High Schools

How to Apply

New York City has the most extensive system of school choice in the country. Everyone must apply to high school—even if you live in one of the few remaining areas in the city that still has a zoned high school. Choose carefully. Once you enroll, it’s really hard to transfer.

Getting started

The high school application timeline for admission to 9th or 10th grade in September 2023 has not been announced. Once the Department of Education (DOE) releases more information, including when the application opens and the deadline to apply, will share it here, in our Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) guide, via our weekly newsletter and on our free community site, InsideSchools+.

Also make sure to read the DOE's high school enrollment page and sign up for their admissions email alerts.

Don’t wait until the application opens to do your research. Students and parents typically spend the fall of 8th grade researching options by using our High School Guided Search, reading our school profiles, attending high school open houses and tours (both virtual and in-person), browsing MySchools (the city’s online school directory and application), and reviewing schools’ websites.

Tip: Each high school profile page on InsideSchools provides direct links to that school’s MySchools page (under “Offerings”) and website (under “Contact & Location”).

Completing your application

To apply, students complete and submit the citywide high school application online via their MySchools account.

During the fall, the DOE will send out welcome letters to 8th-graders that include instructions on how to access their MySchools account and participate in high school admissions including registering for the SHSAT as well as the LaGuardia High School audition.

If your child currently attends an independent school, you should reach out to the staff member at your child's school who is in charge of high school admissions. Or, contact a Family Welcome Center for assistance with setting up a MySchools account once the application opens.

Screened schools

Some high schools have screened admissions, meaning they look at students' grades or sample work from the prior school year. Some schools may ask students to write an essay or take an exam. Schools that offer bilingual programs will screen students for their home language, such as Spanish or Mandarin. Learn more about screened admissions on the DOE’s website.

There are also 25 audition schools. They offer visual and performing arts programs that admit students on the basis of an audition. Read the DOE’s High School Auditions page to learn more.

However, most high school programs don't “screen” students or require an audition. Some accept everyone who lives in their attendance zone or by lottery.

Tips:

  • Be sure you are eligible to attend a school before you list it on your application. If a screened school gives priority to students with a minimum grade of 85 in each of their core classes (English, math, social studies, and science) and your grades are lower, your chances of getting accepted are not good. If a school looks at student work from the prior year and you don’t submit a sample, you probably won’t get in.
  • Don't list a school you are not willing to attend. If you are matched to a school you don't like, but listed it on your application, it will be very hard to get placed elsewhere.

Read our guides, Tips for Completing Your Application and Advice for 8th-Graders.

Specialized high schools

In addition to ranking up to 12 schools on the citywide high school application, students may also apply to New York City’s nine specialized high schools. These nine schools admit students through a separate, competitive admissions process. You do not list these schools on your main application.

Eight of the specialized high schools require students to take an entrance exam called the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). More than 25,000 students take the SHSAT, with roughly 5,000 seats open for 9th-graders and far fewer available for incoming 10th-graders.

The ninth specialized school is LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts. Instead of admitting students based on the SHSAT, LaGuardia selects students based on an audition.

If you are unhappy with your placement

Students are automatically placed on the waitlists for all schools that they ranked higher than their match. They also have the opportunity to add themselves to waitlists for schools that they did not apply to. High schools will offer seats to students on their waitlists as space becomes available.

Manage your expectations. Schools that are in high demand will likely offer few if any seats to waitlisted students.

Learn more about waitlists on the DOE’s website.

New to NYC (mid-year or summer)

If you move to the city after the high school application process is over, you will face some difficulties finding a school. First, read our New to NYC guide. Then reach out to a Family Welcome Center, which will find you a seat, but the bureaucracy can be infuriating, especially if you arrive during the summer.

Our advice: Before heading to a Family Welcome Center, research some options using our High School Guided Search. Then try contacting schools directly to determine if your child meets their admissions criteria and if there is space available. You'll still have to go through a Family Welcome Center to enroll in a school, but it’s helpful to go in with a list of options that may be a good fit for your child and that you know have space.

