Applying to middle school? Here is a month by month timeline of what to expect and what to do when.


November is the key month for 5th graders applying to middle school because you must get your application in by December 1.

Review the application you get from your school's guidance counselor. It lists all the programs your child can apply to, based on where you live and where your child attends elementary school.

Research your options: You may live in a district that has zoned middle schools that guarantee you admission if you live in the catchment area. Type your address in InsideSchools’ “Find Your Zoned School” search box to find out whether you have a zoned school. If you don’t have a zoned school, or if your zoned school isn’t a good choice, look further using our school search and reviewing school profiles, comments and statistics.

Consider: How comfortable is your child with traveling? Is he likely to thrive in a big school or would he do better in a smaller setting? Is she intent on playing a sport? How about taking on advanced academic work? How about a 6-12 school if you'd =like your child to remain in the same school for the next six years?

What to do:
* Review the nuts and bolts of the middle school application process in How to Apply.
* Learn about different types of middle schools in Your Options.
* Get tips for how to assess the quality of a school in What to Look For.
* Watch our middle school video guides.

Keep in mind: Word of mouth is helpful but all children are different. The school where your niece is thriving may not be right for your child.

Read InsideSchools profiles. We highlight key statistics and show you how the school stacks up against the citywide average.

Tour the school if you can. There is no better way to get a sense of a school—and to have your questions answered—than to be inside the building. School tours and open houses are ongoing throughout November; a few districts such as District 13 are even offering “school strolls”, the opportunity to visit several schools in one day. Check the Department of Education’s schedule of open houses . Print out our middle school checklist to bring with you.


Turn in the completed application to your school counselor by Friday, Dec. 1. You can list as many as 12 district public school programs, but only list the schools you actually want your child to attend. Keep a copy of the application and the signed receipt from the counselor.

January and February

Some screened programs require that your child submit additional materials or come to the school for an audition, interview or an assessment.

April: Results & appeals

Your child will get a letter notifying you of where he has been placed. If you are content with the choice, congratulations!

If not, return the notification letter to the elementary school indicating that you would like to appeal. You may select up to to three programs on the appeal form. Be aware that if you appeal and get matched to a new program, your child must attend that school: You don’t get to choose between the first school and the one you got on appeal.

Applying to charter schools

Applications for charter schools are due on April 1.

See our InsideTools page with a rundown on the different kinds of charter schoolsInsideTools. We’ll give you more on charter schools in an upcoming post.