Middle School Guided Search
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How to Apply
Enrolling in middle school
All 5th-graders (including those who plan to stay at their K-8 school) must apply to middle school. Once the application opens, it will be available via your via your MySchools account.
Some (but not all) of the city’s 32 districts have zoned schools and your child is guaranteed a seat if you apply and live in the zone. To find out if your child has a zoned school, enter your address in the search box above or call 311.
Even if you have a zoned school, you may want to explore other options. Most of the city’s 32 school districts have unzoned programs that accept students from across the district. Some middle schools accept students from the whole borough or the whole city.
Some middle schools have special arts programs that admit students based on an audition. Always check each school on MySchools to see if there is special admissions criteria.
Plan on spending the fall of the 5th-grade year visiting schools or joining virtual open houses and tours. For some very popular schools, open house and tour slots book rapidly, so sign up early. Also consider taking your child out of school to accompany you. After all, the child will have to live with the final decision. Check schools' independent websites to find out the dates and times of their open houses and tours. You can find a link to a school's independent website on its InsideSchools profile page under "Contact & Location".
A very few schools, including Ballet Tech and the Special Music School, require a separate application. You may get the application from the schools directly either by calling or checking their independent websites. MySchools will indicate which schools have school-based applications.
Most middle schools serve children in grades 6 to 8, but a few start earlier or in the 7th grade. Charter schools (many of which begin in 5th grade) admit children by lotteries held in April, and applications are due April 1. You may search for middle schools that start in 5th grade using our Middle School Guided Search.
The Baccalaureate School for Global Education starts in 7th grade.
Ballet Tech starts in 4th grade but also admits students in 5th, 6th and 7th grade.
Hunter College High School serves students in grades 7 to 12. It is open to students citywide, but is not run by the DOE. It has its own application (you do not apply via MySchools) and it admits children according to the results of a competitive exam administered to qualifying 6th-graders.
New to New York City
If you move to the city over the summer, or any time after the application closes, you'll need to go to a Family Welcome Center for a placement. If your new address is in an area that does not have a zoned school, the Family Welcome Center will place your child in a school somewhere in your school district.
Tip: Try do some research before you go to the Family Welcome Center. There are no guarantees, but it's always helpful to go in with a list of middle schools you prefer.
See our New to New York City page for more details.
What To Look For
Schools may offer tours (in-person or online) in the fall. Some districts may offer middle school choice fairs in the evening or on a weekend where you can meet the principals and students of a number of schools. Here’s what to look for:
Quality of teaching
Try to look beyond the school's physical space to the quality of teaching. Look at the kids' faces. Are they interested and engaged? Bored? Staring off vacantly into space? Are you interested in what the teacher is saying?
Do the kids' books look interesting? Look for rich classroom libraries: novels and biographies, science discovery books, colorful atlases and original source materials such as diaries and historical documents. Make sure the libraries and assigned reading include books that reflect the voices and history of Black, Latinx, Asian, LGBTQ+ and other underepresented groups. Bottom line: The more books the better—in the classroom as well as in the school library. Schools that rely too heavily on textbooks are dull.
Quality of students' work
Are the walls bare, or are there lots of bulletin boards with kids' work? Look for examples of children's writing. Is the quality of work good? Are the art projects imaginative?
What's the noise level in the school? Chaos, of course, is bad, but so is total silence. Kids should be talking to other kids and to grown-ups. Even more important, grown-ups should be talking to one another. In a good middle school, teachers meet regularly to discuss everything from curriculum to individual students' progress and problems.
The Q&A period after the tour is a good time to get a feel for the philosophy and atmosphere of a school. You'll get a more revealing answer if you ask open-ended questions such as "How do you approach behavior?" rather than "Is your school safe?" Ask whether parents may visit the school and classes during the year. A school that welcomes parents is not afraid of what you might see on an impromptu visit.
Even if you have a zoned neighborhood middle school, you may want to consider other options including unzoned schools including secondary schools that serve grades 6-12, dual language programs, charter schools and arts programs that require an audition.
Most middle school seats at the five citywide gifted schools go to continuing 5th-graders, but a few 6th grade spots open up for newcomers.
In all districts, including those where most students attend their zoned school, students have other options that are open to students district-wide. These are listed in MySchools.
A very few schools such as Ballet Tech have their own application and it’s up to you to reach out to the school to apply.
Charter schools are tuition-free and operate independently of the city’s Department of Education. Most begin in kindergarten; some serve grades k–8, others grades k–12. Some begin in middle school and a few begin in high school. Many charter schools that begin in kindergarten do not admit new students in middle school, and those that do may have few openings. Admission is by lottery held in early April. You apply online, through the Common Online Charter School Application, or directly with the school that interests you.
See our rundown of the different kinds of charter schools and networks in New York City here.
Dual language programs
These programs offer instruction in two languages and are designed to make children fluent speakers, readers and writers in both. Typically, classes mix native speakers of both languages; the language of instruction alternates. Some of these programs give preference to children who live in the attendance zone, but some have room for children outside the attendance zone. Dual language programs are most common in elementary schools but children who are fluent in a language other than English may get preference at one of the city’s dual language middle schools.
Magnets are designed to foster integration. They receive three years of federal or state funding for special programs (such as art, science, drama, law or even dual language) to make the school attractive to draw—like a magnet—children of different backgrounds and ethnicities who might not otherwise attend. Check out NYC Magnet Schools find out if there are any magnet programs near you. Before applying, make sure the school still receives the extra teacher support that magnet schools are supposed to get and are not “magnet” in name only.
Some middle schools have special arts programs and students must audition. These include citywide schools such as Professional Performing Arts, Mark Twain and Ballet Tech. You may find the full list of middle schools that require auditions on the DOE's website.