schools in the Find a school section. You'll get an inside view of the programs, atmosphere, students and teachers at each school. Be sure to watch our videos about applying to high school.
If you arrive in July, you and your children can attend a really helpful Department of Education workshop about high school admissions. The first one is tonight, July 10, in Queens, and there are two workshops in each borough, each offering the same information. They are designed for kids about to enter 8th grade, but as newcomers you will learn a great deal. Insideschools will have a table at some of the events so stop by and say "hello" if you see us.
Also note that late in August, special high school enrollment centers usually open for those who have not yet been placed. Dates and locations for 2012 have not yet been announced so stay tuned for those.