Specialized High Schools: If you’re a rising 9th- or 10th-grader who moved to the city after the SHSAT and LaGuardia auditions were completed you may still apply. The DOE offers additional dates in August, but we emphasize this is only for students who’ve recently moved to the city. You must register for the exam and audition ahead of their designated dates at a Family Welcome Center.

What To Consider

There are more than 400 public high schools in New York City. Realistically, you will not be able to research them all.

To help you identify schools that are a good fit, consider the following questions as you use our High School Guided Search.

How is the commute?

Do you struggle to get up and get out of your home on time? What kinds of transportation are near you? Think about what the commute will be like in the rain and snow, or coming home late in the evening after a sports event or a school performance.

What time does school start in the morning? Some schools start their day before 8 am. Others start a bit later and that may make all the difference.

In general, you can tolerate a longer commute if you don’t have a lot of transfers. For instance, if you want to limit your commute each way to no more than 45 minutes, but there’s a school you really like that’s further away, it may not be that big a deal to add on a few minutes to your commute if all it means is that you are staying on the same train or bus for a few more stops.

Of course, it’s not always feasible to avoid multiple transfers, but keep in mind the challenge when deciding if a school is worth the commute. Your ideal school will be far from ideal if you often arrive late because you can’t handle the daily trek.

Before applying to a school take a subway or bus ride to try out the commute. No time to test it out? Check the MTA’s Trip Planner or Google Maps.

Watch our video, Short vs. Long Trips.

Small school or large?

Small schools tend to offer more personal attention and a sense of community; their college offices may also provide better support than a large school because there are fewer students to serve. Large schools tend to have more sports teams, arts, clubs and choice in courses. There are also some “midsize” schools with enrollments that run roughly 700 to 1400 that may offer the perks of a large school, but still manage to offer students a lot of support and attention.

Watch our video, Small vs. Large Schools.

Fast-track or laid-back?

Some schools are intense. They pile on the homework beginning in 9th grade. Other schools are less intense. They may have a more manageable work-load and encourage kids to relax a bit, especially in the 9th and 10th grade. Think about what's best for you. Will you thrive in an intense or competitive environment? Or, are you more likely to learn and excel when the pressure's off? Regardless, make sure the school offers a true college prep curriculum. Some schools only offer three years of math and science, for example, which may put you at a disadvantage when applying to college and pursuing your studies once in college. Less intense should not mean less rigor.

Traditional or collaborative learning?

Some schools stick to traditional ways. Teachers spend a lot of class time lecturing or using PowerPoint presentations, lessons and homework rely heavily on textbooks and worksheets, and students do most of their work on their own time. Other schools focus more on group work, projects, and may offer more opportunities for hands-on learning and field trips. Consider which approach best meets your learning style.

New school or well-established?

It's nice to go to a school with a proven track record. Most new schools take a few years to develop high level coursework and relationships with college admissions officers, so it can be a gamble to be in the first few graduating classes. However, if you're faced with the choice between an overcrowded, failing school or a new, untested small school, you might be better off going with the small one, if you feel comfortable with the theme and the leader communicates a clear vision for the school.

Theme school or general curriculum?

Be aware that some of the school "themes" exist in name only, especially when the founding principal leaves and the replacement has a different vision for the school. Ask to see a list of courses currently offered, and if there are connections with outside organizations that support the school's theme. The academics should be solid, no matter the theme.

Your Options

Some high schools have a special structure or focus. They fall into the following categories.

Consortium (portfolio) schools

More than 30 New York City schools belong to the New York Performance Standards Consortium network, which emphasizes project-based learning. Consortium schools adhere to the philosophy of Theodore Sizer, an educator who believed that small schools that concentrate on teaching a few subjects well are more effective than large schools that teach many subjects. Consortium schools have an exemption from New York State from administering most Regents exams. Instead students demonstrate mastery of their coursework through a portfolio of oral and written presentations known as performance based assessment tasks, or PBATs. English is the only Regents exam that students are required to take.

