If you've got a 7th grader finishing up the school year now, it's time for you to start thinking about high school. Here's what you and your rising 8th-grader can do over the summer.

Schools are handing out the 2013-2014 directory of high schools (now online) before summer vacation. If your child doesn't bring one home. you can pick one up at the nearest enrollment office. You'll will find information about every high school in the city including: what it takes to get in, what time school starts for freshman, whether there is a dress code, and the number of students who applied and were accepted last year. You can also see the school's graduation rate.

To introduce middle school families to the admissions process, the Department of Education enrollment office is offering evening workshops, two in every borough between July 16 and Aug. 1.  The first five workshops will  offer an overview of the application process and the types of high school programs; the last five will be about the nine specialized high schools, eight of which require an exam for admissions while the ninth requires an audition.

The workshops are informative, especially for parents who have not gone through the high school admissions process. Many city residents no longer have a zoned high school and every 8th grader must apply to high school. Even if you think you understand how to apply to high school, listening to other parents' questions and answers can be helpful. And, you'll be more prepared when admissions season ratchets up in September with the high school fairs, and the round of school visits, auditions and tests. Insideschools representatives will be at the information sessions, so please stop by our table to say hello.

If you are new to New York City and have an incoming 9th or 10th grader, your child may take the specialized high school exam in late August, or audition for LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts. Sign up for the test and audition at an enrollment office from July 15-Aug. 21. Read our New to NYC? for more tips. For all students planning to take the exam, or audition in the fall, the summer is a good time to do the prep work. The specialized high school handbook (PDF) has a sample exam. Many students also sign up for prep courses; check with your local community organizations to see if they offer free, or low-cost courses.  Sometimes high school and college students make themselves available to tutor for a fee.

Make sure to watch our Insideschools videos: Specialized high schools, How to apply to high school, How to apply to an audition school, Weighing your options: long trip vs short trip, and videos spotlighting individual high schools.

On the weekend of Sept. 28-29, the gigantic high school fair will be held at Brooklyn Tech High School, introducing you to representatives from all schools in the city; fairs for schools will be held in each borough on Oct. 19-20 (no locations announced yet).  Before you go, be sure to watch our video, Making the most of the high school fairs

What else should you be doing this summer to help prepare your 8th-grader? Check out Liz Willen's posts on High School Hustle about how to study for the specialized high school exam, the perils of choice, the ins and outs of visiting schools, and more. They include many thoughtful comments and suggestions about schools by parents.