Career and technical education (CTE)

CTE schools combine traditional high school coursework with professional training in a trade. Unlike the old-fashioned vocational schools that often provided bare minimum academics, CTE schools aim to have students graduate college- and job-ready. Students may take a full load of college preparatory courses while earning professional certifications. Some large CTE schools, like Thomas A. Edison High School, offer multiple programs such as pharmaceuticals, automotive and commercial design. Others, like Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, Academy for Software Engineering and Academy for Careers in Television and Film, are small and focus exclusively on one industry.

Check out our video, Career and Technical Education.

Early College schools

Early College schools combine a high school curriculum with the opportunity to earn up to two years of college credit free of charge at a partner campus of The City University of New York (CUNY). Overseen by the Early College Initiative (ECI) at CUNY, Early College schools may vary in theme and length of commitment. Most, such as the Bard Early Colleges in Manhattan and Queens, serve grades 9-12. Others such as P-Tech and B-Tech run six years (grades 9-14) with students taking most or all of their classes at a CUNY college during the final two years of school.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

A small but growing number of schools offer the International Baccalaureate, a degree accepted at universities in more than 100 countries. The IB curriculum is highly demanding and many upper grade courses are college level and even more rigorous than Advanced Placement courses. Because of the level of rigor, not all students who attend IB schools graduate with an IB diploma.

Among the IB schools are the Baccalaureate School of Global Education, the first in the city to offer an IB diploma, The Boerum Hill School for International Studies, Knowledge and Power Preparatory international High School (KAPPA), and Brooklyn Latin, a specialized high school.

Specialized high schools

There are nine specialized high schools that do not participate in the regular high school application process. Eight of these schools require students to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). The ninth specialized high school is LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts, which admits students based on an audition and middle school record.

The schools that require the SHSAT are:

Read our guide, Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT).

Watch our video on the specialized high schools.

Arts and audition schools

There are many arts-themed schools and programs in the city, including 25 that require students to audition in order to be considered for admission.

Some audition-based schools are dedicated to the arts and offer a wide range arts program such as LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts (a specialized high school), Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Brooklyn High School of the Arts, Art and Design, and The High School of Fashion Industries. Other schools may not focus exclusively on the arts but offer arts-focused options that require auditions such as the performing arts programs at Forest Hills and Susan E. Wagner high schools. If you choose to audition for an arts program, it’s important to prepare.

Watch our video, How to Apply to an Audition School.

Use our High School Guided Search to find arts-themed programs that appeal to your interests. Want to apply to arts programs but don’t want to audition? Our guided search lets you filter for arts programs that don’t require auditions.

Make sure to check the DOE's High School Auditions page for a complete list of schools that require auditions and to learn more about the audition process.

Transfer schools

Transfer schools are alternative programs designed to help students who have struggled in traditional schools and may be over-age for their grade and behind in credits. These tend to be smaller and are designed for students who have been unsuccessful at traditional schools. Transfer schools sometimes accept students mid-year. Apply to these schools directly—not through the regular high school admissions office. Some transfer schools offer challenging academics that prepare students for college. Others focus on the basics: just getting students to graduate.

You can search for transfer schools with our High School Guided Search and the DOE's website. There are also referral centers to help students who want to transfer to an alternative school or program.

Other ways to graduate

You are entitled to attend school until you graduate from high school or turn 21 years old. Programs are available for older students who need to work during the day or who want to return to school after dropping out. Some high schools offer childcare to enable young parents to attend school. The Department of Education website has an extensive list of these alternative programs such as Young Adult Borough Centers and high school equivalency options.

The DOE also offers GED preparation, English as a second language and career education programs for adults who are 21 years of age or older.

Discharges and involuntary transfers

Your school administration may suggest that you transfer to another school if, for example, you can’t keep up with the academic work. However, the school may not force you to leave. You have the right to tutoring or counseling that will help you be successful.

Know your rights! It is wrong for a school to discharge a student when the student or parent objects. And it’s illegal for a school to discharge a student between the ages of 17 and 21 without parental consent and appropriate exit-interview procedures.

If you would like to enroll in a different high school, read about how to change schools.

And you can learn more about the requirements for graduation here.

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